Tanagers kickoff grid season hosting Lennox

The 2009 edition of the Vermillion High School Tanager football team will kickoff their season as they host the Lennox Orioles in a Big Eight Conference game at The University of South Dakota DakotaDome this Friday, Aug. 28. Kickoff is sent for 7 p.m.

The Tanagers welcome back four starters on offense and four starters on defense this season. "We are very optimistic about this upcoming season and have been going at it hard these two weeks of practice in preparation for this season opener against a good Madison football team," said Gary Culver, head coach of the Tanagers.

Culver, the all-time winningest coach at Vermillion High School, will begin his 33rd year at the helm of the Tanager football program. He has lead the Tanagers to five state championships (1990, 1991, 1992, 1995 and 1999), one state runner-up (1981), 10 regional championships and 12 Big Eight Conference championships during his tenure. With an overall record of 192-129 and a playoff record of 39-19, he ranks third on the all-time career coaching record list among "active" coaches in South Dakota.

"We, as a coaching staff, have been very pleased with the great work ethic and positive attitude of the squad during preseason workouts. We have some excellent returning veterans who have provided us with great leadership this fall," Culver said.

Assisting Culver with the varsity squad are Jason Huska, in his 12th season with the Tanagers, and Jay Drake, in his second season with the Tanager football program. Huska is a 1989 VHS graduate and former first team all-state player during his tenure in the Tanager football program. Assisting with the freshman squad are Jason Gault and Joe Delvaux. Also, Kurt Seibel is returning as a student assistant coach with the Tanager football program. Seibel is a 1980 VHS graduate and former first team all-state selection.

Senior members of the 2009 team include Nick Mart, Jordan Robinson, Kylen Freidel, Tanner Mart, Will Schaffer, Earl Kiertzner, Bennett Johnson, Chris Mart, Chase Allen, Preston Ellenbolt, Gerrit Heine, Tom Amundson, Chris Wilson, Niko Cruz, and Nick Anglin.

Junior players participating in football this season include Blaine Hubert, Andrew McCann, Dexter Mehlhaf, Tyler Husby, Ben Kozak, Carson Sullivan, Joey Mueller, Cody Olson, Alex Lars9on, Scott Iverson, and Marquis Knight.

Sophomore players participating in football this season include Dan Goeden, Stetson Kastengren, Will Mart, D'Andre Fore, Clint Hubert, Riley Vlasman, Nathan Garrett, Brenden Raizola, Paul May, and Tedd Schaffer. All seniors, juniors and sophomores comprise the varsity squad.

Freshman players participating in football this season include Tanner Settles, Collin Bertram, Alex Robertson, Carl Rarick, Tanner Anderson, Cole Johnson, Michael Sand, Tyler Constant, Thomas Walker, JT Sorensen, Kyle Weiss, Douglas Thomas, Zahai Marshall, Tyler Chasing Hawk, Anthony Leber, Chayse Meierkort, Avery Garcia, Dylan Clark, Brock Allen, and David Day.

The Tanagers lost to the Orioles in the regular season matchup last season by a 26-7 score, but then avenged that loss with convincing 21-7 victory in the first round of the playoffs in the DakotaDome. The Tanagers broke open a 7-7 score at halftime in the playoff game as they scored two touchdowns in the second half and shutout the Orioles for the first round win.

The win over Lennox in the first round of the playoffs was the second time in as many years the Tanagers had avenged a regular season loss with a first round playoff win over the Orioles. The Tanagers have commanding 27-12 lead in the series between the two teams that dates back to 1933.

"This has been a good rivalry throughout the years and we know it will be a tightly contested game, as are most Big Eight Conference games," said coach Culver. "We cannot afford to turn the ball over and give them a short field to start their offensive drives. It simply puts too much pressure on a defensive unit. We must also be able to rush the football effectively on the offensive side as well as control the run on defense. This was the difference between the regular season game and the playoff game last year. This game will be a battle for field position and the team that makes the fewest mistakes will undoubtedly have a great opportunity to win the game."

The Tanagers recorded a 5-5 overall record last year as they were selected to participate in the South Dakota Class 11A playoffs. As mentioned above, they beat Lennox 21-7 in the first round and then lost to Harrisburg by a 45-14 score in the Class 11A Region 2 championship quarterfinal game to end their season. Lennox finished the 2008 season with a 2-7 overall record.

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