Yankton earns 2023 playoff win against Tigers in 11AA opener

PHOTOS BY JAMES CIMBUREK/YANKTON P&D Huron’s Cashton Caudell, 15, tries to find running room against the Yankton defense as teammate Bryan Ramirez (79) blocks during their quarterfinal matchup in the Class 11AA football playoffs, Thursday at Yankton’s Crane-Youngworth Field.

YANKTON — The Huron Tigers went toe-to-toe with the Yankton Bucks Thursday night at Crane/Youngworth Field, but two scores and two turnovers in just over a minute in the second half closed the door on the Tigers’ season, as the Bucks took a 17-0 win and will move on in the Class 11AA playoffs.

Yankton improves to 9-1 with the win and will face a yet-to-be determined opponent next week. Huron ends the season with a record of 4-6.

After Yankton took a 56-21 win in the regular season finale one week earlier, the Tigers knew they would face an uphill battle when they traveled to the Bucks’ home field. But after watching the Bucks roll up 42 points in the first half last week, the Tiger defense controlled the Yankton offense in check in the first half.

Neither team could establish a rhythm in the opening moments of play. The Tigers earned two first downs to open the game, but kicked it to the Bucks, who promptly used a Lucas Kampshoff to Carson Ness 37 yard pass to move into Tiger territory. But the Bucks fumbled the ball, and Tyson Pfitzer recovered to shut down the Yankton drive.

Huron returned the favor three plays later, giving the ball back to the Bucks at the Huron 34 yard line. Riding the running game, Yankton moved down the field and Kampshoff capped the drive with a 15-yard strike to Cohen Zahrbock, with 5:47 to play in the quarter.

Things didn’t look good as Huron went three and out on its next possession, but on Yankton’s first play, CJ Gainey read Kampshoff and intercepted a pass and returned it near midfield.

Huron’s C.J. Gainey steps in front of a pass intended for Yankton’s Carson Ness, 12, resulting in an interception during their quarterfinal matchup in the Class 11AA football playoffs, Thursday at Yankton’s Crane-Youngworth Field.

From there, Huron began to lean on the running game of Cashton Caudell, as the senior back began to find cracks in the Buck defense exposed by the Tiger offensive line. After seven straight runs, and facing a fourth and sixth from the Yankton 44-yard line, Colt McNeil found Gavin Moeding, who made a nice play on a tipped pass for a first down. The drive stalled the Huron kicked the ball back to the Bucks.

But after watching Kampshoff complete everything last week, the Tiger defense - both the secondary and the front line - left him no room for error, constantly pressuring the Yankton quarterback into quick throws, then making plays on the ball down the field.

After getting the ball back, Huron marched down the field, mixing Caudell runs with a timely passing game, with a couple of Yankton penalties tossed in. The Tigers made it to the Yankton three-yard line before Huron turned the ball over on downs and the half ended with little other action.

Yankton took the second half kick and immediately dialed long distance, as Kampshoff connected with Tucker Gilmore to moved deep into Tiger territory. But as it did all night long, the Huron defense rose up and while Yankton did move inside the 10-yard line, the Tiger defense pushed the Bucks back and forced a 31-yard field goal by Josue Trujillo-Melgoza that made it 10-0 with 9:45 in the third quarter.

Huron went back to work, gaining six yards on two runs, before a holding penalty forced them into passing situation. McNeil found an open Gainey on the left side, but the ball slipped through the senior wideout’s hands and into the waiting hands of Austin Gobel, who returned the ball 40 yards for the touchdown, which made the score 17-0 after the PAT.

Needing to strike back quickly, the Tigers coughed up the ball on its first play from scrimmage and Yankton recovered in Huron territory and while the Bucks gave the ball back on downs without getting a first down, precious time evaporated off the clock.

Huron did move the ball into Yankton territory on its next possession, as McNeil hit a streaking Gainey in stride for a 36 yard game, but two runs for no gain, and a holding penalty forced the Tigers into a fourth-and-long situation and they were unable to convert.

And that is how the game ended. Yankton was not able to move the ball consistently against the Tiger defense and Huron couldn’t string together some first downs and gather any momentum and never managed to return into the Yankton red zone.

Caudell managed 80 yards on the ground on 22 carries, the bulk of that coming in the first half. Landon Hulst carried seven times in the second half for 28 yards and McNeil was 11/23 through the air for 118 yards and one interception. Huron had 251 yards in total offense in the contest.

Yankton only managed 285 yards in the game, 244 of them through the air as Huron blunted any Buck rushing attack. Kampshoff was 13/27 for 244 yards, as the Tiger defense hounded him into a much less sharp evening passing the ball than he enjoyed a week earlier. Serck had 11 carries for 36 yards.

Huron     0 0   0 0 — 0
Yankton     7 0 10 0 — 17

Scoring summary
1st quarter
YANK  — 5:47 - Cohen Zahrbock, 15-yard pass from Lucas Kampshoff. Josue Trujillo-Melgoza kick.

3rd quarter
YANK — 9:45 - Trujillo-Melgoza, 31-yard field goal.
YANK — 8:37 - Austin Gobel, 40-yard interception return. (Trujillo-Melgoza kick).