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Huron turns back Central rally

Aberdeen Central’s Cole Artz, left, tries to get around Huron’s Ethan Olson, center and Ethan Hunter, right, on a kick off return during Friday night’s game at Swisher Field. Photo by John Davis taken 9/24/2021

Huron dominated the first half and then held off an Aberdeen Central comeback in the final half to grab a 21-14 Eastern South Dakota Conference football win Friday night at Swisher Field.

The Tigers had won just one of their previous four games this season, but hit the field on a mission taking the opening kickoff and scoring 12 plays later on a drive the took up half of the first period.

“That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve seen them on film,” said Central coach Scott Svendsen. “I know they’re a good ball club.”

The visitors extended their lead after forcing a Central fumble. Huron scored on the first play of the second quarter on a 9-yard pass from Mason Davis to Max Kranzler.

A key play occured late in the second quarter when Kranzler (who finished with 119 yards on eight catches) got behind the Central defense and hauled in a 38-yard pass from Cade McNeil for a touchdown to give the Tigers a three-possesion lead heading into the half.

The Golden Eagles stormed out in the second half and marched right down the field only to have another turnover, this time inside the Huron 10-yard line.

“Turnovers kill you,” Svendsen said. “We get a little momentum going and a turnover happens and takes your momentum away, and your defense is back on the field again.”

While Huron did not score on its next drive, it flipped the field and used up more than eight minutes of clock which left the Eagles with the daunting task of needing 21 points in one quarter’s worth of action.

Central started the final period with a bang as Sam Rohlfs broke free and sprinted 59 yards for a touchdown.

After the Eagles stopped Huron on downs, it appeared momentum might be in Central’s corner, but another turnover gave the ball right back to the Tigers.

“Offensively, you can’t turn the ball over,” Svendsen said. “You just can’t do it.”

Central did score on its final possession with 38 seconds left when Rohlfs hooked up with Jacob Merxbauer for a 31-yard TD, but it wasn’t enough.

“It’s amazing how fast the clock goes in the first half when you’re up 21, as compared to the second half it felt like took about 3 and half hours,” said Huron coach Scott Spanton of trying to hold off the Eagles.

Rohlfs, who finished with 102 yards rushing and 105 yards passing, is a threat to score from anywhere on the field any time he has the ball in his hands.

“He’s a dangerous athlete. We knew that coming in,” Spanton said. “I thought we did a pretty good job containing him. Just a couple of times he got out of there. That’s going to happen. In the end we made the plays that we had to to finish it.”

The Tigers have had a tough time finishing games this season, but found a way to get it done Friday night.

“Get out to a three-possession lead and come out the second half and we had a couple of good things happen, but we just didn’t finish drives. We turned it over down in the red zone,” Spanton said. “But the bottom line is for these kids, it’s a great win for us, because now hopefully they start believing a little bit more we can play with the big dogs.”

The Eagles had more total yardage than Huron, but came away empty handed.

“We stubbed our toe tonight,” Svendsen said. “That’s just the bottom line.”

The Eagles, 3-2 on the season, travel to Watertown for another ESD contest on Friday, before closing out the regular season with Tea Area, Pierre and Sioux Falls Roosevelt.

“We have to see what kind of character this team has. We’re going to find out this week,” Svendsen said. “We better show up to play. The schedule is not going to get any easier. We know what’s ahead of us. We just have to stay together and we have to play football.”

Huron 7 14 0 0 – 21

Aberdeen Central 0 0 0 14 – 14

First Quarter

H – Cade McNeil 1 run (Nick Kleinsasser kick), 6:04.

Second Quarter

H – Max Kranzler 9 pass from Mason Davis (Kleinsasser kick), 11:55.

H – Kranzler 38 pass from McNeil (Kleinsasser kick), 1:22.

Fourth Quarter

AC – Sam Rohlfs 59 run (Ashton Lenling kick), 11:49.

AC – Jacob Merxbauer 31 pass from Rohlfs (Lenling kick), :38.

OFFENSE: Huron rushing 41-129 (Jayden Beck 19-67, McNeil 11-41, Quinston Luellman Clark 7-14), passing 10-15-1 for 138 (Davis 7-10-1 for 73, McNeil 3-5-0 for 65), receiving (Kranzler 8-119, Gavin Moeding 1-14, Dylan Lichty 1-5), first downs 15; Aberdeen Central rushing 33-204 (Rohlfs 12-102, Karson Carda 11-73, Avery Ligon 8-29, Austin Erickson 2-8), passing 8-20-0 for 105 (Rohlfs 8-20-0 for 105), receiving (Merxbauer 4-72, Drew Salfrank 3-25, Erickson 1-9), first downs 16.

DEFENSE: Huron, Conner Johnsen 5 tackles and 1 fumble recovery, Jonatan Hernandez 1 fumble recovery, Elliott DeVries 1 fumble recovery; Aberdeen Central, Tayden Brownson 10 tackles, Montana Parmely 7 tackles, Parker Bauer 1 pass interception.

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