This game was the culimination of what mostSouth Dakotafootball fans had been waiting for since last season ended. Most knew that both the Sioux Falls Washington Warriors, who were bringing back the most starters, and trying to finish the job they left on the field in last year’s title game, and the Brandon Valley Lynx, who were coming back with one of the best passing attacks this state had ever seen, and coming off a season in which they came within a last-second field goal of knocking off the eventual state champions in last season’s quarterfinals.
After both squads rolled through their respective schedules and posted matching 11-0 records the matcup was finally set in front of a jam-packed Dakota Dome in Vermillion. Washington was the clear favorite coming in having made this trip in each of the preceding five seasons, but had not seen a team that threw the ball like the Lynx this season.BrandonValleywas making thier first trip here since 1998, when they beat Brookings for the title, and had knocked off the other three Sioux Falls Schools on the way here this season.
BrandonValleywon the coin toss and wanted the ball first in this game. There were definetely some nerves to open things, as tight end Nate Winter dropped the game’s opening pass over the middle of the field. Facing third-and-one, however, the snap went over quarterback Chase Marso’s head, and was recovered by the Lynx at their own 18, bringing on their punting unit.
Washingtonwas no more successful in their first possession, either.BrandonValley’s defense was ready for the Warriors’ multiple package offense, and held them to nine yards in their first three plays.
After Nate Gerry’s punt rolled into the end zone for a touchback, the Lynx started moving the ball, taking the ball to the Washington 4-yard line with a five-wide receiver set, which was something they hadn’t used before this game. The Lynx then committed three consecutive false start penalties. That resulted in a 35-yard field goal attempt by Marso that missed wide left with3:07left in the first quarter.Washingtonhad driven the ball to theBrandonValley12-yard line when the quarter ended scoreless. Three plays later, Danny Marlette got the game’s first points, scoring on a 9-yard touchdown run. Reagan Stenzel’s extra point was good andWashingtonhad a 7-0 lead with10:50left in the second quarter.
Nate Sorenson caught the ensuing kickoff on his own 10-yard line and faked a pitch back to Matthew Vandeberg, but when he turned around to run, the Warriors’ kick coverage was there to take him down where he stood.BrandonValleystarted from their own 9-yard line. Once again, Marso pitched the ball around the field to multiple targets, and on a second-and-5 play from theWashington27, Marso hit Vandeberg on the left side. Vandeberg made a great inside move to beat Gerry, and had a clear path to complete the 27-yard touchdown play. Marso made the extra point, and the game was tied at 7 with6:49to play in the first half.
The teams traded punts, but onBrandonValley’s punt, returner Chris Parker took the kick at the Lynx’ 47, and appeared to be stopped, but Antony Pacheco forced the ball out of Parker’s arms and into the air. Washington’s Zac Freese caught the ball in midair, and ran the 54 yards into the end zone to give the Warrirors a 14-7 lead with 3:44 in the second quarter.BrandonValleyfinished the first half with another long drive to the Warriors’ 5-yard line, before Marso was called upon to kick a 23-yard field goal, which he made to cut theWashingtonlead to 14-10 at halftime.Washingtonhad been held to 76 yards of total offense to that point, whileBrandonValleyhad 237 total yards.
Washingtontook the second half kickoff and moved the ball to theBrandonValley15-yard line by using a good mix of both runs from Sam Cooke and Gerry, as well as passes from Jon Hander. Hander fumbled the snap on a second-and-7 play, which the Lynx recovered. On the second play of this drive, Marso unleashed a bomb of a pass to Adam Bauer, who had beaten his defender. Bauer caught the pass in stride and gaveBrandonValleythe lead with the 66-yard touchdown reception. Marso’s extra point made the score line 17-14 Lynx with 9 minutes left in the third.
Washingtonstayed composed even though they went three-and-out on their next possession. The Warriors’ defense got the ball back in three plays after Marso completed a 29-yard pass to Vandeberg. The teams traded punts again beforeBrandonValleydrove the ball 59 yards to the Warriors’ 3-yard line but couldn’t punch the ball in. Marso kicked a 20-yard field goal and the Lynx now had a 20-14 lead with1:36left in the third quarter.
The lead wouldn’t last very much longer, though. Washington ran an option play to the right on the third play of the next possession, which was pitched back to Cooke, who outran all of Brandon Valley’s tacklers to score the touchdown that put Washington up 21-20 at the end of the third quarter.
Washingtonstarted to pressure Marso more, and forced him into bad throws or to try and escape, which is something he appeared to be unaccustomed to doing. Offensively, the Warriors started wearing down theBrandonValleydefensive unit with power runs and end runs to Gerry. This set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Hander to Grant Larson that put the Warriors up 28-20 with 8:36 to play, and a 42-yard touchdown run by Gerry with 6:46 to play that gave the final score line of 35-20 to give the Sioux Falls Washington Warriors their third overall state championship, and their third title in the last four seasons.
Marso was named the Joe Robbie MVP of this game in the losing effort, setting state championship records for both passing yards (454, shattering the previous record of 364 set by Peter Martin of Rapid City Stevens in 1994), and passing attempts (63, almost doubling the previous record of 35, set by Taylor Melhaff of Aberdeen Central in 2003).
SCORE BY QUARTERS 1 2 3 4-FINAL
BRANDONVALLEY 0 10 10 0-20
SIOUX FALLSWASHINGTON 0 14 7 14-35
RUSHING:BRANDONVALLEY: Vandeberg 3-15yds-0TD; Tripp4-3-0; Marso 8-(-9)-0.WASHINGTON: Cooke 13-97-1; Gerry 8-76-1; Marlette 8-70-1; Hander9-21-0.
PASSING:BRANDONVALLEY: Marso 34-63-454yds-2TD-1INT; Garrow 0-1-0-0-0.WASHINGTON: Hander 6-11-66-1-0.
RECEIVING:BRANDONVALLEY: Winter 11-139yds-0TD; Vandeberg 7-116=1; Bauer 6-115-1; Garrow 7-75-0; Reinschmidt1-8-0; Tripp2-1-0.WASHINGTON: Larson 3-44-1; Powell1-11-0; Gerry1-7-0; Parker1-4-0.