DELL RAPIDS – You could watch football for a long time and not see a more impressive start to a game than the one Riley Schmidt of Dell Rapids delivered Monday night.
Schmidt returned the game’s opening kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown, then, after the Quarriers forced a three-and-out of Vermillion, Schmidt raced 71 yards for a score on his team’s first offensive play of the game. The Quarriers then forced another Vermillion punt, and Schmidt ran it back 65 yards to paydirt.
Three plays, three touches, three touchdowns, and Dell Rapids was well on its way to a 57-16 triumph over the Tanagers in Class 11A playoff action, setting up a semifinal showdown Saturday with West Central.
Schmidt would finish the game with 178 rushing yards on just eight carries, which, combined with his early special teams prowess made for one of the more memorable individual performances in recent 11-man playoff history.
“I certainly didn’t expect that kind of start,” said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior. “I have to give credit to my line and my blockers. I wasn’t even touched. The guys up front did it all in front of me. They put it on the line for me so I try to do the same for them.”
Quarriers coach Steve Hansen complimented his entire team for sharp execution, which he attributed to one of the team’s better weeks of practice all season. But obviously Schmidt stood out.
“To touch the ball three times and get three long touchdowns, that’s pretty impressive,” Hansen said. “That was in incredible to see. But hats off to our whole team. We punched in a couple more, and when Vermillion scored our guys answered both times.”
But Schmidt wasn’t a one-man show. His amazing start to the game obviously forced the Tanagers to pay more attention to him, at which point his teammates stepped up.
Jase Nelson threw three first-half touchdown passes to give the Quarriers (9-1) a 42-8 lead at the half, and the Dell Rapids defense stuffed the run and got after the quarterback to make the Tanagers’ attempts to get in the game difficult.
Nelson’s first touchdown strike, a 16-yarder on a corner route by Riley Jurgensen, made it 28-0, and a 1-yard rollout from Nelson to Beau Carpenter made it 35-0. Vermillion finally got on the board on a 1-yard run by Tyler Madsen on fourth-and-goal (a drive that included a successful fake punt), before Nelson again found Jurgensen, this time from 9 yards out, to account for the 34-point halftime edge.
The Tanagers (5-5) had success in the pass game and used plenty of trickery and misdirection to give their offense some space, with Carter Kratz finding Madsen on a nifty 44-yard screen pass that made it 42-16 early in the third.
But Schmidt had another big run in him, going 40 yards up the middle to give Dells a 49-16 lead, before Sam White closed out the scoring and enacted the running clock with a 65-yard touchdown run.
Nelson finished the game 6-of-11 passing for 74 yards and the three scores, while Kratz was 12-of-21 for 180 yards and a score for Vermillion. Madsen had 57 yards rushing and 59 receiving. Seth Anderson had two sacks for the Dells defense.
With the win, the Quarriers now host West Central in another chapter of what has become a premier rivalry in South Dakota prep football. They beat the Trojans 34-25 on Oct. 10 in Dell Rapids, and the two teams have combined to win 15 of the last 18 Class 11A state championships.
“They’ve got a great program – they’re the program that we’ve all had to try to strive to beat,” Hansen said. “Our kids look forward to that competition. It’ll be a fun one.”