Falling behind by two touchdowns in the opening six minutes is not the start the Tanager football team wanted against the top ranked 11AA Yankton Bucks, but they didn’t quit.
Vermillion (1-3) stormed back to take a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter, and while the lead didn’t last long, head coach Andy Homan said he was still proud of the effort.
“It (taking the lead) was huge,” Homan said. “We finally played up to our ability that we thought we could. We play like this the rest of the season, we can be pretty dangerous.”
Yankton (4-0) received the opening kickoff and march down the field and scored on Trevor Fitzgerald 4-yard run, and he ran in a second score on the ensuing possession. With 6:55 to play in the opening quarter, Yankton led 14-0.
Vermillion quarterback Charlie Ward fumbled on the Tanagers first possession, but found a way to compose himself on the next offensive possession.
Ward and the Tanagers worked out a near seven minute drive that ended in a 38-yard touchdown throw from Ward to Connor Saunders. Vermillion trailed 14-7 after one quarter.
The Bucks added a second-quarter field goal, and lead 17-7 going into the half. The third quarter looked a lot like the second, with Yankton mustering a field goal, but Vermillion unable to add any points.
Things all changed at the start of the fourth quarter. Six seconds into the final quarter of play, Ward and Saunders connected for a second score, cutting the 13-point Buck lead down to six, 20-14.
Yankton turned the ball over on downs and the Vermillion offense, led by Ward, went back to work. Ward connected on back to back passes totaling 77 yards and Ward capped the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown run. Saunders converted the extra point, and Vermillion held a 21-20 lead.
“We just finally got some confidence,” Homan said. “We talked about the big thing the last few games, we really didn’t have that confidence that we normally had and they brought it out here and we played a heck of a game against the number one AA team.”
The Bucks didn’t waste time responding, as they took less than two minutes to march their way down the field and score on a 2-yard touchdown run by Thomas Wiener. Yankton went for a 2-point conversion to stretch the lead out to seven, but were unsuccessful and Vermillion had a shot with four and half minutes left trailing 26-21.
The Bucks defense took over from there. Ward threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and Yankton’s lead ballooned to 13. Ward would throw another interception on the next drive, and Yankton ran out the clock from there to escape the DakotaDome with a victory.
Ward unofficially threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns and added another score on the ground. Unofficially, Fitzgerald led Yankton offensively with 118 yards passing and 39 rushings. He added two touchdowns on the ground.
“That’s a really good football team,” Yankton head coach Brady Muth said. “Vermillion’s a really good football team. We just talked about that with our team at halftime, your record really doesn’t mean squat. It’s all about how hard you compete and the wins and losses sometimes they happen your way and sometimes they don’t. But that’s a good football team and they’re really well-coached.”
Vermillion heads to Sioux Falls Christian on Sept. 25 for a 7 p.m. kickoff.