In the final six days of the football regular season starting tonight, Vermillion's gridiron Tanagers will face a pair of teams which have been going in opposite directions so far this fall.
The Tanagers, having completed their home schedule with a tough 13-3 loss to Harrisburg last Friday, hit the road to Madison tonight, then retrace their steps to West Central next Thursday.
Now 2-4, Vermillion has to be wary of walking into a trap at Madison. The Bulldogs stand at 0-6 but have played a dynamite schedule that includes losses to powerhouses Sisseton, Dell Rapids, West Central and Harrisburg. They were outscored in those four games by 160-12. Madison also lost by two points to Hot Springs and by 13 to Lennox last week.
"We have to continue to improve and get a win on the road against another Big 8 Conference rival," said Coach Gary Culver in assessing Game No. 7. "It is usually a close, hard-fought contest no matter the records of the two teams. Madison is always ready to play Vermillion, so we need to be highly motivated for this game."
Meanwhile, next Thursday's regular-season finale opponent, West Central, is rolling along as usual with a 6-0 record with wins over Harrisburg, Milbank, Belle Fourche, Madison, Lennox and Jackson County Central.
The Tanagers, after an admitted step backward in a loss to Dell Rapids the previous week, came out ready to play inspired football against Harrisburg, a heavily favored opponent, and they did just that.
"I was extremely happy that we played very hard the entire game against Harrisburg," Culver said. "Defensively we played inspired football throughout the contest, other than the two touchdown runs we gave them in the first and third quarters. Our specialty team play was also very solid in all phases of the game."
The Tanager ground game struggled with only 69 yards accumulated in 28 rushes, and therein lies room for improvement.
"We need to be able to move the ball consistently on the offensive side and string some first downs together," Culver said. "This is one area we will work on this week in practice."
With 4:04 left in the first period Harrisburg dented the scoreboard first on an 8-yard run by Matt Reiff, who was the Tigers' leading ball carrier with 69 yards in 21 attempts.
The Tanagers closed the gap on a 35-yard field goal by Jordan Robinson with 5:47 to play in the half.
The game stayed close through the third quarter until Harrisburg gave itself a tinge of breathing room on a 3-yard run by quarterback Steve Miller with 28 seconds left in the period, and that ended the scoring. Miller carried 16 times for 55 yards.
Kylen Freidel led Vermillion's ground game with 37 yards in 10 carries.
The Tanager defense held the potent Tigers to 202 yards on the ground on 50 carries, and they added 55 yards on three passes. Earl Kiertzner passed three times for 41 yards for Vermillion.
Nick Mart's 12 tackles, Tanner Mart's nine, seven each by Tyler Husby and Marquis Knight and six from Dexter Mehlhaf led the Tanager defense.
Harrisburg … 7 0 6 0 — 24
Vermillion … 0 3 0 0 — 13
HHS: Matt Reiff, 8-yd. run (Connor Auch kick), 4:04.
VHS: Jordan Robinson, 35-yd. field goal, 5:47.
HHS: Steve Miller 3-yd. run (kick blocked), :28.
First downs 6 13
Rushes-yds. 28-68 50-202
Passing yds. 41 55
Total yds. 110 257
Passes 3-7-1 3-4-1
Punts-avg. 5-35.8 2-40.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-yds. 6-30 6-56
Rushing: VHS, Kylen Freidel 10-37, Robinson 4-16, Tanner Mart 4-12, Bennett Johnson 3-4, Earl Kiertzner 7-0. Harrisburg, Reiff, 21-69, Miller 16-55, Alex Oaks 7-34, Thomas Hudson 6-24.
Passing: VHS, Kiertzner 3-7-41, 1 interception. Harrisburg, Miller 3-4-55, 1 interception.
Receiving: VHS, Freidel 1-27, Johnson 2-14. Harrisburg, Adam Pohlmann 2-47, Taylor Olson 1-8.
Defense: VHS (solo tackles-assists-total), Nick Mart 8-4-12, Tanner Mart 7-2-9, Tyler Husby 5-2-7, Marquis Knight 7-0-7, Dexter Mehlhaf 4-2-6, Will Mart 5-0-5, Chris Mart 4-0-4, Johnson 4-0-4, Freidel 2-0-2, Chase Allen 1-0-1, Brenden Raizola 1-0-1, Niko Cruz 0-1-1, Robinson 0-1-1, Riley Vlasman 0-1-1.
Tackles for loss: Knight 2, Will Mart 2.
Fumble recoveries: Mehlhaf 1, Chris Mart 1.
Interceptions: Freidel 1.