Fans who showed up for football in Madison on a miserable wet and cold evening last Friday had to really want to be there. For those who made the trek from Vermillion, the Tanagers ¬– for the first half at least – made sure their misery was worth it.
Vermillion dominated every aspect of the game, with the possible exception of a couple of kick returns, in rolling to a 35-0 halftime lead. The score stayed right there through a mandated rolling clock throughout the second half but more because of the foul conditions and the grace of Coach Gary Culver and his staff than due to anything Madison could do about it.
By halftime the Tanagers, in winning their second of three conference games and their third in seven overall, had accumulated 276 yards in 38 carries and 13 first downs while the Bulldogs had a minus-25 yards in 12 carries on the ground.
"It's always nice to go on the road and be on the winning side of the ledger, especially against a Big Eight Conference rival," Culver said. "I felt we really put a complete game together in all phases – offense, defense and specialty teams. It was just a really good team effort. Everyone did his job all night long."
Culver singled out his offensive line for a lot of credit in clearing the path for ball carriers who gained 298 total yards – 122 of them by Tanner Mart and 120 more by Kylen Freidel. Six others also carried the mail for Vermillion. The Tanagers' starting O-line was anchored by Scott Iverson at center, Nick Mart and Chase Allen on either side of him, and Gerrit Heine and Tom Amundson at the tackle slots.
Culver decribed Tanner Mart and Freidel as "a good one-two punch." During the first half when the game was decided, those two were gaining anywhere from seven to 10 yards in almost every carry as the Tanagers steadily and impressively moved down the field in their first four time-consuming possessions.
The coach also gave quarterback Earl Kiertzner an audible pat on the back for controlling the machine, especially considered the slippery-ball, poor-traction conditions.
The Vermillion defense gave Madison absolutely nothing in the first half, and by game's end the Bulldogs still had only 16 ground yards and 72 passing yards. The heart of the VHS defensive line included Blaine Hubert and Will Mart at starting tackles and Chris Mart and Allen at the ends. Dexter Mehlhaf, Tanner and Nick Mart and Tyler Husby were the starting linebackers with Bennett Johnson and Jordan Robinson at the corners and Freidel at free safety.
A host of other players saw action in the second half as Culver called off the dogs with the game already out of Madison's reach. Twenty different Tanagers got credit for tackles.
A 67-yard return of the opening kickoff set up Madison in great shape at the Vermillion 37, but the defense went quickly to work and stopped the Bulldogs with zero yardage on four downs. Then began the Tanagers' first workman-like drive. An 18-yard scamper by Chris mart and another 18-yard gain by Freidel were the big plays on a dominating drive that ended with Freidel crossing over from the 6-yard line.
After another three-and-out by the defense, the offense staged a punishing 49-yard possession with Freidel again converting on the TD, this time from the 7.
The defense gave the offense field possession at the Madison 39 on the third possession, and on this night that was so easy it was almost unfair. Freidel got the call from the 8-yard line in scoring his third TD.
A snap over the punter's head and into the end zone gave VHS a safety for a 22-0 lead. On the next possession VHS rolled again with Freidel getting his fourth TD from the 12.
The Tanagers had to work harder on their fifth possession, getting the ball at their own 19. But 74 yards later, Tanner Mart scored from the 7 with 44 seconds left in the half.
Believe it or not, the Tanagers had another chance to score in the half, recovering a Madison fumble at the 7 with seven seconds left, but Culver wouldn't allow it to happen, already leading by 35-0.
There was no scoring in the second half. The Bulldogs' one good chance to dent the scoreboard came in the last minute when they reached the 9-yard line and called a timeout to plot strategy for a final play. Brian Hansen made the tackle short of the goal line to preserve the well-deserved shutout.
The regular season ended last night (Thursday) against West Central at Hartford as the Tanagers faced the challenge of playing the state's top-ranked 11A ballclub. By Saturday playoff pairings will be announced, and the first-round games will be played Tuesday. Fans will be able to find the playoff matchups by accessing www.sdhsaa.org.
Whenever the Tanagers play their final game, it will be the last for an outstanding collection of 15 senior athletes, including Nick Mart, Will Schaffer, Freidel, Kiertzner, Johnson, Chris Mart, Robinson, Allen, Tanner Mart, Hansen, Amundson, Heine, Nick Anglin, Chris Wilson and Niko Cruz.
VHS ….. 14 21 0 0 — 35
Madison 0 0 0 0 — 0
VHS: Kylen Freidel 6-yd. run (run failed), 7:04.
VHS: Freidel 7-yd. run (Freidel run), 3:26.
VHS: Freidel 8-yd. run (kick failed), 8:39.
VHS: Safety (Madison QB tackled in end zone), 6:43.
VHS: Freidel 12-yd. run (Alex Robertson kick), 5:56.
VHS: Tanner Mart 7-yd. run (kick blocked), :07.
First downs 18 6
Rushes-yds. 50-298 21-16
Passing yds. 0 72
Total yds. 298 88
Passes 0-0-0 6-15-0
Punts-avg. 2-27.0 1-26.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yds. 4-27 63-25
Rushing: VHS, Tanner Mart 17-122, Freidel 15-120, Ben Kozak 7-23, Earl Kiertzner 1-14, Tyler Husby 4-12, Dexter Mehlhaf 3-9, Brenden Raizola 1-0, Andy McCann 1-(-2). MHS, Derek Mogck 3-20, Chris Shafer 91-13, Cam Shafer 1-6, Mitch Gehrels 1-(-1), Laker Thompson 1-(-10), Matt DeBilzan 6-(-12).
Passing: MHS, DeBilzan 6-7-13, Chris Shafer 0-1-0.
Receiving: MHS, Cam Shafer 2-33, Marcial Solis 2-25, Mitch Benson 2-14.
Tackles (solos-assists-total): VHS, Nick Mart 4-1-5, Will Mart 1-3-4, Chase Allen 1-3-4, Carson Sullivan 1-3-4, Blaine Hubert 3-0-3, Bennett Johnson 2-1-3, Andy McCann 0-2-2, Husby 1-1-2, Brian Hansen 1-1-2, Freidel 1-1-2, Cody Olson 1-1-2, Tanner Mart 0-1-1, Gerret Heine 1-0-1, Niko Cruz 1-0-1, Joey Mueller 1-0-1, Marquis Knight 1-0-1, Raizola 0-1-1, Nick Anglin 0-1-1, Mehlhaf 0-1-1, Chris Mart 0-1-1.