Hitchcock-Tulare pulls away for 9B title

Photos courtesy John Davis/sdsportscene.com Hitchcock-Tulare’s Riley Fliehe, left, holds the Class 9B Championship trophy as he and his teammates break a huddle following Thursday’s 50-28 win over Herreid/Selby Area at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. To the right of Fliehe is Patriots’ head coach Tom Salmen.

VERMILLION – Carter Binger accounted for five touchdowns to lead the Hitchcock-Tulare Patriots to a 50-28 victory in the Class 9B championship game over the Herreid/Selby Area Wolverines Thursday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive, putting together a long, methodical drive. Binger found Landon Puffer for 31 yards into Wolverine territory, then another Binger pass to Cole Schroeder gained a first down inside the 20.

A Binger run got the Patriots inside the Wolverine 10, and on third down, Binger hit Schroeder in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown. The extra-point run failed, but the Patriots had a 6-0 lead to open the game.

With star running back Brenden Begeman coming into the game with notable rushing records in sight, the Wolverines chose not to hand the ball to their senior back right away, with quarterback Tray Hettick opening the first series by finding Cole Zabel for 28 yards into Patriot territory.

Hettick then ran the ball three times before Begeman got the ball for the first time. Hettick found Zabel again for another first down and then ran for a first down to the Hitchcock-Tulare 1-yard line.

Hettick punched the ball over the goal line for the score and Begeman converted the two-point run to give the Wolverines an 8-6 lead.

With Herreid/Selby Area trying to avoid kicking to Landon Puffer, Brendan Nowell had a lot of field to play with on the kick return and got the ball all the way to the 48. Erik Salmen ran into the middle of the defense and pushed forward for five yards into Wolverine territory for the last play of a fast-paced first quarter.

Another Salmen run and a run from Binger garnered a first down, and three more runs gained another Patriot first down. Binger found TJ Salmen for 10 yards for another Patriot first down, and then Binger hit Riley Fliehe on a crossing pattern over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown. The conversion run failed, but the Patriots had retaken the lead at 12-8.

Hitchcock-Tulare’s Carter Binger, center, tries to push his way past the reach of Herreid/Selby Area’s Brenden Begeman, left, during Thursday’s Class 9B championship game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. Binger had five touchdowns in the game for the Patriots and was named as the Joe Robbie Most Valuable Player of the Game. He threw for 238 yards and rushed for 123 yards.

The Wolverines leaned on Begeman in their second drive, outside of a pass from Hettick to Zabel that gained 28 yards. Eventually, the Wolverines turned the ball over on downs at the 30 yard line.

The Patriots opened the ensuing drive with a pass from Binger to Fliehe that gained 23 yards to the Herreid/Selby Area 47. Erik Salmen ran for eight yards to cross midfield, and then Binger broke through for a 27-yard scamper that got down to the 13-yard-line. Three runs got the Patriots to a fourth-and-inches on the four, and they went for it with Fliehe, who punched the ball into the end zone. Binger then found Puffer for the 2-point conversion to make it 20-8 with less than a minute left in the first half.

The Wolverines were finally able to get a connection between Hettick and senior tight end Trevor Gill, who set school records in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns this season, on the final play of the first half for 47 yards, but time ran out.

The Wolverines put together a long drive to open the second half, featuring a first down run by Hettick that was followed by a Hettick pass to Gill that got the Wolverines across midfield. Begeman then went around end for 22 yards to the Patriot 25.

Three plays and a first down later, the Wolverines pounded the last 11 yards of the drive with Begeman over two runs to get into the end zone. The two-point run failed, leaving the score 20-14 in favor of Hitchcock-Tulare.

The Patriots had the worst drive of the game after the touchdown, punting down to the Wolverine 20, where they again began a methodical drive. Hettick found Gill for a play that netted 55 yards after the ball was fumbled and bounced forward for an additional 20 yards to the Patriot 20.

Begeman punched the ball forward 10 yards for a first down on three runs, and Hettick passed toward the end zone, but Nowell stepped in front of the pass at the 2-yard-line for the Patriots and returned the interception 98 yards for a score. The Fliehe conversion run failed, but the Patriots were back up 26-14 and had swung the momentum.

Hitchcock-Tulare’s Brendan Nowell, center with ball, runs with the ball in front of the Herreid/Selby Area bench as Nowell returned an intercepted pass 98-yards for a touchdown during Thursday’s Class 9B championship game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Begeman came out in the next drive determined, taking off for 47 yards down to the Patriot 16 to end the third quarter. He then ran three more times before he ended up in the end zone with his 40th touchdown of the season. The Patriots stuffed the conversion run, leaving the score 26-20 in favor of the Patriots.
Binger found Fliehe to gain a first down for the Patriots and then found Puffer for 37 yards down to the Wolverine 20.

