It’s ‘gut-check time’ for Tanager football

As if playing the state's No. 2-ranked team wasn't enough fun, now the Vermillion Tanagers get to take on the No. 3 team – also on their home field and also on their homecoming.

Coach Gary Culver and his Tanagers have to like challenges, and Friday night's game at Harrisburg at 7 p.m. will be another task.  The Tigers stand at 4-1.  Vermillion is now at 2-3 after a 41-6 loss at Dell Rapids last week.

In the Region 2 playoff picture, the Tanagers have dropped a notch to third-place behind Harrisburg and Canton and ahead of Dakota Valley, Tea Area and Lennox.  The top three teams are assured of a playoff berth, and the fourth team might get in.

Dell Rapids showed last Friday it deserves its lofty ranking and that if anybody beats them this fall, it will take nearly an error-free performance to do it.

The Quarriers went three-and-out in its first possession in both the first and second quarters last Friday, but in their other two possesions in each of those periods, they scored, and they didn't take long to do it.

The longest drive in terms of number of plays involved was the first scoring march as Dells went 58 yards in five plays.  A quarterback keeper by Channing Barber for 11 yards and a 22-yard pass to Dylan Ljunggren, which was tipped twice into the air and then caught, set up a 20-yard TD scamper by Cole Langer, a sophomore from whom great things are likely to be heard before his football career ends.

A 64-yard punt return by Dells set up the Quarriers at the Tanagers' 4-yard line on the next possession, and Langer plunged over on the first play for a 14-0 lead at the 4:54 mark of the opening period.

The home team's second possession of the second quarter lasted three plays covering 55 yards.  A 22-yard pass from Barber to Greg Schwebach took the ball to the 32, and from there Hunter White took it to the house.

On the final possession of the half a blocking penalty during a punt return seemed to have set the Quarriers back a bit, all the way to their own 29, but never mind.  Zach Barber covered the remaining 71 yards on the first play from scrimmage for a 28-0 halftime advantage.

Langer scored his third TD from the 7-yard line in the third quarter.  Later in that period a big gain by Langer set the table for a sixth touchdown three plays later, with Ljunggren scoring from the 5.  With the score at 41-0 the running-clock rule took effect.

The Tanagers got on the board at the 6:26 mark of the final stanza when D'Andre Fore scored on a 59-yard run.  The Quarriers kept the Vermillion speedster in check the rest of the night, however, holding Fore to 26 yards in his other 16 carries.  Dexter Mehlhaf had 79 rushing yards for VHS.

Andrew McCann and Will Mart were the defensive leaders for VHS with six tackles each, and Mehlhaf contributed five.

"They have so many weapons," Culver said of Dell Rapids, "and then we allowed some big plays besides.  Their first four scores came from big plays, and that ultimately was the game."

This week's opponent at Harrisburg has a lofty 4-1 record, but three of their wins have come in the past three weeks over teams having losing seasons – Lennox by 21-8, Douglas by 69-7 and Madison by 50-0.  Harrisburg did beat West Central, 21-19, in the season opener but lost to Class 11B powerhouse Tri-Valley 34-7.

Culver said of the Tigers, "They have a multitude of talent on both sides of the football.  At every level of football there is a winner and a loser in every game.  Those teams that lose have the greatest challenge before them.  It is a gut-check time for our team.  We will find out a lot about ourselves in these last three weeks in practices and in the games."

D. Rapids 14  14  13  0  —  41
VHS 0 0 0  6  — 6
1st quarter
DR:  Cole Langer 20-yd. run (kick failed), 5:57.
DR:  Langer 4-yd. run (Zach Barber run), 4:50.
2nd quarter
DR:  Hunter White 32-yd. run (Gus Haskell kick), 4:27.
DR:  Barber 71-yd. run (Haskell kick), 1:50.
3rd quarter
DR: Langer 7-yd. run (kick failed), 5:27.
DR: Dylan Ljunggren 5-yd. run (Haskell kick), 2:38.
4th quarter
VHS:  D'Andre Fore 59-yd. run (run failed), 6:26.
First downs 10 14
Rushes-yds. 41-179  31-271
Passing yds. 0 62
Total yds. 179 333
Passes 0-5-0 3-4-0
Punts-avg. 6-37.3  2-41.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-yds. 1-5 4-25
Rushing:  VHS, Fore 17-85, Dexter Mehlhaf 11-79, David Day 3-9, Michael Sand 1-5, Ben Kozak 1-2, Kyle Weiss 1-0, Tyler Husby 7-(-1).  DR, Langer 6-50, Ljunggren 8-77, Channing Barber 4-8, Zach Barber 2-75, White 5-55, Kevin Rice 2-1, Michael McGee 1-(-2), Lane LeBrun 2-0, Ryan Nichols 1-0.
Passing:  VHS, Husby 0-4-0, Fore 0-1-0.  DR, Channing Barber 2-3-44, Greg Schwebach 1-1-18.
Receiving:  VHS, none.  DR, Ljunggren 1-22, Schwebach 1-22, Bryce Koch 1-18.
Defense:  VHS (solos/assists/total tackles), Andrew McCann 6-0-6, Will Mart 4-2-6, Mehlhaf 5-0-5, Husby 4-0-4, Blaine Hubert 4-0-4, Chayse Meierkort 2-1-3, Kozak 2-0-2, Fore 1-0-1, Sand 1-0-1, Thomas Walker 1-0-1, Nick Jensen 1-0-1, Jerod Ceretti 0-1-1, Jake Knutson 1-0-1, Alex Osborne 1-0-1, Cody Olson 1-0-1, Dan Goeden 1-0-1.

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