After four straight losses at the hands of some of the state's best teams, the Vermillion Tanagers need a win.
The next chance of that happening will be Friday night when the Red and White returns home for a 7 p.m. Big 8 Conference date with the Madison Bulldogs. The Tanagers want to erase the memory of a 46-14 loss last week at Harrisburg.
"It will be great to be back home in the DakotaDome against long-time Big 8 Conference rival Madison," Coach Gary Culver said. "We've had some good battles through the years. As I told our team, we really need to treat this as a playoff game and get ourselves mentally ready to play well in all phases."
Madison likely won't be the pushover one might have thought earlier in the year. The Bulldogs, like the Tanagers, have won twice this fall.
"We've had a couple tough games on the road, but every team goes through that during a season," Culver said. "There is nothing like a win at home to set things on the right course again."
Harrisburg opened last week's contest with a long, methodical march on its first possession, ending it with a four-yard run by Thomas Hudson.
Vermillion answered with a good drive involving three first downs, but the possession stalled, forcing a Tanagers punt. The kick set the Tigers back to their own 5-yard line.
As the game moved into the second quarter, Harrisburg got only part-way into Tanager territory and had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Connor Auch. It seemed like something of a moral victory, for a few minutes at least, until sudden disasters struck, one after another, in a three-minute stretch that turned the deficit from manageable to impossible.
"We really had a little momentum at that time," Culver said, "but when they recovered the ensuing kickoff and scored 11 seconds later, it took the wind out of our sails, and we just fell apart in all phases of the game."
The Harrisburg kickoff following the field goal rolled to the 14-yard line, and Tanager return men seemed to wait for the ball to roll out of bounds. It didn't, and a Tiger pounced on it. In one play they scored a touchdown on a 14-yard run by Alex Oaks.
When the Tanager offense went three-and-out, Harrisburg converted on a 56-yard pass play to the 5-yard line and two plays later to another touchdown, this time a one-yard plunge by Mitchell Schenk.
Again the Tanagers quickly found themselves in a punting situation. Again the Tigers used a big play, this time a 51-yard pass play to the 25. Three plays later they scored again on Oaks' three-yard run.
The next Vermillion punt was blocked and recovered in the end zone by Kory Wheeler for a Harrisburg touchdown. The score had gone from 10-0 to 38-0 in a flash.
'You just cannot make the specialty team errors that we did that led to touchdowns and give up two big plays on passes and expect to be in the game," Culver noted. "We just have to regroup and get ready for our next game."
Vermillion's first possession of the second half, now with the clock running continuously because of the mercy rule, resulted in a touchdown run of three yards by D'Andre Fore to put the Tanagers on the board. A Tyler Husby pass to Chayse Meierkort for the conversion made it a 38-8 deficit.
Harrisburg started its first possession with under seven minutes to go in the third quarter, and it lasted until only 5:30 remained in the game. After Oaks' two-yard TD run, the Tiger hierarchy chose to go for two points rather than settle for a 37-point lead.
Vermillion also scored on its second possession, this time against Harrisburg reserves, with Fore going over in the final minute from the 12-yard stripe.
Oaks had 115 yards of rushing in 19 carries to lead the Tiger offense, and quarterback Steve Miller carried for 66 yards in 12 carries and passed for 122 yards on three completions.
Dexter Mehlhaf was Vermillion's leading ground-gainer with 51 yards in 12 attempts. Will Mart with eight tackles, Husby with seven and Fore and Carson Sullivan with six each led VHS on defense.
VHS ……. 0 0 8 6 — 14
Harrisburg 7 31 0 8 — 46
HHS: Thomas Hudson 4-yd. run (Connor Auch kick), 7:56.
HHS: Auch 28-yd. field goal, 9:31.
HHS: Alex Oaks 14-yd. run (Auch kick), 9:20.
HHS: Mitchell Schenk 1-yd. run (Auch kick), 6:29.
HHS: Oaks 3-yd. run (Auch kick), 2:57.
HHS: Kory Wheeler recovered blocked punt in end zone (Auch kick), 0:54.
VHS: D'Andre Fore 3-yd. run (Chayse Meierkort pass from Tyler Husby), 6:20.
HHS: Oaks 2-yd. run (Wheeler pass from Andrew McCuen), 5:31.
VHS: Fore 12-yd. run (run failed), 0:38.
First downs 7 20
Rushes-yds. 32-127 41-238
Passing yds. 37 122
Total yds. 164 360
Passes 3-8-0 3-5-0
Punts-avg. 4-38.3 1-41.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-yds. 1-7 3-25
Rushing: VHS, Dexter Mehlhaf 12-51, Husby 5-38, Fore 12-34, Michael Sand 3-3. Harrisburg, Oaks 19-115, Steve Miller 12-66, Hudson 7-49, Schenk 3-8.
Passing: VHS, Husby 3-8-37. Harrisburg, Miller 3-5-122.
Receiving: VHS, Meierkort 3-37. Harrisburg, Adam Pohlmann 1-56, Cameron Andela 1-56, Taylor Harris 1-10.
Defense (solos/assists/total tackles): VHS, Husby 6-1-7, Meierkort 1-0-1, Mehlhaf 2-2-4, Fore 6-0-6, Thomas Walker 1-0-1, Carson Sullivan 5-1-6, Andrew McCann 3-0-3, Will Mart 8-0-8, Jake Knutson 1-0-1, Blaine Hubert 5-0-5, Cody Olson 3-0-3, Dan Goeden 2-0-2. TAckles for loss, Meierkort 1, Mart 1.