It might be a boring take, one filled with coach-speak, but it is often true. Football games are won in the trenches. That was certainly true tonight at Simley High School when the undefeated Spartans took on the undefeated Tartan Titans. The Titans hit a big play on offense right out of the gate, and the guys in the trenches did the rest – making life miserable for the Spartans’. The Titans built a 19-0 lead and cruised to a 25-7 victory.
On the second play from scrimmage – with light snow already falling – Tartan quarterback Brandon Lockhart went against conventional wisdom. In the snow and wind, Lockhart went deep and connected with Dorian Singer for a 64-yard touchdown pass.
After forcing a three and out, Tartan got their first break of the game when a bad punt snap put the Titans in the red zone. The Spartans’ defense – however – stood tall and kept the Titans off the scoreboard.
Coming out of the shadow of their goal post, Simley would put together their best drive of the game. They used the short passing game to flip field position but failed to get any points. A pair of false start penalties and a great play in the open field by Tartan linebacker Brock Bertelsen forced a punt.
The Titans’ defensive line – led by defensive ends Randy Keumogne and Nick Pierce – forced Simley into some poor throws and another three and out.
“The lines are certainly a strength of our team,” Tartan’s head coach Matt Diediker said. “It is something we take pride in, and these guys have worked hard. If you have an offensive and defensive line that can compete at a high level, you are going to win a lot of games. That has been the secret to our success.”
Tartan would take advantage of the good field position by getting the running game going. A counter behind offensive linemen Cade Stine picked up a first down. A draw play to Tien Dang picked up twelve yards. Jaylon Washington‘s cutback run set up his 3-yard touchdown run a few plays later.
“We knew they were 6-0 and were a good team,” Keumogne said. “We had to play hard and play physical.”
Pressure up front put Simley behind the chains, and on third and long, Tartan’s Jake Schwinghammer read a screen and batted the ball away. Austin Studier and Xavier Hudson would both add sacks for the Titans to close out the half.
“The defense has been something we have taken pride in. You can win a lot of high school football games if you can play good defense. They play fast and free, create a lot of turnovers, and make things a lot easier.”
Simley would muff the second-half kickoff, and with another short field, Tartan would make it a three-score game. Lockhart went up top to Singer again – this time for thirty yards to set up a short touchdown pass to tight end Keumogne to put Tartan up 19-0 early in the third quarter.
There was a lot of time left, but with the way the Titans’ defense was playing, points were going to be hard for the Spartans to come by. The Spartans would get a big boost from defensive back Crist Pugh. His interception and long return set up his offense in the red zone. Quarterback Shane Prifrel‘s pass to Nolan Wanzek put the Spartans on the board.
It was the last time the Spartans would threaten.
Tartan’s Deshawn Carter‘s interception stopped a promising Spartans’ drive. Runs by Dang and Washington set up a 42-yard field goal from Garrett Kierzek.
On the next Spartans’ drive, Singer added to his big day on offense by incepting a pass on defense. His twenty-yard return would set up another Kierzek field goal. This one was from 31 yards away.
That would give Tartan a 25-7 lead, and that would be the final score.
“It wasn’t perfect. We saw some adversity, but that is what football is about,” Diediker said. “We had some mistakes we shouldn’t have, but these kids set a high goal they just achieved that no team has done around here in a long time.”
The Titans (7-0) travel to Henry Sibley (0-7) on Wednesday, and Simley (6-1) will conclude the regular season by hosting Mahtomedi (2-5).