Time To Celebrate

Vermillion Tanagers head coach Tom O'Boyle high fives senior Zach Brady as the team celebrates on the field after defeating West Central 28-26 on Friday, Oct. 8 in the DakotaDome.

The Vermillion Tanagers football team did something it hasn’t been able to accomplish in over two decades.

It defeated the West Central Trojans 28-26 in Friday action at the DakotaDome.

Jack Kratz accounted fwor three touchdowns in Vermillion’s victory. He threw for 161 yards and rushed for 45 more yards for Vermillion (5-2). Kratz threw a one-yard score to Mehki Sheffield and rushed for two more scores. Jeremy Crowe added 21 yards rushing and a six-yard touchdown.

Gavin Koch threw three touchdown passes, all to Braden Dierickx for West Central (4-3). Logan Maras added a two-yard rushing score.

It wasn’t until the game had ended that Tanagers head coach Tom O’Boyle learned that Friday’s win was the first time that Vermillion had defeated West Central at football in 21 years.

“That was interesting news to me and certainly a feather in the cap of how hard our kids work,” he said. “What a great football game it was between two very, very good football teams. When you can beat a team with that type of tradition and that type of history, your kids start to see themselves as measuring up, to having people looking at us in the same light as West Central.

“It’s where you want to be. You want to beat and become the top program in the state,” coach O’Boyle said. “Us sliding by for the first time in 21 years – that’s not much of a rivalry when you’re not winning, but maybe we can make it that. Maybe our program can become thought of in the same light.”

Much of Friday’s game was a nail-biter, as the two teams battled hard, but could not build a cushion in the scoring department. Vermillion kept its cool on the gridiron, even during moments when things didn’t seem to be going their way.

West Central scored touchdown toward the end of the first half to take the lead, but only held onto it for a few moments. With about 30 seconds left in the half, the Tanagers completed a quick march down the field to re-take the lead and go into the locker room at halftime with momentum on their side.

As the clock was ticking down late in the fourth quarter, a fumble by Kratz had the potential to give the Trojans a chance to score in the waning minutes of the game and snatch victory away from the Tanagers.

Vermillion’s defense stepped up, however, and forced West Central to give up the ball after failing to make a first down with a bit over a minute left in the game, securing the Tanagers win.

“Our poise at times when there are momentum swings is extremely impressive. It’s a testament to the blue-collar attitude and work ethic that our kids have,” coach O’Boyle said. “We do believe that here in Vermillion we win games and we win the day.

“For our defense to be on the field as much as they were at the end of that game and continue to make plays and for a senior linebacker, Avery Lewison, to make a great, heads-up play, knocking down their fourth down opportunity to seal the win – it just makes you feel so good about how hard we work and how hard he works and studies,” he said. “Vermillion is important to him and Vermillion is important to our kids. We’re about details and we’re about bouncing. We coach hard; we love to think that we praise our kids hard, as well. We do love them and our coaches just are thrilled with this opportunity. We’re very lucky to be associated with this team.”

Vermillion’s Ty Hertz along with Kratz gave their teammates a boost by foiling West Central offensive drives with interceptions.

“Nick Sorensen played extremely well. Clayton Sorensen came in and played defensive end and did a good job and gave us a little speed rush. Jaxon Heine, a sophomore, came in at defensive end and did the very same thing. We had a speed rush package from the defensive end spots,” coach O’Boyle said. “Kids were just stepping up and being a Tanager and being asked to play different positions and doing that.

“Luke Knutson transitioned from a pure kicker role to starting at free safety. He gives a great athlete back there that is an intelligent guy that can run,” he said. “It’s all phases and it’s all the kids understanding the common goal in what we do and doing it with resolve and poise.”

O’Boyle said Friday’s game was personally fulfilling for him as he watched his players being pushed and pushed only to bend and not break.

“We personified that during that game,” he said. “It’s important to our kids that we not panic; that we keep our head and be able to bounce back and score.”

O’Boyle took time to mention an important support mechanism that’s responsible for the Tanagers’ winning ways – the players’ parents.

“I don’t think people realize how hard our parents work and what they do for our kids,” the coach said. “Our parents provide a meal for our visiting teams to take with them on the bus and eat as they’re going home – win, lose or draw – so that they don’t have to stop along the way and spend another hour-and-a-half on the road.”

Parents, school staff and teachers all play a part, he said, in getting the players ready for each game and feel great about being Tanagers.

Vermillion next opponent is Tri-Valley. The two teams will face-off Friday in the DakotaDome.

“Tri-Valley is an excellent football team,” coach O’Boyle said. “They’re just one game behind us in the standings. They’re a 4-3 team coming to the Dome, fighting for a playoff spot. They’re looking to change places with us; they’re looking to become 5-3 and make us 5-3. There’s a lot at stake.”

Tri-Valley, he said, runs the ball very well.

“We will have to play our best football. We’re progressing that way; we’re getting through and we’re making plays in key situations,” the coach said. “We’d like to shut the run game down and be smart with their play action pass as well as come out and score again in the first half. I think that’s critical.”

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