HURON — The Huron Tigers football team stands on the brink of a return trip to the Class 11AA title game. The only thing standing in their way — the Brookings Bobcats.
The Tigers and Bobcats will square off at Dana Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings tonight, with a 7 p.m. kickoff. Weather forecast is in the 30s for game time.
After closing the regular season with a decisive win over Mitchell, followed by an equally dominant triumph over Yankton last week in the opening round of the playoffs, Tiger coach Scott Spanton is hoping for continued success running the ball and seeks to get the passing game untracked as well.
“Well,” he said, “based on numbers alone it may appear that we have achieved more of a balance, but we’ve not been very proficient in our passing game, at least compared to where we think we should be.” Spanton said that increased productivity in the running game has helped the team move the ball, which is a good first step toward a good balance.
“Brookings is a very good defensive team and we are going to need to have that balance on offense, to stay ahead of the chains and out of long yardage third down situations.”
The teams opened the season back in August, a 40-0 win for the Bobcats, who enter the game with a record of 9-1 to Huron’s 6-4 mark. Brookings lone loss on the year was at defending champion Pierre. Learning from the mistakes made in that August matchup will benefit the Tigers tonight, Spanton said.
“The biggest difference in playing them right out of the gate is that we are a much better ball club than we showed that night. Our kids have a better understanding of our schemes on both sides of the ball and have played with more and more confidence as the season progressed. But we got ourselves in trouble with penalties that set up short fields for Brookings, which, combined with some turnovers were big components to their one-sided win.”
The weather will play a factor, just as it will the following week when the state title game will be played outdoors on the same field in Brookings.
Spanton said that Brookings likes to run the ball and controlling the big plays will be a goal for his defense. “They run the ball well, and thus haven’t need to throw it a lot. We’ve played in cold and in wind, so it’s not going to be anything new. If it gets wet, with some wind, the ball can get slippery and so ball security will be even more of an emphasis for us.”
Spanton stated that being sound and mistake-free in all aspects of the game will be necessary if the Tigers are to make a return trip to the 11AA title game.
“We need to get off to a good start on offense,” he said. “That has been a key to greater productivity for our team as a whole this year. Defensively, we need to play the way we have the last two weeks - creating turnovers and leading to short fields for our offense, which again is important to staying out of long yardage situations and mix it up between run and pass.”
The Huron-Brookings winner will face the winner of tonight’s other semifinal game between Pierre and Mitchell, for a shot at the S.D. Class 11AA state championship trophy, at noon on Nov. 15, back in Brookings.