The Vermillion Tanagers football team learned a hard lesson Friday night in the DakotaDome in their game with Tri-Valley.

Things can go wrong in the waning minutes of what seemed, for most of the evening, a somewhat evenly matched game. Evenly matched score-wise, at least.

After gaining a 13-6 lead by recovering a Tri-Valley fumble in the endzone in the very first play of the third quarter, the Mustangs’ offense worked to score a touchdown in their very first play of the fourth quarter, tying the score at 13-13.

The Vermillion offense worked to move the ball down the field during the fourth quarter and seemed poised to eventually score a touchdown and take the lead while leaving little time for the Mustangs to score.

Vermillion’s scoring drive ended with 5:40 left in the game, however, when the Tanagers fumbled the ball and the Mustangs gained possession on the 20-yard line with 5:40 left in the game. Any hope Tanagers’ fans had that the 80 yards that separated Tri-Valley from the endzone would provide some insurance was dashed a few plays later when Tri-Valley decided to run the ball on 4th and 1 and Mustang quarterback Owen Besmer broke loose and rushed the ball 62-yards down the field.

He was tackled 5 yards short of a touchdown and three plays later, Besmer carried the ball into the endzone. After a successful kick for an extra point, the Mustangs had a 20-13 lead over the Tanagers with only 24 seconds left in the game.

Tri-Valley’s ensuing kickoff buried the Tanagers deep on the 26-yard line and that proved to be too much ground for Vermillion to cover in such a short amount of time. Vermillion’s offense, in fact, was unable to move the ball any further. It tried advancing the ball with pass attempts in the remaining 24 seconds but each play fell incomplete.

Bad things continued to happen for Vermillion as the Tanagers’ senior quarterback Jack Kratz was hit hard while attempting a pass with 10 seconds left in the game and may have suffered a knee injury.

“I’m just extremely disappointed in myself. I obviously didn’t have a football team ready to play in a huge opportunity game,” head coach Tom O’Boyle said after talking to his players on one end of the DakotaDome field before sending them to the showers. “We’re going to have to take a look at the film and diagnose why we couldn’t run the football against five guys inside.

“Obviously, it just wasn’t a plan that our kids understood or could execute,” he said. “It was squarely on my shoulders for us to show up tonight with something that showed we knew what we were doing and it was apparent we were out of sync all night.”

Besmer made his presence known offensively right away. Tri-Valley was first to score a touchdown with approximately 6 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Vermillion blocked the extra point attempt and the Mustangs had a 6-0 lead.

The Tanagers tied the score with 7:33 remaining in the second quarter. Vermillion’s extra point attempt failed and the two teams were tied 6-6.

Vermillion’s kickoff to the Mustangs to begin the third quarter was so good that it appeared the ball would settle on the two-yard-line. A Mustangs player chose to pick up the ball to attempt a return and was tackled immediately and fumbled the ball into the end zone. A Tanagers player recovered the fumble, scoring a touchdown and extra point and Vermillion took the lead 13-6.

Vermillion’s offense was unable to score the rest of the game, while the Mustangs did with their two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

“I thought our defense did well; I thought they played well enough to win the football game, but when your offense shows up and scores one touchdown, you’re not going to win many games at this time in the season,” coach O’Boyle said, “against this level of competition. “Coach O’Boyle obviously has to be a lot better.”

The Tanagers, now 5-3, will now prepare for a Thursday, Oct. 21 game against Dakota Valley in the DakotaDome. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“We have another game to play and we have a chance to be 6-3 on the year and get back on a winning track while looking at the playoffs on Oct. 28,” the coach said. “There’s plenty of time to regroup and plenty of time to show up and be the Vermillion offense and football team that we’ve seen over the course of the year.

“We need to take a step back and take a look at why things didn’t work,” O’Boyle said. “We’ll need to see how Jack (Kratz) is with his leg … we’ll regroup and we’ll have a plan for Dakota Valley.”

Good teams, he said, make the breaks during the course of a game, like turnovers, that help them beat their opponents, he said.

“I didn’t have us in a position to do that tonight,” coach O’Boyle said.

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