Tea too strong for Tanagers Tuesday

Vermillion’s Mitchell Brown rushes for a short gain during Tuesday night’s Class 11A action against the Tea Area Titans. The Tanagers were shut out in the contest, 39-0. (Photo by David Lias)

Tea Area avenged an early-season 13-7 overtime loss to Vermillion by ending the Tanagers' season, 39-0, in the first round of the Class 11A playoffs Tuesday night.

The loss put the Red and White at 3-6 for the season.

For a quarter and a half, the Tanagers had reason to believe they had a chance at upsetting the red-hot Titans, but an 18-point explosion late in the second period and three touchdowns in the third quarter sent Vermillion to the sidelines as Tea Area advanced to next Monday's quarterfinal round.

Unofficial statistics showed the Tanagers held to 111 rushing yards in 38 carries and 21 yards through the air on one completed pass whereas Tea Area had 380 in total yards, 209 on the ground and 171 in passing.

When D'Andre Fore, senior running back and the main offensive cog in Vermillion's wheel all season when he was healthy, had to leave the game due to a broken finger in the Tanagers' first possession, his team's hopes pretty much went to the hospital with him.

Tea Area missed a field goal at the end of its game-opening drive, and the teams exchanged punts for the rest of the first quarter although the Titans, with senior quarterback Corbin Lawler directing the ground game and firing through the air, were moving the ball while the Tanagers were not.

The Titans' third possession moved into the second quarter, and the team reached the Vermillion 14-yard line.  The Tanager defense held Tea to a 27-yard field goal by Cooper Hansen.

After the Tanagers punted for a third time – this time into the strong northwest wind – Tea Area wasted no time in taking control.  On their second play Lawler connected with Riley Knutson on a 53-yard scoring play for a 10-0 lead.

Less than two minutes of clock time later, they scored again three plays after the Tanagers had lost a fumble and Tea had run it back to the 25.  The score came from the 2-yard line on a run by Chase Deckert.

Though the teams had comparable times of possession in the first half, Vermillion had been outgained 232-66 by that time.

Tea Area took the wind for the third quarter, and that paid off almost immediately.  Vermillion went three-and-out, and a five-yard punt into the breeze gave the Titans the ball starting from the VHS 19.  On the second play Lawler scored on a keeper from the 15.

Vermillion's only pass of the game, a 21-yarder from Kyle Weiss to Will Mart, came two plays after the score, but on the ensuing play, a pass was intercepted.  Four plays later Gunner Ensz went 43 yards for a score.

Another three-and-out, a punt and a long return gave the Titans impossibly good field position yet again.  This time they started from the Tanager 20, and Deckert went in for the game's final score from the 1-yard line with 2:12 left in the third period.  From then on, the clock ran continuously since the score differential had surpassed 35 points.

"The long pass for their first touchdown and then the fumble, and things got away from us," Coach Gary Culver said after the game.  "Great teams can step up when misfortune happens, and we're not quite a great team yet, but we're optimistic about the future."

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