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Dominant Digger first half spells defeat for Tatanka


Junior Lakota Tech quarterback Quincy Means rushed for 212 yards on 18 carries against Lead/Deadwood. Photo by Michele Davies

LEAD/DEADWOOD—Every football time wants to execute the basics, because in the long run, solid blocking and tackling will win more ball games than big plays or individual excellence. The Lead/Deadwood Golddiggers set out last Friday night to accomplish just that against visiting Lakota Tech. They beat the Tatanka, 49-14.

“With the game plan we had we were able to execute the things we thought we’d be able to do,” said Lead/Deadwood Head Coach Kyle Kooima. “Just continue to block to the whistle, and we eliminated a bunch of penalties we had in the last couple of games.”

“None of these teams are freakishly stronger or bigger or more athletic,” Lakota Tech Head Coach Casey Means said of his opponents. “They are just better at beating us at the little things, blocking until the whistle, not firing off quick, wrapping up, gang tackling. That’s where we’re trying to get. At the same time (these other teams) are teaching us good lessons.”

Lakota Tech is a brand-new team and has played only four games in their existence and are now 0-4. To top it off, Means has been tasked with creating a program during a COVID-19 pandemic, on a reservation with Draconian response policy. Forming a team from scratch with players from many other schools that have not been able to play football for a couple years presents quite a challenge.

We’re really young (one senior), so we’re going to have this whole team back next year.” Means said. “The only one who really played a lot was Quincy (Means) as a freshman. Last year none of them played, none of the freshmen, none of the sophomores, so a lot of it is just gettin’ the feelin’, the physicality, getting back used to playing like that. The boys have been showing up for 6 am workouts, stayin’ after to watch film. If they miss the weightlifting, they make it up after practice. They are all just sticking together, finally got our numbers up to 27, so that’s been helping out at practice. For awhile there was only like 14. The first day of practice there was only four players.”

By halftime the Diggers led 49-0, having scored on all but one possession, and senior Tristen Fierbach kicked seven straight extra points, which in high school football is quite an accomplishment. It does beg the question why Coach Kooima chose not to try one two-point conversion, especially on the last score, given it would have made the score 50-0, ending the game at half by mercy rule.

“Being successful in the first half…” Kooima said, “I’m not a huge fan of fifty-ing teams. I want to play a full game, and we get a chance to get those younger kids in, and you get some big plays and give up some big plays and you gotta fight the urge to put some starters back, but with a running clock, you just got to get those kids a little bit of experience.”

Junior Tatanka quarterback Quincy Means gave Lead/Deadwood all the experience they could ask for, rushing for 212 yards on 18 carries and scoring two touchdowns. In the first half he had 80 yards, and was so elusive, with just a bit better downfield blocking help, he could have loped for several touchdowns more.

“(Means) is a pretty good little ballplayer,” Kooima said. “Tough to get ahold of…we got deep in the backfield…but we’ll have to make some adjustments, because he ran past us a few times.” Two of those times resulted in a 43-yard gain and a 64-yard TD romp in the second half.

Besides being elsusive, Means also has surprising power. On a second-and-five quarterback keep, he was met right at the line by the Digger’s Carter Estes, a 6-3, 280 lbs senior, who unloaded a resounding tackle folks probably heard a half mile down in the old Homestake goldmine. Means absorbed the tackle even as Estes pitched backwards, and then stepped over Estes for a four-yard gain.

“(Quincy) is our most exciting player,” Means said of his son. “We like to get the ball in his hands, let him make decisions.”

Kooima’s boy, Sam, a 6-0, 175 lb sophomore, is Lead/Deadwood’s most exciting player. A competitive power lifter in the off-season, Kooima’s strength belies his size, and his has great field vision, and enough speed to exploit any openings downfield. Kooima had 121 yards on seven carries and scored three touchdowns, all in the first half. Kooima had to take over quarterbacking duties because the regular starting quarterback, senior Rocke Rainey, has missed the last two games due to injury. Although the Diggers didn’t pass much, because their running game was so effective, Kooima did throw a five-yard TD to Tyler Percy. Coach Kooima thinks both his quarterbacks have similar ability, but obviously, with Rainey in at QB you have two good backfield options where you only have one with Rainey on the sideline.

Freshman Dominic Ghost Bear had two great receptions from Means in the second half, and in heavy traffic, for 29 and 36 yards. If he puts on another twenty pounds over the next couple seasons, the Tatanka are going to have a serious receiving option.

Lead/Deadwood’s next opponent will be Hill City. The Rangers are struggling this season so Kooima’s underclassmen will probably get to see some more playing time. The Tatanka will travel East River to take on Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian. Yes, that is a bunch of 9B teams co-oped into an 11-man team. They have played Winner, perhaps the best football team in the state at any level, and competed as well as a solid St Thomas More team did against Winner, and so are probably better than their 0-3 record.

(Contact James Giago Davies at skindiesel@msn.com)

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