A day late and a pass play or two short best summed up Friday night’s Class 11AA playoff game between the Douglas Patriots and the Yankton Bucks at Patriot Stadium in Box Elder.
At least from a Douglas perspective, as critical mistakes were the Patriots undoing in the 37-13 loss to the Bucks in a contest postponed a day when Yankton opted not to travel on Thursday due to statewide wind advisories.
Best known for a grind it out, smash-mouth style of football, Yankton utilized the passing of senior quarterback Garrett Tennant, particularly on critical third downs to jump out to a quick 7-0 lead. Twice facing third and long, Tennant connected on long completions before junior running back Caid Koletsky dove in from a yard out for the game’s first score.
“They put a lot of people in the box and we made some mistakes early and had in ourselves in some long situations,” Bucks' coach Arlin Likness said. “We decided then to go to our spread offense, and our quarterback, Garrett Tennant, has been throwing the ball pretty well and he did again tonight, and as a result we were able to get some momentum going.”
The Patriot’s next possession kind of typified the flow of the evening for the home team. On third and 12, Douglas wideout Justen Zbranek broke free down the middle only to see Daniel Hand’s pass sail just beyond his fingertips.
“That’s kind of how it went for us tonight,” Douglas coach Dan Maciejczak said. “We overthrow a receiver on a couple of plays and drop a pass on a couple of others.”
A Yankton interception of a Hand pass by Rex Ryken set up a second Yankton score early in the second quarter as the Bucks converted a 12 play, five minute drive to grab a 14-0 lead. A Tennant pass to Ryken on a 2nd and 26 situation, followed by a 19-yard toss to Josh Galvan-Hofer to the Douglas 1-yard line set up sneak by Tennant for the score.
A 23-yard field goal by Cole Sawatzke with 3:20 remaining in the half extended the margin to 17-0 before Douglas got on the the board thanks to a nifty 55-yard kickoff return to the Yankton 29 by senior Chance Sorenson.
A Hand to Zbranek 13-yard completion set the Patriots up on the Bucks 9-yard line. Three plays later, Douglas faced a 4th and goal from the Yankton 1. Eschewing a field goal, Maciejczak elected to go for it and senior Trevor Severson made the gamble pay off diving in for the score with two seconds on the first half clock. A Sorenson’s conversion kick cut the Bucks lead to 17-7 at intermission.
“We were hoping to get that boost right before halftime, and then get the ball back to start off the second half and make something happen and get right back in the ballgame,” Maciejczak said.
So much for best laid plans. After receiving the second half kickoff, Douglas promptly went three and out and Yankton, reverting to form, marched 59 yards running out of a tight formation to go up 23-7 when senior Ray Wermers bull-dozed in from 3 yards out.
“We went back to the old style wing-T formation that (Hall of Fame Coach) Max Hawk would have liked,” Likness said with a smile. “And I like it, too, when we can line up and execute and run the ball at people. We have 10 running backs, so whoever hangs on to the ball gets to be back there and our line did a good job of moving people tonight.”
A critical Douglas turnover, a fumble on its own 17-yard line picked up and run in by Casey Krejci added another third quarter score for the Bucks. Douglas responded when Hand moved the Patriots 75 yards through the air, hitting Zbranek for 17 yards, before capping off the drive with a 55-yard pass and run to Sorenson.
Up 31-13, Yankton punched in a final tally with 7:57 remaining to close out the scoring.
“Give Yankton credit. They are a good football team and they did what they needed to do and we made too many mistakes that kept us from playing with them,” said Maciejczak while gently lamenting the fact that the game was not played when originally scheduled. “I wasn’t happy about that, but it’s water under the bridge and I will just leave it at that.”
Yankton (4-6) will travel to Pierre (7-3) to face the Class 11AA top-seeded Governors Friday night.
“The first time we played them (a 42-14 Pierre win), we were up 14-0 and then threw two pics and gave up a big play and we went flat and they dominated,” Likness said. “There is a reason they are No. 1, so we have our work cut out for us. This is our first road win in two years, so it’s a good feeling to get over that hump. We will go home and focus on getting ready for Pierre.”
With the loss, Douglas concluded the 2017 campaign with a 5-5 record.