DAYTON — The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “cyclone” as a storm or system of winds that rotates about a center of low atmospheric pressure, advances at a speed of 20 to 30 miles an hour and often brings heavy rain. The Southeast Cyclones football team spun viciously for 48 minutes Friday night, blowing past Tongue River Eagles on their way to a 45-0 victory.
Size? Check. Speed? Check. Playmaking? You bet. The Cyclones had it all Friday, and Tongue River couldn’t overcome any of it.
“We’ve got to continue to work at being at who we are and not being intimidated by the size and age and the facial hair and the biceps and everything else of the guys across from us,” Tongue River head coach Steve Hanson said after the game.
The Eagles opened the game with a lengthy, run-only drive, fitting in with the team’s strategy. Ground-pound has been the objective this year for Tongue River, and a seven-minute drive consisted of eight rushes for 36 yards.
But after a turnover on downs, that opening drive would be the best of the game by far. From that point forward, the Eagles rushed 19 more times and gained just 18 yards.
Tongue River had eight pass plays land for 46 yards, but the offense went three-and-out five times and fumbled the ball three times. Things just never clicked.
Even when things went right, the Eagles got sucked back into the cyclone.
At the end of the first half, quarterback Luke Stutzman connected with J.T. Hammond on a 24-yard pass that got Tongue River to the 1-yard line with the clock winding down. The team called its final timeout of the half to set up its offense, but the rushing attack couldn’t gain that 1 yard, and time expired.
And late in the game, Kyler Heiling blocked a Southeast punt, just the Cyclones second of the game, and Elias Dillon-Bennet scooped and carried the ball to the 9-yard line. The very next play, Tongue River fumbled, and Southeast recovered.
“We’re going to have games like this, and we’re going to have games where we score and we’re successful and everything works for us,” Hanson said. “The really great teams prepare week-in and week-out like a champion. Preparation is going to be key.”
On the other side of the ball, Tongue River’s typically dominating rush defense struggled to contain the explosive Southeast backfield. The Cyclones entered the game with the best rushing offense in 1A, and Tongue River’s rush defense was second.
Friday, Southeast came out on top.
The Cyclones churned 346 yards on the ground and did so on just 46 rushes. They even had an 87-yard sure score called back for a block in the back on their first possession — they later fumbled.
Missed tackles and poor angles hurt the Eagles defense all night, and Southeast took advantage of open space. Six Southeast rushing plays went longer than 25 yards, and one went for 68. Just six times did Tongue River make a play in the backfield.
“We were in the right place to make a lot of really good plays,” Hanson said. “We just didn’t make them.
“They didn’t do anything fancy; they didn’t do anything we didn’t expect. But they did take advantage of matchups, and they won the one-on-ones.”
Southeast took a 33-0 lead into halftime — all 33 points coming in the second quarter — and the missed opportunity for Tongue River right before the break may have been the final deflating factor. The Cyclones scored on the first possession of the second half, and Tongue River’s third quarter consisted of a three-and-out and a fumble.
The Eagles, now 2-4 on the season, have an even tougher road ahead. With just two games left in the regular season, Tongue River travels to Upton-Sundance (5-1) and Big Horn (5-1). Hanson knows how tall a task those two games are, and preparation and execution are all his team can do to build on the ups and downs of the season so far.
“Sometimes there isn’t a plan B,” the coach said. “We’ve got plan A. We don’t have much of a plan C or D. We’ve got to make plan A work.”
Southeast……0 33 12 0 — 45
Tongue River…..0 0 0 0 — 0