It was worth the wait.
On the eighth trip to the Dome for the State B football championship, and the first time for the powerhouse combination of the Potter County team from Gettysburg and Hoven, Battler fans got what they wanted.
The 9A football championship trophy was brought home by Coach Vern Smith’s team after 48 minutes of nearly perfect football played on both sides of the line. The Leola-Frederick Titans, who had defeated the Battlers earlier in the season, were no match for the team in the DakotaDome at Vermillion, with the final score of 60-22.
It took 19 seconds into the game for the Battlers to score a 65 yard touchdown pass play when Chayce Hall connected with Tanner Heuer. The extra point was not happening, but Potter County never looked back on their way to the championship.
The Titans held onto the ball for almost 40 seconds during their first offensive series before fumbling on their own 15. Mitchell Hinckley recovered, which set up the next score; a pass play into the endzone to Michael Rausch. Chayce Hall followed it with a kick for the extra point, and it took just one minute for the Battlers to rack up the score to 13-0.
Leola/Frederick couldn’t connect on a pass play, so punted it away from deep in their own territory.
The Battlers moved up 11 yards on a pitch to Ryan Sundberg, and Hayden Simon added another three to the drive with a run up the gut, but ended booting it away and giving the Titans another shot at a drive.
A punt later the Battlers had the ball and headed back toward the goal posts. A screen pass to Simon moved the ball over the mid field mark. They didn’t get much further than that when a pitch to Sundberg resulted in a backfield tackle, followed by a five yard punt by Hall. The Titans tried but didn’t succeed, and punted away to Heuer who slipped in and out of tacklers to bring the offense up to the Titan 22 yard line to start the second quarter.
But wait a minute.
Two plays later and 60 seconds off the second quarter clock, and Heuer caught and scored on a 77 yard touchdown. The two point conversion was no good, but the score jumped to 19-0.
Four downs later, the Battlers were back in control of the ball, starting at their own 25. Dalton Storer made a diving catch at the 46 for the first big move of the drive. The next screen pass to Colton Hall marched the ball to the Leola/Frederick 15.
A holding call moved the Battlers to a second and 20 situation, and the ball was caught by Heuer for a 26 yard touchdown. The two point conversion attempt was no good, but it still put Potter County up 25-0.
The Titans put together a long scoring drive that ended up with a touchdown pass and a two point conversion, which put them on the board 25-8.
An on-side kick by the Titans was picked up by Carson Kirby who put the Battlers in good field position midfield. It was followed by a big pass play to Hinckley who ran it into the endzone. With 3:58 left in the second quarter, Chayce Hall broke the 9 man football championship game passing record. Again, the extra two points were no good, but the lead spread to 31-8.
Leola/Frederick answered with a steady drive ending in a 22 yard pass play into the endzone followed by a two point conversion, which tightened the score 31-16 with just over two minutes left in the first half.
Storer caught the kick, did a fake reversal with Heuer, and tucked it to run up to the 44. The next play Hall passed to Lucas Vogel who ran it the distance for the touchdown. Hall kicked up the extra point. The score moved 38-16 with under two minutes to go.
With 10 seconds left in the half, a quarterback keeper by the Titans added a touchdown to the score. The Battlers held off the two point conversion, and the score moved to 38-22. It was the last time the Titans would make it into the endzone.
The second half got underway with Leola/Frederick driving down field but eventually turning it over on downs to the Battlers on the Titan 33 yard line. Hall made a nice spiral to Heuer to move the line of scrimmage to the other side of the field. A handoff to Sundberg pushed it ahead a few more yards. Heuer made another diving catch on the 14, and on the next play he ran it to about a foot away from the endzone. A touchdown pass followed when Rausch hauled it in for six points. The extra point kick was good. The score moved to 45-22.
Heuer pulled in 214 yards receiving yards to set a new record for the 9 man championships. The all time, all championship record was just two yards more set in 1994 by an 11-man team.
The Titan drive came alive as they marched steadily up the middle of the field with gains on the ground. On a first and 10, Colton Hall picked up a fumbled pass play and returned it to the Potter County 45, bringing the offense back on the field.
