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Potter County brings home semi-final victory over Howard, headed for Dome

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Despite some penalties, the Battlers offense and defense whipped up a fun night of football during the semi-final game in Howard Saturday evening to bring home a 22-8 victory and a reason to head to Vermillion on Thursday.
During the first two minutes of the game, the Tigers took the lead with eight points, and never saw their score change for the remaining 48 minutes of football.
The Tiger offense started out on the 30 yard line and exploded out of the line, making big moves down the field and putting the first touchdown on the board. The two point conversion was good, and with 10:17 left in the quarter, the Howard Tigers took the lead, 0-8.
Potter County’s offense started their drive on their own 22 yard line, but couldn’t get the fresh set of downs so booted it away on their first possession.
The Battler defense went to work and held the Tigers, forcing a punt, and the offense came back on the field. The offensive line came to life, clearing some space for the Battler ball handlers. A penalty and a quarterback sack moved the line of scrimmage back, and the tables were turned to a fourth and almost 20. It was followed with a Chayce Hall 60 yard punt and no return, so the Tigers took over with their back against their goal on the four yard line.
The Mighty Battler defense held the Tigers with Luke Vogel and Ryan Sundberg putting a stop to any forward movement. The punt was picked up by Colton Hall who brought the ball up to the Howard side of the field.
Tanner Heuer reached up to catch a nice pass from Chayce Hall and made a dive into the endzone to put the Battlers on the board from 28 yards out. Hall went up the gut to add another two points to the score to tie things up at 8-8.
The second quarter got underway with the Tigers in possession on their side of the field. Heuer decided it was time for the Battlers to have the ball again so picked off an interception and brought the offense back under the lights with the scrimmage line just shy of the 45 yard mark. Vogel went up for a catch off the fingertips, but a penalty pulled the line back and the Battlers had to punt the ball away.
It was soon back in the hands of Potter County after the Mighty Battler defense held the Tigers to a punt situation. A pass play to Mitch Hinckley moved the chains to the Battler 47, and the drive kept moving across the midfield mark. The Battlers turned it over on downs after a missed pass in the endzone.
The Tigers moved down to the Battler 20 but Sundberg and Colten Hall were waiting with the defensive line to put the stop to them. At the 15, the defense held the Tigers and took over on downs, but the clock ran out on the half.
Going into the second half, the Battlers were on the receiving end of the kick. Heuer moved it up to the 25 yard line to get the game going. The QB passed to Vogel, who earned four fresh downs for the team. Hinckley got the ball, put his head down, and drug his tacklers across the 50. Hall held onto it and moved it down for a first and 10 on the 38, but it was pulled back on a holding penalty to the 47 and was punted away.
The Tigers put together a series of first downs, until Vogel had enough and put a big hit on the  Tiger QB, forcing a fumble that was jumped on by Hayden Simon. The direction changed with Potter County in control around the Tiger 30, but a couple penalties later, the Battlers booted a short punt away and the Tigers took over on their nine yard line.
A big run by the Tigers gave them a first down at their 39. They kept the ball moving toward the Battler goal until Sundberg picked off a punt and followed his blockers way down the field to the Howard 19 yard line. Chayce Hall called his number and stepped into the endzone, and he followed it up with the two point conversion, putting the Battlers in the lead 16-8.
The final 12 minutes of play started with the Tigers holding the ball. Carson Kirby put some good pressure on the quarterback and helped to force a punt. Colton Hall picked up the punt and followed the Battler blockers to the Tiger 45. Chayce Hall moved the ball down to the 19 to set up fresh downs. He passed into the endzone to Heuer for another six points. The extra point run didn’t happen, but the Mighty Battlers spread their lead to 22-8 with 10:48 left in the football game.
Chayce Hall recovered his own on-side kick at midfield, and got the ball down to a fourth down and a few, so they tried a double pitch between Hinckley and Simon that didn’t quite materialize. The ball turned over on downs around the Tiger 45.
Howard just couldn’t get it together. They fell a couple inches short of the first down and turned it back to the Battlers with 4:44 left in the game.
