Vermillion completed three passes in the game, but two of them resulted in touchdowns as the Tanagers stunned South Sioux City, 24-21, to improve to 2-0 a quarter of the way into the regular season.
A two-yard touchdown run by Dexter Mehlhaf with one minute remaining in the game brought the Tanagers from a 21-18 deficit. Earlier in the game Vermillion had faced an even stiffer climb, trailing 19-6 midway through the second quarter.
"I'm extremely proud of the way our kids reacted to being down 19-6," Coach Gary Culver said. "We didn't panic and just stuck with the game plan, chipping away at their lead."
Culver said his club played better defense as the game wore on, and that carried over to the offense as well.
"Our offense got untracked in the second quarter, and we were able to rush the ball pretty effectively from that point on," Culver added.
A 36-yard pass from Tyler Husby to Ken Kozak at the 6:53 mark of the opening period gave Vermillion a 6-0 lead. The Cardinals tied the score with a one-yard run by Derrick Geddings with 1:02 left in that stanza.
South Sioux rolled up what was beginning to seem like a comfortable lead by scoring two second-period touchdowns. Geddings went over from the three with 8:08 left in the half, and Kyle Hanish scored from 28 yards out at the 5:42 mark.
But the Tanagers answered the fire alarm with two scores of their own before halftime. D'Andre Fore scored from the 2-yard line at the 2:39 mark, and Kozak caught a 13-yard aerial from Husby with 34 seconds left to send the Tanagers into the locker room at the intermission still trailing, 19-18, but with a degree of momentum on their side.
The only points the Cardinals could muster in the entire second half were a gift. On a Tanager punt attempt, the ball was snapped out of the end zone, giving South Sioux a safety and a 21-18 lead with 9:18 left. That set the stage for a calm and collected final possession for Vermillion as the Tanagers not only moved down the field but used up the clock, and Mehlhaf went over with a minute left.
Fore and Mehlhaf were a dynamic one-two punch for the VHS offense. Fore carried 19 times for 119 yards, and Mehlhaf carried 18 times for 101 yards. Husby's three completed passes in eight tries resulted in 82 yards through the air, and Kozak was on the receiving end of all three.
Vermillion outgained South Sioux City 255-165 on the ground, and the Tanagers' advantage over their first two opponents in rushing yardage is 501-305. In total yardage the Tanagers have a 606-431 advantage to this point.
Will Mart, Carson Sulolivan and Scott Iverson with six tackles apiece, Blaine Hubert with five and Husby with four led the VHS defensive statistics.
Vermillion takes a 2-0 record to Rapid City tonight for a 5 pm. (MDT) kickoff against St. Thomas More, a team which has outscored Douglas and Lead-Deadwood 115-6 in its first two contests. The Cavaliers program has been in a state championship game in five of the past six seasons.
"We are very pleased as a coaching staff to be 2-0 after the first two games," Culver said. "I think our players continue to grow and develop, and we have learned to overcome adversity in the first two games as well."
S.S. City ….. 6 13 0 2 — 21
VHS ……….. 6 12 0 6 — 24
VHS: Ben Kozak 36-yd. pass from Tyler Husby (run failed), 8:53.
SSC: Derrick Geddings 1-yd. run (kick failed), 1:02.
SSC: Geddings 3-yd. run (Kyle Hanish kick), 8:08.
SSC: Hanish 28-yd. run (pass failed), 5:42.
VHS: D'Andre Fore 2-yd. run (pass failed), 2:39.
VHS: Kozak 13-yd. pass from Husby (run failed), 0:34.
SSC: Safety (VHS punt snapped out of end zone), 9:18.
VHS: Dexter Mehlhaf 2-yd. run (kick failed), 1:00.
First downs 20 11
Rushes-yds. 47-255 36-165
Passing yds. 82 96
Total yds. 337 261
Passes 3-8-0 5-10-1
Punts-avg. 4-26.5 4-39.8
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-yds. 6-55 5-40
Rushing: VHS, Fore 19-119, Mehlhaf 18-101, Michael Sand 1-9, Husby 8-8, Kozak 1-8. SSC, Geddings 10-71, Hanish 9-56, Michael Offerman 2-15, Ned Frazee 2-12. Tyrell Dickes 5-10, Sean Roberts 8-1.
Passing: VHS, Husby 3-8-82. SSC, Roberts 5-10-96, one intercepted.
Receiving: VHS, Kozak 3-82. SSC, Kaden Moore 2-67, Hanish 2-17, Geddings 1-14.
Defense: (solos/assists/total tackles) VHS, Will Mart 5-1-6, Carson Sullivan 4-2-6, Scott Iverson 4-2-6, Blaine Hubert 4-1-5, Husby 2-2-4, Mehlhaf 2-1-3, Fore 3-0-3, Cody Olson 2-0-2, Dan Goeden 2-0-2, Kozak 1-1-2, Thomas Walker 2-0-2, Andrew McCann 1-0-1, Joey Mueller 1-0-1. Tackles for loss: Sullivan 2, Iverson 2, Mart 1. Fumbles recovered: Kozak 1. Pass knockdowns: Mehlhaf 1, Fore 1, Kozak 1, McCann 1. Interceptions: McCann 1.