Rapid City Central took blow after blow from the Harrisburg Tigers for much of the first half, but continued to move forward, nearly pulling off a huge comeback.

When it was all said and done, the Tigers celebrated their first win as a Class AAA program, holding off Rapid City Central 26-20 Friday night at O’Harra Stadium.

The Tigers, up from the Class AA ranks, struck gold early and led the Cobblers, 26-8 behind the alternate quarterback rotation of junior Jack Teigen and sophomore Jacob Knuth.

The Cobblers played the second and third quarters without standout running back Jeremy Weidmann, who injured his ankle in the first quarter on a kickoff return. Central trailed 26-14 at halftime and Weidemann came back in the fourth quarter and nearly helped lead the Cobblers back from the large deficit.

Central head coach Erik Iverson said they faltered a bit at the end when they turned the ball over on downs twice in the fourth quarter.

“That was mainly my fault,” Iverson said. “With Weiddy (Weidmann) being out early in the game, for the whole team, staff and players, it felt like a knockout punch. But we didn’t fall over. I told the guys that in years past we would have been knocked out and it would have been 56-nothing by halftime. This group should pride themselves because they got back up and kept fighting. Even though we lost, I take good things out of this game and we can move forward.”

Harrisburg head coach Brandon White said it was a great start for the team, despite giving up the early touchdown.

“It is a long road trip, it’s the start of the year, so you don’t know what to expect,” White said. “But our kids responded very well. We just needed to score in the second half. We were moving the ball, but we have to capitalize on turnovers our defense creates. I am proud of our guys, we got the W.”

Harrisburg senior running back Anders Clayton, who ran for 95 yards on 19 carries, said it feels good to get the win in their first AAA game.

“People probably don’t expect us to win a lot of games this year,” Clayton said. “But I feel like this was a good start for us. We can only get better in the coming months.”

Central had all of the momentum with a nice opening drive, led by Weidmann’s 39-yard run on his first carry. Aaron Iverson went in from 9-yards out and Kohl Meisman added the two-point run for a quick 8-0 lead.

But Harrisburg came right back behind Teigen, driving 68 yards on six plays, hitting Jhei Roewart from 29 yards to cut the lead to one, 8-7.

The Tigers took the lead on their next possession when Clayton scored on an 11-yard run for a 14-8 advantage. Harrisburg would score two more times in the second — on a 35-yard TD pass from Teigen to Sam Christensen and an 86-yard pass from Teigen to Roewart, as he broke past the Central defense at midfield and ran past the Cobblers for the score.

But that was it for Harrisburg offensively, as Central made a gallant comeback attempt in the final two quarters of play.

Central used an interception by Micah Swallow at midfield late in the second and took it 46 yards on five plays to make it 26-14 at halftime. Central’s Kohl Meisman hit Rod Weber on passes of 23 and 13 yards and Evaneau Rabsy went in from 3 yards for the score.

The Cobblers rebounded with Weidmann on the sidelines with the ankle injury, and cut the lead to 26-20 with five minutes remaining in the third on a 15-yard TD pass from Meisman to Wyatt Jungclaus, who caught a 55-yarder earlier in the drive.

Central had a couple more chances to win the game, but an interception by Lincoln Boetel and two long drives that ended with Harrisburg making a couple of stops on Weidmann late helped preserve the win. The Cobblers had driven to the Tiger 25-yard line in the final minute and a half but came up short, losing the ball on downs on a couple of incomplete passes from Meisman.

Defensively, the second half was an about face from the first half for the Cobblers.

Erik Iverson said they made a couple of tweaks defensively, especially after blocking back and linebacker Liam Porter also went down with an injury.

“Our guys had the knockout gaze in their eyes, but we moved a lot of people in different sports that they hadn’t played ye," he said. "Mankato LeBeaux stepped up and did a great job stepping in Liam’s spot (blocking back). He never practiced it but he went in and did what his heart told him to do.”

Meisman was 14-of-27 unofficially for 210 yards and one touchdown. Weidmann came back and finished with 87 yards rushing on 14 carries, although he lost 13 yards on his last three rushes.

Weidmann said his leg was swept under on the kickoff return and he rolled his ankle pretty good. But with the way his teammates were playing, he said he wanted to help them complete the comeback.

“I just wanted to be there for my team," he said. "Those guys stepped up in the second and third quarters without me. I thought I could go in and help their energy, and maybe help them win the game. I appreciate those guys’ hard work. They did their job the whole game long.”

Teigen would unofficially complete 8-of-12 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns for the Tigers, while Knuth was 5-of-11 for 98 yards and one interception.

Roewart caught four passes for 159 yards and two scores, while Christensen caught four passes for 68 yards and one score.

Central returns to action next Friday when its hosts Aberdeen Central in the second game of the Rushmore Bowl at O'Harra Stadium at 8 p.m. 

Harrisburg hosts Sioux Falls Washington Friday.

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