South Dakota School of Mines head football coach Zach Tinker summed up his team’s 52-28 non-conference win over Simon Fraser in one tidy sentence:
“You are never going to be perfect, but that was pretty dang good,” he said of his team’s M-Day homecoming win Saturday night on Dunham Field at O’Harra Stadium.
For the first 40 minutes, it was hard to tell which Hardrocker unit — offense, defense or special teams — was more dominant of the British Columbia team, which plays Division II football in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, the league Mines belonged to for two years before joining the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Offensively, the Hardrockers scored on five of their first six possessions, and the defense had four takeaways as the first team basically pitched a shutout before the reserves filtered in late in the third quarter. To top it off, the Mines special teams got a touchdown off of a blocked punt to add to the dominance.
“I just thought we did a really good job in all three phases, starting super fast and sort of taking all of the energy of the football game in our hands,” Tinker said. “Even though we were a little short-handed at times, we still got the job done.”
Taking the opening kickoff, the Hardrockers marched down the field and scored on a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Sullivan to running back Connor Silveria, who also had runs of 21 and 22 yards on the eight-play drive.
Mines went 81 yards to the end zone on its next possession, and this time Silveria scored on a 7-yard drive.
It seemed that easy for the Hardrockers, who finished with 486 yards of total offense.
“We did pretty much what we wanted to,” Silveria said. “We played fast, and our O-line stayed on blocks and allowed us to run free. They really cleaned open some holes and Jake was slinging the rock left and right, and everybody was open.”
Spearfish senior Connor Janovy, who recovered a kickoff in last week’s win over Western State Colorado, blocked a Simon Fraser punt and teammate Theodore Scheafer took it in from 20 yards out for a 21-0 lead, still in the first quarter.
Mines would get two more first-half scores, a 10-yard touchdown run from senior wide receiver Isaiah Manley, and a 4-yard toss from Sullivan to Manley.
The Mines first-team defense, meanwhile, continued to show its improvement, not allowing the Clan to get into the end zone and ended the first half with two straight sacks of Simon Fraser quarterback Miles Richardson.
“Coach talked about it in the locker room before the game that we had to start out way faster than last week, and this week proved that because we started out fast, we started out physical, and we gave it to them every minute of every quarter,” said junior linebacker Michael Retland.
The ‘Rocker defense forced a Richardson fumble on the first possession of the third quarter and again drove down the field, with Sullivan scoring on a quarterback draw from 11 yards out.
That was basically the final drive from the first team on offense, with reserves sprinkling in on both sides of the football the rest of the way.
The Clan finally got on the scoreboard on a 17-yard TD pass from Richardson to Rysen John, before the ‘Rockers answered with their final 10 points on a 39-yard field goal by sophomore Enis Sefa and a nice 47-yard tiptoe score down the left sideline by Lyman graduate Korder Cropsey.
Simon Fraser, 0-3 on the season, got three touchdown passes from reserve quarterback Justin Seiber — from 5 yards to John, 17 yards to Canil Liviano and 12 yards to Christian Phillips — in the final 4 minutes, 22 seconds.
“A bunch of dudes played tonight and a bunch of guys got their first game experience, which was awesome,” Tinker said. “Our stars played like stars, and it was a great night for Hardrocker football, for sure.”
Of the Hardrockers 486 yards on offense, 292 came through the air from four quarterbacks, and 194 yards on the ground. Sullivan was 24-of-31 passing for 269 yards and two TDs, while Thomas Creese, Spencer Zur and Nick Zell also played behind center.
With his long TD run, Cropsey finished with 84 yards on 10 rushes, while Silveria, playing just one possession in the second half, added 68 yards on 10 carries.
“They open the holes and I run through them," Silveria said of his offensive line. "They do a great job week-in and week-out. I just show up and run through them."
Joe Luebbers led a balanced Rocker receiving corps (11 players had receptions) with five catches for 86 yards.
“We have a huge wide receiving corps; a lot of depth and a lot of guys who can make the plays. Isaiah Manley is one of the best in the league, and a lot of other guys aren’t far from that,” Silveria said.
Simon Fraser was able to move the football at times, but Mines forced four turnovers on two interceptions (Dominick Jackson and Janovy) and recovered two fumbles (Retland and Marken Vilson)
“It’s a new year for Coach Lev (Levi Suiaunoa), it’s a new year with all of my freshmen starting up, and we’re working every day to give our 100 percent,” Retland said. “We have a good chemistry of coming together as a great defensive unit. It is going to be a fantastic rest of the season for us.”
Richardson was 24-of-44 passing for 257 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while Seiber was 10-of-18 for 127 yards and three touchdowns. The Clan ran the ball 28 times for just 32 net yards (Richardson lost 20 yards on three sacks).
Cole Peterson and Will Carroll had seven tackles each for the Hardrockers, and four players, including Retland, had five tackles. Mines had seven tackles for loss.
“I think we’re playing with great energy,” Tinker said of his defense. “They have a good passing game, they really do. They can stretch you out and they have some really nice wide receivers. We just competed all night. Even the guys at the end, when they were still trying to score, we had some younger guys in, and they were fighting it out until the very last snap.”
The Hardrockers return to RMAC play with two straight road games, beginning Saturday in St. George Utah against a 2-1 Dixie State team, which edged New Mexico Highlands 28-23 Saturday.
“We had a big win here protecting home field, and we have a hard one on the road with a long drive there. We have to stay focused this week,” Silveria said.