After four straight losses, the Tanager football team was looking to get back on track with a win over the top five ranked West Central Trojans (3-3).
Vermillion (1-5) got off to a quick start by forcing a fumble on West Central’s first drive of the game. Immediately after the turnover, on the Tanagers’ first play of their first possession, junior quarterback Charlie Ward connected with senior Connor Saunders for a 54 yard touchdown.
“It (the opening play) was exciting,” Saunders said. “It was a good play call and we capitalized on that. It definitely got us fired up and it showed in the first half for sure.”
The Tanagers were able to continue their momentum from their first drive of the game with a 62 yard touchdown pass from Ward to Reece Proefrock with 18 seconds left in the first quarter. This made the Tanagers’ lead 12-7 after the first quarter with Vermillion unable to have success on any extra-point attempts.
The second quarter took a turn for the worse for the Tanagers as Vermillion opened up the quarter with a lost fumble. Then, on the next play West Central ran the ball for a 53 yard touchdown making the score 15-12. On the Tanagers’ next possession, Ward threw an interception with 6:50 left in the second quarter after getting Vermillion into the red zone.
The Tanagers were able to respond to the setbacks with a blocked Trojans punt returned for a touchdown with 2:21 left in the second quarter giving them back the lead.
Vermillion was able to hold the lead the rest of the half and the Tanagers’ head coach, Andy Homan, was able to take his team to the locker room edging the Trojans 19-15.
“We got off to a pretty good start,” Homan said. “A lot of big plays on both sides made it an intense and exciting first half.”
Despite the lead after two quarters, turnovers, an inability to convert in the red zone, and defense continued to be an issue for the Tanagers in the second half.
In the third quarter, despite the Tanagers 107 yards of total offense, Vermillion was never able to convert any of it into points on the scoreboard.
This resulted in Vermillion losing its lead after West Central ran in a 66 yard touchdown with 9:34 left in the third quarter giving the Trojans the lead going into the final 12 minutes of play 22-19.
The struggles continued for Vermillion in the fourth quarter. Vermillion’s defense allowed a 46-yard touchdown run and a 36-yard touchdown pass in the final five minutes of the game to increase West Central’s lead to 35-19 as the Tanagers struggled to score.
The game ended for the Tanagers reminiscent of what had been hurting them all game. After more than a 50 yard drive into the red zone, Ward threw an interception with Vermillion on West Central’s 17 yard line and 36 seconds left in the game. The Trojans took over with victory formation to run out the clock and leave the DakotaDome with a 35-19 victory.
Ward unofficially finished the game completing 25/41 passes for 380 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
“I think we had a really good effort but I just told the guys it was a game of missed opportunities,” Homan said. “We had plays in the red zone we need to finish and complete and we need to keep working on our tackling.”
Vermillion heads to Bennett County on Oct. 19 for a 5 p.m. kick off.