A field goal and a touchdown in the first four minutes of the final quarter enabled Vermillion to pull away from Lennox and post a satisfying 31-13 football victory at the DakotaDome Friday.
In what Coach Gary Culver described as "a very solid win," the Tanagers were able to avoid the mistakes frequently associated with season openers.
"I was extremely pleased with our performance for the first game of the season," said Culver. "I thought we held our physical and mental errors to a minimum for a first game. We committed only one turnover and had no major penalties for the evening."
With the game still in doubt as the third quarter drew to a close, the Tanagers, leading 13-7, tried to punch in the clinching touchdown. That didn't materialize, but the leg of Jordan Robinson proved to be a welcome alternative weapon. His 22-yard field goal five seconds into the final period made it a two-score advantage for the Tanagers.
The clincher came with 8:25 left when Tanner Mart crossed the goal from the one for his second touchdown of the night. Kylen Freidel's two-point conversion run made it 24-7. The Orioles needed three answering scores to win the game, but they came up with only one. Alex DeVries scored from the 1-yard line with 4:58 left.
As Vermillion milked the clock, Freidel, who had a terrific opening night of his senior season, got a touchdown he deserved, scoring from the seven with 24 seconds remaining. Robinson's kick completed the scoring at 31-13. Much earlier Robinson had not only kicked an extra point but had scored a touchdown as well, scoring from the 7-yard line in the closing seconds of the first period to put the Tanagers on the board for the first time this season.
Culver blamed himself for "a couple errors on my part on defense," which opened the door for the only two big plays Lennox could accomplish.
"Our defense, aside from the two pass plays that accounted for 100 of their 237 total yards, played very well throughout the game," Culver said. "Our special team play was also very solid."
As for offense, the Tanagers found some from a variety of sources.
"We said going in that we would highlight a number of running backs, each of whom has different talents," Culver said, "and our offense did do a great job of rushing the football."
Among the team's total of 264 yards on the ground, Freidel garnered 131 yards in 27 carries as the workhorse, but VHS used other options. Robinson rushed nine times for 65 yards, Mart nine times for 39 and Bennett Johnson five times for 26 to lead the way.
Directing traffic from the quarterback slot for his second season is Earl Kiertzner, and his coach credited him with "a nice job passing the football for the few times we did pass." He completed all three of his passes – two to Freidel and one to Robinson – for a total of 65 yards.
On defense junior Tyler Husby had a quarterback sack among his team-high eight tackles, but Nick Mart was right there with seven tackles, and Tanner Mart contributed six.
Next on the horizon are a pair of rugged non-conference opponents – South Sioux City on the road Friday and St. Thomas More of Rapid City at home next week.
"We will certainly be tested this week," Culver said. "South Sioux City, although losing its opener to Sergeant Bluff-Luton in overtime, has an excellent football team. They have a quarterback that presents a triple threat in their offense and have a senior-dominated offensive line. They have always played tough, hard-nosed defense through the years. We will have to improve on our good performance from the Lennox game."
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the Cardinal Athletic Complex in South Sioux City.
Lennox ….. 0 7 0 6 — 13
Vermillion .. 7 6 0 18 — 31
First quarter: VHS: Jordan Robinson 7 yd. run (Robinson kick), :20.
Lennox: Keegan Mechels 66 yd. pass from Alex DeVries (Mechels kick), 9:54.
VHS: Tanner Mart 1 yd. run (kick failed), 5:02.
VHS: Robinson 22 yd. field goal, 11:55.?
VHS: Tanner Mart 1 yd. run (Kylen Freidel run), 8:25.
Lennox: DeVries 1 yd. run (pass failed), 4:58.
VHS: Freidel 7 yd. run (Robinson kick), :24.
First downs 19 12
Rushes-yards 52-264 35-122
Passing yards 65 115
Total yards 329 237
Passes 3-3-0 3-6-0
Punts-avg. 1-40.0 1-32.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-3
Penalties-yards 5-25 8-60
Individual rushing: VHS, Freidel 27-131 (1 TD), Robinson 9-65 (1 TD), Tanner Mart 9-39 (2 TDs), Bennett Johnson 5-26, Earl Kiertzner 1-3, Preston Ellenbolt 1-3. Lennox, Korey Johnston 10-51, Ryan Pingrey 14-48, Korey Relph 7-35, DeVries 4-(-12) (1 TD).
Individual passing: VHS, Kiertzner 3-3-65. Lennox, DeVries 3-6-115 (1 TD).
Receiving: VHS, Freidel 2-32, Robinson 1-33. Lennox, Mechels 2-61 (1 TD), Johnston 1-34.
Individual defense: VHS (solos-assists-total tackles), Tyler Husby 7-1-8, Nick Mart 7-0-7, Tanner Mart 6-0-6, Johnson 3-0-3, Dexter Mehlhaf 2-1-3, Robinson 2-0-2, Chase Allen 2-0-2, Carson Sullivan 2-0-2, Will Mart 2-0-2, Freidel 2-0-2, Ellenbolt 1-0-1, Chris Mart 1-0-1, Niko Cruz 1-0-1, Ben Kozak 1-0-1, Tom Amundson 1-0-1, Nick Anglin 1-0-1, Marquis Knight 1-0-1.
Tackles for loss: Nick Mart 2, Allen 1, Knight 1.
Fumbles recovered: Will Mart 1, Chris Mart 2.
Passes knocked down: Johnson 1, Mehlhaf 1.
Sacks: Husby 1.