After a short run from Erik Salmen, Binger found Puffer in the corner of the end zone for 15 yards. Fliehe completed a 2-point conversion pass to Schroeder to make it 34-20.

The Wolverines began working with minimal huddles to maximize time, and Hettick opened the drive by connecting with Gill for 17 yards to midfield.

After a pair of incomplete passes, he found Zabel for 19 yards and then hit Darion Barker for 12 yards. Begeman then broke a 9-yard run that allowed him to break the single-season rushing record that was previously held by Wolsey-Wessington’s Hunter Johnson at 2,930 yards.

Begeman was not done, however, as he took a pitch and went eight yards for the score. He’d then recover a backward lateral and push it into the end zone for the conversion, making it 34-28.

On the first play of the next drive, Puffer took a shovel pass from Binger and was off to the races 65 yards for a touchdown. Fliehe went around end for the 2-point conversion to make it 42-28.

Hettick hit Gill for 27 yards on the first Wolverine play on the ensuing drive to get the ball into Patriot territory. The Patriots committed pass interference to bring the ball near red zone territory, but Puffer intercepted the ball in the end zone, ending the Herreid/Selby Area drive.

Hitchcock-Tulare’s Landon Puffer, left, pulls down the ball as he intercepts a pass intended for Herreid-Selby Area’s Cole Zabel, right, during Thursday’s Class 9B championship game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

While watching the clock with every play, the Patriots rushed for short gains over and over, grabbing first down runs methodically until Binger busted through the line for a 48-yard run. Fliehe again connected with Schroeder for a 2-point conversion to make it 50-28.

With only statistical achievements attainable at that point, the Wolverines handed the ball to Begeman to help him get the career rushing record. After a pair of runs, he gained the yardage required to become the all-time career rushing yardage leader with 6,807. He injured himself on the history-making run, and the Wolverines did not run another play, electing to let time expire.

The Patriots finish with a perfect 12-0 record.

Binger led Hitchcock-Tulare with 238 yards passing and four touchdowns on 12 of 15 passing. He also ran for 123 yards and a score on 12 carries. Erik Salmen ran 17 times for 38 yards.

Puffer caught four balls for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also rushing three times for 16 yards. Fliehe ran six times for 25 yards and a touchdown and also caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Binger was selected as the Joe Robbie Most Valuable Player of the game. The Patriots’ Jacob Michlitsch was recognized as the top lineman and Puffer received the award for the top back in the game.

The Wolverines finish 11-1 behind 189 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries by Begeman. Hettick threw for 269 yards on 12 of 21 passing with a pair of interceptions.

Trevor Gill caught five balls for 161 yards and Cole Zabel caught five passes for 94 yards.

Patriot coach Tom Salmen was very pleased with the effort from his team, especially the seniors.

“They’re a great bunch of kids,” Salmen stated. “The seniors deserve a nice shout out. They did a great job all season long.”

Hitchcock-Tulare     6 14 6 24 - 50
Herreid/Selby Area     8   0 6 14 - 28

Scoring plays
1st quarter
4:37 - HT - Carter Binger 7-yard TD pass to Cole Schroeder. (run failed.)
0:21 - HSA - Tray Hettick 1-yard TD run. (Brenden Begeman 2-pt run is good.)

2nd quarter
6:49 - HT - Binger 17-yard TD pass to Riley Fliehe. (Conversion run failed.)
0:10 - HT - Fliehe 4-yard TD run. (Binger 2-pt pass to Landon Puffer.)

3rd quarter
6:34 - HS - Begeman 6-yard TD run. (run fails.)
0:09 - HT - Brendan Nowell 98-yard TD interception return. (run fails.)

4th quarter
11:02 - HS - Begeman 13-yard TD run. (Conversion run fails.)
8:23 - HT - Binger 15-yard TD pass to Puffer. (Fliehe 2-pt pass to Schroeder.)
5:56 - HS - Begeman 8-yard TD run. (Begeman recovers lateral for 2-pt conversion.)
5:45 - HT - Binger 65-yard TD pass to Puffer. (Fliehe 2-pt run is good.)
1:00 - HT - Binger 48-yard TD run. (Fliehe 2-pt pass to Schroeder.)


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