Tanagers make top-ranked Trojans work hard for win By Parker Knox
Sports Writer Top-ranked West Central ground out 303 yards rushing and defeated Vermillion, 34-2, at the DakotaDome last Thursday in the regular season windup, but the mighty Trojans had to work for their win. It was for no lack of effort on the part of the Tanagers that they lost for the fourth time this season, but playing West Central proved again to be a humbling experience as it is for even the best of opponents. Despite the loss,�? the Vermillion club was a source of pride to its coaches and fans. â�?�?We played with great enthusiasm and emotion throughout the entire game,â�? said coach Gary Culver. â�?�?I was extremely proud of the effort our kids gave in this loss to an outstanding team.â�? A mistake against West Central almost always proves fatal, and the Tanagers made just enough of them to enable the Trojans to put distance between the two teams. â�?�?Our defensive unit did a good job against their offense, but offensively we were not able to move the ball on the ground, and we couldnâ�?�?t grind out enough first downs to gain an edge in field position,â�? Culver observed. The Tanagers had to face West Central without the services of their leading ground-gainer, Andrew Eidem, who had sustained a concussion in the Harrisburg game the previous week. Vermillion had 73 yards in 28 rushes as well as 111 passing yards for a total of 184 yards. â�?�?Our special teams played well throughout the game,â�? Culver said. â�?�?We just could not make enough big plays to swing the game, and we paid dearly for errors we made, either mentally or physically. That is how West Central wins football games, by capitalizing on the other teamâ�?�?s errors and converting them into scores.â�? Culver said his team would go into this past Tuesdayâ�?�?s playoff opener against Lennox knowing they can play with anyone on a given night if they put a complete game together. Tuesdayâ�?�?s winner will play Monday in the regional title game at Harrisburg, if the Tigers beat Lead-Deadwood as expected, or at Lennox or Vermillion if Harrisburg stumbled. A 38-yard pass play from Earl Kiertzner to Kylen Freidel on the first play from scrimmage sent the Tanagers flying into West Central territory. They got as far as the 31 on fourth down, but on the verge of losing ground, the Vermillion ball carrier launched an ill-advised lateral, which was intercepted and returned 50 yards to the Tanager 20. Suddenly the Trojans were in business. The Tanagers didnâ�?�?t yield ground willingly, and it took West Central four plays to get into the end zone from the five-yard line, but they did so on a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak by Chris Wenk. Vermillion lost yardage on its next possession and had to punt from deep in its own territory. Given another short field, this time from the Tanager 34,�? the Trojans�? scored quickly after a Tanager penalty gave them a first down at the 21. Wenk connected with Michael Tuch for a touchdown. An interception by Freidel stymied West Central on its next possession. On the very next play from the Tanagersâ�?�? own eight-yard line, Freidel took a pass from Kiertzner, beat defenders and cut back across the field for an amazing 82-yard gain. Vermillion found itself with a first-and-goal at the Trojan 10. Kiertzner executed a great fake on a quarterback keeper and reached the four. There mistakes cost the Tanagers â�?�? a fumble and a lost yard on second down and a pitch snuffed out by the WC defense for a loss of five on third down. A fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and the great scoring chance went for naught. Yet the Vermillion defense backed up the Trojans and forced an almost unheard-of occurrence â�?�? a West Central punt. This one wasnâ�?�?t successful either as Mike Oberle blazed through the line and blocked the kick. The ball, instead of remaining in the end zone for a possible Tanager touchdown, however, went out of the end zone for a safety. A five-yard run by Trevor Blaine with 30 seconds left in the half broke open the game, and it was 21-2 at intermission. Despite so many positive things happening for them, the Tanagers nevertheless had carried the ball 14 times in the first half for a total of minus-one yards. The Trojans made it 28-2 with a one-yard run by Dylan Peterson on the second possession of the second half after the Tanager defense had excitedly stopped West Central short on a fourth-and-eight run attempt from the Vermillion 23 on their first possession. Vermillionâ�?�?s third quarter was highlighted by a 29-yard gain by quarterback Kiertz-ner despite his being hobbled by an earlier injury. However, a lost fumble ended that possession inside the Trojan 35. Still refusing to quit, the defense led by Oberle made an exhilarating defensive stand on fourth-and-goal from the two. On another WC possession Oberle caused a fumble that Tony Thomas returned for 41 yards. West Central applied a final touchdown with 2:08 left in the game on a seven-yard run by Tucker Smith. Oberle with eight tackles; Thomas, Bennett Johnson and�? Taylor Clark with six each and Blaine Olson and Gerrit Heine with five each led the stalwart defensive effort. First quarter: WC â�?�? Chris Wenk 1-yard run (Wenk kick), 6:23. WC â�?�? Michael Tuch 21-yard pass from Wenk (Wenk kick), 1:19. Second quarter: V â�?�? Safety (WC punt blocked out of end zone), 6:33. WC â�?�? Trevor Blaine 5-yard run (Wenk kick), 0:30. Third quarter: WC â�?�? Dylan Peterson 1-yard run (Wenk kick), 3:45. Fourth quarter: WC â�?�? Tucker Smith 7-yard run (run failed), 2:08. Rushing: V â�?�? Earl Kiertzner 8-41, Mike Oberle 9-18, Dexter Mehlhaf 2-11, Tanner Mart 6-6, Cory Taggart 1-2, Tyler Husby 1-1, Kylen Freidel 1-(-6). WC â�?�? Peterson 20-149, Kevin Hogan 12-50, Justin Bergeson 7-39, Blaine 7-21, Wenk 4-12, Smith 2-11, Tyler Stolsmark 2-8, Zach Mettler 1-6, Mike Leisinger 1-4, Pat Leary 1-4, Matt Grave 1-2, Zack Ely 1-(-3). Passing: V â�?�? Kiertzner 2-8-111-1. WC â�?�? Wenk 4-6-47-1. Receiving: V â�?�? Freidel 2-111. WC â�?�? Tuch 3-40, Hogan 1-7. Tackles (solos-assists-total): V â�?�? Oberle 8-0-8, Tony Thomas 6-0-6, Bennett Johnson 6-0-6, Taylor Clark 6-0-6, Blaine Olson 5-0-5, Gerrit Heine 5-0-5, Freidel 4-0-4, Nick Mart 3-0-3, Chase Allen 3-0-3, Tom Amundson 2-0-2, Joe Talley 2-0-2, Greg Anderson 2-0-2, Travis Jerred 2-0-2, Jeff Anglin 1-0-1, Tanner Mart 1-0-1, Lance Hubert 1-0-1, Grant Lueders 1-0-1, Chris Cameron 1-0-1, Taggart 1-0-1. Tackles for loss: Oberle, Johnson, Jerred, Hubert. Fumble recoveries: Thomas. Pass knockdowns: Johnson. Interceptions: Freidel.
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