Though Vermillion had just scored to take a 13-7 lead in overtime, Tea Area had stopped the Tanagers' attempt at a two-point conversion.
Momentum had switched sides again, and a majority of fans in the DakotaDome Friday night could see it coming as the Titans moved on three successive running plays to the brink of the tying touchdown. With a reliable extra-point kicker available, their winning point would then be a mere formality.
Somebody had to do something, and that somebody turned out to be Avery Garcia.
The junior defensive end came barreling out of the endzone and across the goalline untouched. All in the same breath he said hello and good night to Tea Area's would-be touchdown scorer, stopping him for a loss, leaving the Titans short of the goalline and ending the game.
A delirious celebration ensued as Vermillion picked up its first win of the season and Tea Area sustained defeat for the first time.
Choosing to stay on the ground, Tea Area had gained five yards on its first-down play in overtime, Mitch Brown making the tackle at the 5-yard line. Second down moved them to the 2 1/2-yard line. On third down Will Mart and Anthony Leber teamed up to stop the Titan runner a half-yard from the goal. Then came Garcia's heroics.
Having just seen a potential game-winning field-goal attempt blocked in the final seconds of regulation time, the Tanagers could have been hanging their heads as the game went into O.T. Instead, losing the coin toss, they got possession first, and that proved to be a godsend.
D'Andre Fore was the designated driver of the Tanagers' victory hopes. He went six yards on first down, three more on second down and scored the go-ahead touchdown on third down from the 1. He also got the call on the two-point attempt but was stopped short.
With the score at 7-7 since the opening moments of the second quarter, the game had become a defensive standoff. Tea Area missed a 46-yard field-goal try on its first fourth-period possession. With 7:00 remaining the Tanagers lost the ball via a fumble near midfield, but the VHS defense stiffened and held Tea on downs. Brown sniffed out a pitch and threw a five-yard loss on the Titans on their third-down play, forcing a punt.
The Tanagers started from their own 31. On the first play a long pass from Kyle Weiss just missed connecting with Nate Garrett down the left sideline. Two plays later, VHS tried it again. This time it was Tanner Anderson on the receiving end, and this time the connection was true. The 40-yard gain sent Anderson to the Tea 29.
On a fourth-and-two situation Fore went 13 yards around right end as the game clock went under one minute. That final minute would take about 15 minutes of real time to play, however.
Fore went two yards, and Vermillion took a timeout. Fore went 2 1/2 yards more, and Tea called a timeout. On third down at the 3 Fore was stopped for no gain. The ball popped out, but he was ruled down by contact. Tea took a timeout, then VHS took a timeout.
Finally with :12.2 left, the Tanagers put Michael Sand into field-goal position. Before the snap could be made, Tea was called for encroachment. Now the line of scrimmage was the 2. This time before the snap, the Tanagers false-started. Now the ball went back to the 7 from where it would have been a 25-yard field goal. Several Titans broke through to block the attempt, however. Tea chose a running play that ate up the remaining seconds, and the game proceeded to overtime, Tea's players leaping for joy and their fans roaring as new hope had been snatched from the jaws of defeat.
As the extra period proved, however, the Tanagers refused to fold.
"I'm really happy for our kids," Coach Gary Culver said. "They played hard throughout the entire game. Tea Area can put a lot of pressure on a defense in so many ways."
Vermillion's second possession of the game resulted in the first score, even though the Tanagers started from their own 9. On the third play Weiss teamed up with Brown on a 58-yard pass play. From the Titan 30 Fore carried four straight times for positive yardage, gaining 10, 5, 10 and 1 yards. On third and goal from the 9, Weiss came up with a miraculous pass completion to Mart. The quarterback literally threaded the needle, shooting a rifle shot of a pass through all sorts of traffic, and the ball hit Mart squarely in his numbers, and he clutched it to his chest as he fell to the endzone turf.
Tea had an immediate answer. On their third play, the Titans got a 53-yard pass from Corbin Lawler although it appeared the quarterback was a good stride across the line of scrimmage when he fired the ball downfield. Nevertheless they had first-and-goal at the 5, and on third down Lawler hit Riley Knutson for a 6-yard TD to tie the game at 7-7.
After that the two teams took turns for nearly three quarters, exchanging punts and going back and forth between the 30-yard lines. Tea came closest to scoring late in the third period. Pressure from Dan Goeden on a third-and-four from the 16 resulted in an incompletion, forcing a field-goal try. The kick caromed off the right upright.
"We did a good job offensively against Tea Area in controlling the ball and mixing in pass and run pretty efficiently," Culver commented. "D'Andre Fore had another big game, and he would be the first to credit the offensive line and other backs. Kyle Weiss did a nice job managing the game at quarterback, and he threw the ball very well."
Fore carried 33 times for 161 yards, and Weiss completed five of eight aerials for 119 yards.
Culver also credited the Tanager special teams in keeping the Titans' return specialists in check.
On defense freshman Brett Bye continued to stand out in the crowd in his first varsity season with eight solo tackles. Mart and Garcia had six tackles each to support the defensive effort.
One of these days, perhaps as early as tonight at Canton, the Tanagers will present Coach Gary Culver with his 200th career victory. Chances are good, however, that it won't be nearly so dramatic as win No. 199 was!
Canton is a deceptive 0-3 team, having lost to Tri-Valley, Dell Rapids and Dakota Valley.
Tea Area ……. 0 7 0 0 0 —- 7
VHS ………….. 7 0 0 0 6 —- 13
First quarter: VHS: Will Mart 9-yd. pass from Kyle Weiss (Michael Sand kick), 2:54.
Second quarter: TAHS: Riley Knutson 6-yd. pass from Corbin Lawler (Cooper Hansen kick), 11:52.
Overtime: VHS: D'Andre Fore 1-yd. run (run failed).
First downs 11 11
Rushes-yds. 46-141 30-95
Passing yds. 119 125
Total yds. 260 240
Passes 5-8-0 6-18-0
Punts-avg. 5-27.6 4-33.5
Fumbles-lost 4-1 0-0
Penalties-yds. 5-30 3-17
Rushing: VHS, Mitch Brown 5-(-7), Fore 33-161, Tanner Anderson 1-6, Sand 1-4, Weiss 6-(-23). TAHS, Knutson 11-35, Hansen 5-27, Gunnar Ensz 1-11, Lawler 5-8, Ryan Farwell 3-7, Brett Herr 5-5.
Passing: VHS, Weiss 5-8-119. TAHS, Lawler 6-18-125.
Receiving: VHS, Anderson 2-45, Mart 2-16, Brown 1-58. TAHS, Knutson 3-48, Jesse Walnofer 1-53, Herr 1-13, Mitchell Nissen 1-11.
Defense (solos-assists-total tackles): VHS, Brett Bye 8-1-9, Mart 6-0-6, Avery Garcia 5-1-6, Brown 3-0-3, Fore 3-0-3, Nick Jensen 3-0-3, Alex Osborne 2-1-3, Anderson 1-0-1, Ty Iverson 1-0-1, Tyler Constant 1-0-1, Riley Vlasman 1-0-1, Anthony Leber 1-0-1. Tackles for loss: Jensen 2, Brown 1, Bye 1. Fumbles recovered: Mart 1. Pass knockdowns: Anderson 3, Garcia 2, Meierkort 2, Jensen 1.