HURON — The Huron Tigers took advantage of their first home playoff game in 17 years Thursday night, dominating the Yankton Bucks 21-6 and earning a ticket into the Class 11AA football semifinals next week against the Brookings Bobcats, in Brookings.
Huron improves to 6-4 with the win, while Yankton sees its season end with a mark of 3-7.
The Huron defense controlled the potent Yankton rushing attack throughout the game, holding the Bucks below 60 yard on the ground and forcing them to virtually abandon the run game for the short passing game in the second half.
In a first half that Huron controlled nearly completely, the Tigers had a somewhat humbling opening drive, moving nine yards on three plays and kicking the ball away. But the game turned on the ensuing Yankton drive.
Quarterback Cooper Cornermann engineered a drive that began in Huron territory, generating a couple first downs and moving inside the Tiger 25, where they faced a third and four. Huron’s defense stiffened at that point, stopping running back Trevor Fitzgerald for a three yard gain, before Tigers Cooper Fryberg and Derick Siemonsma buried Fitzgerald for a loss and earning a turnover on downs.
Huron didn’t score on the ensuing drive - they maneuvered down the field and Carson Duba missed a 28-yard field goal, but for the remainder of the first half the Bucks only managed two first downs and had two possessions end with a three-and-out.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers began to find the balance that coach Scott Spanton was seeking. Huron took over at the Yankton 44-yard line and with pass completions to Jayden Beck and Kobe Busch, quarterback Cade McNeil moved the Tigers into the red zone. Just into the second quarter, Landon Hegg ran right up the middle of the Yankton defense for a 17-yard score, but Huron was whistled for holding. McNeil rumbled for 17-yards on the next play, setting Huron at the Yankton five-yard line, from where Hegg hit paydirt with 11:06 to go in the half.
Yankton mustered a short drive on its next possession, but again the Tiger defense rose to the occasion. After the punt, Huron took over on its own 23-yard line and after a quick first down pass from McNeil to Max Kranzler, McNeil flipped a short pass in the right flat to Beck.
Beck went high in the air and snagged the pass with one hand, before getting a block from Fryberger and jetting down the right sideline for a 41-yard gain. A sack of McNeil fizzled the drive, but Busch punted and Beck covered the ball on the Yankton two-yard line. Yankton went three-and-out and Huron got the ball back with 1:06 in the half, at the Yankton 31 yard line.
McNeil threw a pass on the left side to Busch, who was so open he appeared to be lonely, and the senior ran over two Bucks before being pushed out of bounds at the one-yard line. Two plays netted no gain for the Tigers and the clock ran out.
But on the final play, the Bucks were flagged for defensive holding, giving Huron one opportunity as the half could not end on a defensive penalty. McNeil took it from there, straight up the middle from two yards out and Huron held a 14-0 bulge at the half.
Yankton came out from the halftime break renewed and quickly moved down the field. A third-and-goal snap went over Cornermann’s head and the Tiger defense held once again.
After exchanging possessions, Busch pinned Yankton back in the shadow of their goal posts with a low roller of a punt. Two plays into the Yankton drive, Fryberger stepped in front of a pass and returned it inside the Buck 10-yard line. Two plays earned Huron eight yards and on third-and-goal from the one, McNeil rolled right, planted and turned to loft a pass back across the field that Hegg ran beneath at the 9:41 mark of the fourth quarter to put Huron up 21-0.
The Bucks scored late, using the only Huron turnover of the game to move the ball down the field and Cornemann scored from nine-yards out. Yankton attempted an onside kick and after Huron recovered, they were able to run out the clock.
Huron ran the ball for 119 yards and had 121 yards through the air. Landon Hegg ran for 61 yards and McNeil was 8-16 through the air for the Tigers.
Cornemann finished 16/27 through the air for 170 yards and a pick, spending much of the second half under duress by the Tiger defense.
Huron will travel to Brookings for a semifinal game on Nov. 8. Huron opened the season on the same field against the Bobcats Aug. 30 and were unable to get any offense going in a 40-0 season opener.
Score by quarters
Yankton 0 0 0 6 — 6
Huron 0 14 0 7 — 21
H — 11:06 - Landon Hegg, 5-yard run. Carson Duba kick.
H — 0:00 - Cade McNeil, 2-yard run. Duba kick.
H — 9:41 - Hegg, 1-yard pass from McNeil. Duba kick.
Y — 2:05 - Cooper Cornemann, 9-yard run. Kick failed