A pitch to Storer rolled to the right and gave the Battlers a first and 10. A nice run by Colton Hall was negated by a holding penalty, pulling the team back to the 49 for a first and forever. but the next play the Hall brothers connected on a pass gain to the 30 and another first down.
Hall fumbled the snap which was recovered by Sundberg for the save and the drive ended with a 30 yard field goal putting three point up by Chayce Hall, which also set a new Dome state championship record for the longest field goal kick, breaking the 23 yard record set by Ray Tibbs of Stanley County in 1986. The score moved to 48-22 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
The final quarter of play got underway. Leola/Frederick punted the possession back to the Battlers with just under 10 minutes left in the game. Starting around their own 15, a Battler pitch to Storer started the drive. Hall then found a hole in the defense and ran it down around the 20. Hall connected with Rausch who stepped into the endzone. The kick was no good, but the score was 54-22.
The Titans had the ball deep in their own territory when Simon crossed out of nowhere and picked off the pass for an interception that put the Battlers on the five yard line. The Battlers scored on the next play on a pitch to Simon, making the first rushing TD for the team. The two point conversion attempt was incomplete, but the score jumped to 60-22.
With the lead spread over 35 points and no “mercy rule” in the championship game, the clock kept running continuously as the Battlers went to the bench to bring in some dome experience for the rest of the team.
While many thought the first 19 seconds of the game set the tone, Coach Smith said it took a little longer for him to know for sure the trophy belonged to the Battlers. “I didn’t feel comfortable until towards the end of the third quarter when some of their players started to cramp up and get up slowly after each play,” he said. “I was remembering their drives towards the end of the second quarter and knew they had the capabilities of scoring points quickly.”
Coach Smith, who was assisted by coaches Keith Scott, Brady Hartung, and Bryce Hall, led the team to an 11-1 season and the first state championship for the Potter County Battlers.
Potter County 13 25 10 12 – 60
Leola-Frederick 0 22 0 0 – 22
PC — Heuer 65 pass from Hall (run failed), 11:41.
PC — Rausch 15 pass from Hall (Hall kick), 10:19.
PC — Heuer 80 pass from Hall (run failed), 11:00
PC — Heuer 25 pass from Hall (run failed), 7:58
L-F — Weisser 11 pass from Campbell (Lapka pass from Campbell), 4:11.
PC — Hinckley 45 pass from Hall (pass failed), 3:58.
L-F — Podoll 22 pass from Campbell (Podoll pass from Campbell), 2:11.
PC — Vogel 44 pass from Hall (Hall kick), 1:53.
L-F— Campbell 6 run (pass failed), :05.
PC — Rausch 1 pass from Hall (Hall kick), 6:37.
PC — Hall 30 FG, :42.
PC — Rausch 18 pass from Hall (kick failed), 7:01.
PC — Simon 5 run (pass failed), 6:40.
RUSHING — Potter County, Ch. Hall 4-51, D. Storer 3-24, T. Storer 2-15, Heuer 2-12, Simon 3-11, Hinckley 5-10, Smith 1-10, Rausch 1-4, Co. Hall 2-3, Heien 1-3, Sundberg 5-2. Leola-Frederick, Hertel 9-42, Weisser 10-32, Campbell 6-25, G. Lapka 5-10, Emery 2-9, Haas 1-3, F. Lapka 1-0.
PASSING — Potter County, Ch. Hall 16-20-0, 466 yards. Leola-Frederick, Campbell 14-32-1, 228 yards; Weisser 1-1-0, 9 yards.
RECEIVING — Potter County, Heuer 5-214, Co. Hall 2-60, Vogel 1-56, Hinckley 2-53, Rausch 3-34, D. Storer 1-22, Sundberg 1-15, Simon 1-12. Leola-Frederick, Weisser 4-104, Podoll 6-78, Helland 4-43, G. Lapka 1-12.
State Championship highlighted by big plays and new records
It was worth the wait.