A year ago on Vermillion High's homecoming night, Canton rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the winning score coming with a minute left in the game, to spoil the Tanagers' big night.
Determined to focus primarily on football during this week of distractions and not allow a repeat of last year's result, the Tanagers take on long-time rival Lennox at 7 p.m. tonight in the DakotaDome, trying to put an exclamation point of only good memories on their 2011 homecoming observance.
Vermillion is 1-3 after a disappointing 27-7 loss at Canton last Friday, but the Tanagers could find it tempting to take Lennox lightly, considering what the Orioles haven't done so far this fall. Lennox lost to Tea Area 45-0, to Harrisburg 63-13 and to Dakota Valley 40-0.
The game is crucial because of its playoff implications. Vermillion currently stands as the fourth and last team that would qualify for the Class 11A playoffs as an at-large team. Considering that at least playoff-bound teams still lie ahead on the Tanagers' schedule, a loss to a winless team could leave VHS on the sidelines when the playoffs begin a month from now.
Homecoming would also be an ideal time for the Tanagers to present Coach Gary Culver with his 200th career victory. It is also a Big 8 Conference game, and a win would even Vermillion's league record at 1-1.
Last Friday Canton was ready from the opening whistle for its homecoming game, and the C-Hawks led the Tanagers 13-0 before Vermillion ever touched the ball.
Canton took only 3:20 to go 60 yards without being challenged for its opening score, Logan Dolen plunging over from the 1. After recovering the ensuing onsides kick, the C-Hawks took eight plays to score again, this time quarterback Cody Majeres doing the honors from the 1.
To the Tanagers' credit they had an immediate answer, once they had a chance on offense. Putting together an excellent drive of 15 plays covering 67 yards, they used 8:26 to get their only score of the game.
D'Andre Fore carried 11 times on this march and Mitch Brown three, and the other play was an incomplete pass. Fore had runs of 13 and 12 for his longest during the possession, and he scored from the 1 at the 9:15 mark of the half. Michael Sand's kick made it a 13-7 deficit.
Canton's offense continued to blow through the Tanager defense. The next possession reached the 3-yard line before Chayse Meierkort recovered a fumble caused by a strip by Brett Bye. But Vermillion went three-and-out, and Canton finished out the half by scoring on its next chance. Kase Jacobs went in from the 5 for a 20-7 halftime lead.
"Defensively we did not do a good job shutting down their rushing attack, and we had a number of miscues on our specialty teams throughout the game," Culver said. "It seemed that Canton started every offensive drive at midfield or on our side of the 50, which put a lot of pressure on our defense."
There was no second-half scoring until only 1:23 remained in the game when Canton tacked on an extra touchdown after a 90-yard march covering five minutes. Jacobs scored from the 11.
The Tanagers had had a good chance to get back into the game in the third quarter following a Meierkort interception. The offense reached the Canton 10-yard line until Dolen intercepted a Kyle Weiss pass and returned it the length of the field for a score. It was nullified by a personal foul call, however, and the C-Hawks eventually punted, the only time in the game they had to do so.
A 22-yard Weiss pass to Nate Garrett and a 15-yard spurt by Fore were highlights of the next Tanager possession, but once they reached C-Hawk territory, they were stopped by a pair of quarterback sacks and an incompletion. VHS never had the ball again until the final minute when it didn't matter.
"It was a disappointing loss for our kids," Culver said. "We played well enough offensively to win the game, but we did not close out a number of drives once we reached the red zone."
Fore carried 27 times for 119 rushing yards for VHS. Dolen gained 79 yards in 16 attempts for Canton. Defensively Fore and Will Mart with 10 tackles each, Avery Garcia with nine and Alex Osborne with seven led the Tanagers.
VHS ….. 0 7 0 0 — 7
Canton 13 6 0 7 — 27
1st quarter: CHS: Logan Dolen 1-yd. run (kick failed), 8:40. CHS: Cody Majeres 1-yd. run (Brywn Ratcliffe kick), 5:41.
2nd quarter: VHS: D'Andre Fore 1-yd. run (Michael Sand kick), 9:15. CHS: Kase Jacobs 5-yd. run (Ratcliffe kick), 0:41.
4th quarter: CHS: Jacobs 9-yd. run (Ratcliffe kick), 1:03.
First downs 12 17
Rushes-yds. 37-137 44-276
Passing yds. 49 16
Total yds 186 292
Passes 4-12-1 1-4-1
Punts-avg. 3-28.0 1-44.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yds. 6-40 7-55
Rushing: VHS, Fore 27-119, Mitch Brown 8-29, Kyle Weiss 2-(-11). CHS, Dolen 16-79, Tyler Halverson 5-66, Jacobs 11-54, Majeres 8-48, Jesse Peterson 3-20, Travis Bergren 1-9.
Passing: VHS, Weiss 4-12-49-1. CHS, Majeres 1-4-16-1
Receiving: VHS, Nate Garrett 1-22, Fore 1-16, Chayse Meierkort 1-8, Tanner Anderson 1-3. CHS, Nick Versteeg 1-16.
Defense: VHS (solos-assists-total tackles), Fore 5-5-10, Will Mart 5-5-10, Avery Garcia 3-6-9, Alex Osborne 3-4-7, Brett Bye 4-1-5, Meierkort 2-2-4, Nick Jensen 1-3-4, Anderson 3-0-3, Brown 1-1-2, Sand 1-1-2, Thomas Walker 1-0-1, Dan Goeden 0-1-1, Riley Vlasman 0-1-1, Anthony Leber 0-1-1. Fumble recoveries: Meierkort 1. Interceptions: Meierkort 1.