Tanagers doomed on two big turnovers

Vermillion was staying with the fourth-seeded Harrisburg for the first 22 minutes.

But the next four minutes proved costly for the Tanagers, as Harrisburg scored twice in that span to help the Tigers get past Vermillion 30-6 in Harrisburg in the first round of the 11A football playoffs Tuesday night.

Down 8-0 to the Tigers with about two minutes left in the first half, Vermillion (3-6) lined up at midfield to punt, hoping to pin Harrisburg (7-2) deep in their own territory.

However, the play didn't go according to plan as the Tigers blocked the punt, and took over in Tanager territory. About a minute later, Harrisburg quarterback Steve Miller hit tight end Kory Wheeler for a 25-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 16-0 lead going into halftime.

"That touchdown was big; we needed some momentum," said Harrisburg's first-year head coach Brandon White. "It was a big confidence builder for our team. 16-0 at the half is a big difference compared to 8-0."

Vermillion head coach Gary Culver said Harrisburg's touchdown right before the half did get to the team.

"It deflated us a little bit," he said. "It was still a game at 16-0; better than the 35-0 last time we played them at half. But unfortunately the score wasn't 8-0."

Vermillion had a chance to get the points right back to start the second half after the kick-off, but two plays in, Tyler Husby's pass to the flat was picked off by Harrisburg's Kyle Ackermann, who took the pick 13 yards for the touchdown.

"The lead at halftime allowed us to stiffen up the defense and put pressure on them, and we did that," said White, the former University of South Dakota tight end. "That was a big play from Ack(ermann). We wanted to address the flat, and he did what he was told. He gave us enough points to allow us more opportunities to run the ball and kill some clock."

The score put Harrisburg up 23-0 right away in the second half.

The Tigers defense, which allowed just two first downs in the first half, held their ground the rest of the way, holding Vermillion to just 164 total yards.

"The gameplan was good; play conservative and keep it close to the vest," Culver said. "But the third touchdown for Harrisburg on the interception, we can't have that. Plus some penalties hurt us that put us at a bad down-and-distance at times."

Vermillion was able to score with 52 seconds left in the game on D'Andre Fore's 28-yard run. Fore ended up with a good chuck of the Tanagers' offense as the junior rushed for 130 yards.

Harrisburg's first score came on the opening possession of the game when Miller took a bootleg to the left sideline and scurried all the way to the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.

Miller also scored on a four-yard quarterback sweep in the fourth quarter to put Harrisburg up 30-0.

Miller said the windy weather took a little bit away from the Tigers' offense.

"It kind of confined our system a bit, but it wasn't horrible," he said. "The ball tailed off at the end, and it made it tough on the receivers."

Miller finished the game with 87 yards rushing and 26 yards passing.

As a team, Harrisburg had 261 total yards.

Harrisburg will host the second-round match-up next Monday night, and the Tigers move up to a two-seed because of losses to Sisseton and Pine Ridge.

"Being the number two seed now at home is nice, because we love playing on this turf," Miller said. "The grass can get pretty hard when it gets this cold out."

The Tanagers season ends with a 3-6 record.

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