Heuer and Colton Hall went into motion and ran into each other in the backfield as the quarterback was pitching the ball, which moved the game back almost 15 yards. A pitch to Simon moved it to the 48 yard line on the third. The Potter County team was sitting just 3:25 away from a promised trip to the Dome. On a fourth and three, the Battlers punted, forcing the Tigers to cover 75 yards if they had any hopes of finding the endzone.
They didn’t.
Heuer snapped up his third interception and made a big move downfield, and the Potter County Mighty Battlers took a few knees to run out the clock and start celebrating for the trip to the State B Championship in Vermillion on Thursday. There they will have a re-match with the Leola/Frederick Titans, who handed the Battlers their only loss of the season.
“I felt very confident when we went up 22-8 because even though there was a quite a bit of time left, the defense had played very well and kept their big play people pretty much under wraps,” said Battler head coach Vern Smith. “But I told the players with about four minutes to go that we needed to quite taking chances because that was the only way they were going to win is if we made a big mistake.”
The Potter County Battlers are assisted by coaches Bryce Hall, Brady Hartung, and Keith Scott. The student manager is Nic Zuber, and team captains are Tanner Heuer, Hayden Simon, Mitchell Hinckley, and Lucas Vogel.
About the big rematch with the Titans, Coach Smith said the team has grown a lot over the season. “I am hoping we will cut down on penalties that often take away some of our most successful plays,” he said.
The kickoff for the State B 9A championship will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in the DakotaDome at USD in Vermillion. If you are one of the few who isn’t able to make it to the Dome, the game will air on South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
-Molly McRoberts
Offensive stats: Team total-31 carries for 116 yards; Chayce Hall, 144 yards, 2 TD on 10-of-19 passing, three carries for 11 yards. Tanner Heuer, 3 receptions for 48 yards and two scores.
Howard: Loudenburg, 31 carries for 153 yards. Loudenburg finished his season with 239 carries for 2,252 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Defensive stats: 56 tackles, 45 assists. Mitchell Hinckley 15-5; Ryan Sundberg 10-5; Colton Hall 7-4; Hayden Simon 4-10.
Scoring stats: Tanner Heuer 2 receptions for 12 pts; Chayce Hall 1 TD run, 2 PAT runs for 10 pts.
Battler FYI…
Coach Vern Smith’s overall coaching win/loss record is 104-29
The 2013 record is 10-1.
The Potter County Battler coop advanced to playoff quarter finals both years, and the team is the 2013 Yellowstone Trail Conference Champion.
The Battlers have won the State 9AA runner up trophy three times: 1982 against Frederick, 2000 against Stickney-Mt. Vernon, and 2004 against Arlington. The Battlers won the State 9A runner up trophy four times: 2001 against Kimball, 2002 against Avon, 2006 against Scotland, and 2008 against Avon.
Some of the keys to the team’s success this year are: Great team heart; Overall balance throughout the offense and defense; Ability of the offensive and defensive lines to adapt on the go.
Offensive leaders.
Rushing: Chayce Hall 91 carries for 762 yards and 10 TD; Hayden Simon    77 carries for 399 yards and 5 TD; Colton Hall 69 carries for 372 yards and 3 TD; Mitchell Hinckley 40 carries for 227 yards and 0 TD
Team Rushing 2565 yards rushing and 29 TD
Passing: Chayce Hall    58 of 110 attempts for 984 yards and 16 TD with 7 interceptions
Receiving: Lucas Vogel 15 catches for 282 yards and 6 TD; Tanner Heuer    11 catches for 239 yards and 4 TD; Mitchell Hinckley 14 catches  for 167 yards and 3 TD
Defensive leaders
Tackles led by Mitchell Hinckley – 11.4;  Ryan Sundberg – 10.7;  Colton Hall – 6.5;  Hayden Simon – 5.9 and Chayce Hall – 5.9;
Interceptions Tanner Heuer – 4; Chayce Hall – 3
Special Teams – kickoff returns Dalton Storer 8 for 211 yds, Tanner Heuer 9 for 115, Ryand Sundberg 3 for 81.
Punt returns Tanner Heuer 12 for 295 yds, Colton Hall 3 for 87.

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