First, the good news.
The Vermillion Tanagers shut out the Custer Wildcats 28-0 to end its homecoming week in grand style Friday, Sept. 23, in the DakotaDome.
The not-so-good news?
Two of the Tanagers’ leaders on offense – running back Jeremy Crowe and quarterback Ty Hertz – were injured in the game’s first half. Crowe left the game with about four minutes left in the first quarter. Hertz’s injury forced him off the field with about four minutes and 30 seconds left in the second quarter.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, there were no reports available on how seriously those injuries are.
But the DakotaDome crowd Friday witnessed how during most of the game, Crowe’s and Hertz’s teammates stepped up to lead the Tanagers, now 2-3, to victory.
The Custer Wildcats’ kept to the ground offensively for most of the night. The team was 0-3 passing with one interception.
The Wildcats’ running back Tyrin Scott carried the football 23 times and rushed for 63 yards. Running back Bradley Immormino rushed for 64 yards on 13 carries and Wildcat running back Ryder Bailey rushed for 30 yards.
The Wildcats total stats on the ground Friday were 39 carries for total rushing of 148 yards.
Vermillion’s defense struck the first major blow against Custer early in the game. The clock hadn’t yet ticked down to nine minutes in the first quarter when the Tanagers’ Zoan Robinson scooped up a Wildcat fumble and ran downfield to the endzone for Vermillion’s first touchdown. Following a successful PAT, Vermillion enjoyed a 7-0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, after the Tanagers offense experienced success moving the ball thanks to Crowe’s running game, Hertz decided to keep the ball when he saw an opening in the Custer defensive line and battled to stay on his feet during a run that eventually took him into the endzone with four minutes left in the first quarter.
The extra point attempt was successful, widening Vermillion’s lead over Custer 14-0.
The Tanagers’ next score came with about 11 minutes left in the third quarter when back up quarterback Hayden Christopherson completed a pass to Connor Larson who broke free for a long run into the endzone. Following the PAT, Vermillion’s lead grew to 21-0.
Christopherson scored the final touchdown for the Tanagers on a quarterback keeper with a little more than three minutes left in the game. The extra point attempt was good, widening Vermillion’s lead to 28-0, which eventually was the final score when the buzzer sounded.
Before he was injured, Hertz completed three of six passing attempts for 12 yards and rushed for 20 yards. Crowe rushed for 19 yards on four carries before he was injured.
Backup quarterback Christopherson completed six of 12 passing attempts for 107 yards. He carried the ball twice for 13 yards and a touchdown. Running back Jaxon Heine rushed for 30 yards on 11 carries.
Vermillion’s offense rushed the ball, in total, 19 times for 72 yards. The Tanagers’ Connor Larson stepped up Friday night, catching five passes for a total of 91 yards and a touchdown.
“We simplified things all week,” coach Tom O’Boyle said after the win, describing the steps his Tanagers players undertook after a tough loss to West Central a week ago. “We talked about just coming out and playing and we still have some things to work on.
“We faced a bit of adversity with our injuries and I thought the rest of our kids stepped up,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to Custer. They came in and really played a hard football game.”
It will be fun to watching film of this game as the Tanagers prepare for their next opponent, Chamberlain, the coach said.
“There are things we are going to clean up and take to Chamberlain and hopefully be successful there as well,” O’Boyle said.
At the time of the game’s end, he didn’t know the injury status of Hertz and Crowe.
“We’ll get a report from the doctors and we’ll see where that goes,” O’Boyle said. “You’re as good as your number two (players) and so we’ve practiced that way and we certainly don’t want to miss having Ty on the field or Jeremy on the field.
“Those are two guys there who are critical people and they’re great kids,” the coach said. “We’ll figure out what the medical side of that is and we’ll move forward. We’ll try to find things that we can do that are simple, but effective. Let’s keep with it!”