DEADWOOD— Last Saturday, Ferguson Field in Deadwood, hosted the 27th Annual Prospector Bowl, put on by the Kiwanis Club of Lead. The purpose of which is “to provide a venue for sports teams from throughout the region to socialize and get to know one another.” Five teams are invited, along with host Lead/Deadwood, to play three consecutive football games starting at noon.
In the first game, Stanley County steamrolled St Francis, 59-0. The Warriors no longer have the bodies to put an 11-man team on the field, but they soldier on. In the second game, Quarterback Mankato Lebeaux, a 5-9, 168 lbs. junior, excelled on both sides of the ball, as he sparked Little Wound over McLaughlin, 44-6. The third game was surprisingly entertaining and competitive, despite a 57-7 mercy rule win for host Lead/Deadwood over Bennett County.
In the Little Wound win, Lebeaux opened scoring in the first quarter by intercepting a Jre Antelope pass at the McLaughlin 30 and returning it down to the 20. Three plays later, Lebeaux scored on a one yard roll out, twopoint attempt failed, and Little Wound was up 6-0. McLaughlin moved the ball for ten plays, eating up five minutes of clock, but turned the ball over on downs. Four plays later, under heavy pressure, Lebeaux got off a wobbly pass twenty yards downfield to a wide open Deuce Martin, and Martin proceeded to tack on an additional 52 yards, for a 72-yard touchdown play, big Brent Tallman powering the ball over on the two-point conversion, and Little Wound led, 14-0, with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter.
With eight minutes left in the half, Leon Brownotter III fumbled on his own 10 for McLaughlin, and Logan Middletent fell on it for Little Wound at the eight-yard line. Two plays later, Lebeaux hooked up with Trevin Vasquez for a 12-yard touchdown pass, PAT no good, and Little Wound was ahead, 20-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Brownotter made up for his fumble by running 87 yards for a touchdown. “I haven’t run like that in forever!” he said, gasping for air on the sideline. The PAT was no good, the score was 20-6, Little Wound, 6:50 remaining in the half.
Little Wound wasted no time getting back in the end zone, Martin One Horn caught a 25-yard TD pass in heavy traffic. At least, we assume it was One Horn because he had the wrong number on. Lebeaux scored the twopoint conversion on a roll out, 28-6, Little Wound.
With under a minute to go in the first half, Brownotter threw a pick to Chayden Miler. Lebeaux then threw two long incompletes and got hurt and had to come out of the game on the third attempt. Shadow Red Owl took over at QB for Little Wound, with 0:14 seconds remaining, and scrambled left, and then scrambled right, and then sometime after that, located One Horn wide open downfield and let it fly. The result was a 61-yard TD pass. Red Owl then connected with Miler for the two-point conversion, and it was 36-6, Little Wound at the half.
Most of the second half was a back and forth battle of turnovers and missed opportunities, until with 2:05 remaining in the game, Miler found an alley and burst through it for a 55-yard TD romp. Lebeaux ran in the two-point conversion, to produce the final score, 44-6, Little Wound.
Lebeaux was 10-18 in the air, for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and he clearly makes Little Wound a much better team. Neither side did much on the ground, except for the kickoff return by Brownotter and the touchdown run by Miler. This was the first win of the season for Little Wound, and the second loss in a row for McLaughlin after winning their first three ball games, although those three wins came against, Standing Rock, Crow Creek and St Francis, three teams Little Wound would have beaten fairly easily. McLaughlin will be back at Lead/ Deadwood next week and Little Wound is on the road at Belle Fourche.
Bennett County is an odd team. At no time do they look incompetent or noncompetitive. They always seem to give it their best effort. They have talented players like Tee Allen and Isaiah Johnson, but it has been a rough season for the Warriors. That pattern continued against host Lead/Deadwood. The Diggers were able to sustain drives and produce points. Bennett County was not.
“Bennett County is a tough team,” Lead/Deadwood Head Coach Tom Tieszen said. “We knew we had to stop their big plays, and that’s something we practiced all week, to hopefully keep them from gaining any momentum on us.”
Tieszen credits his line play with delivering this victory, particularly his offensive line: “They are playing at such a high level now, not only individually, but as a unit. They know what to do if things change, and that’s such a huge asset to have.”
The Diggers have four players who consistently deliver when called upon. Max Johnson, quarterback, Jordy Stulken, running back and wide receiver, Dylan Janke, ball control fullback, and Zak Mau on defense, the most intense and aggressive player on the field. It was Mau’s birthday and he was allowed to carry the ball three times, which included converting the 2-points that gave his team the mercy rule win.
Earlier this season, Lead/ Deadwood beat Red Cloud on a long field goal. Each team has one loss and are likely to meet again in the play-offs for a trip back east.
Due to the excellent effort of their offensive line, the Diggers were consistent on the ground, as Johnson had 71 yards, Stulken 68, and Janke, 63. Johnson ran in the first TD, Janke, the second. Johnson ran in the third, Stulken the fourth. Johnson hooked up with Stulken for 16 yards to make it 35-0, and then did the same thing for nine yards, to make it 42-0.
This set up the most exciting moments of the game. Jared Harris returned the Lead/Deadwood kickoff for a TD, and on the very next play, Stulken returned the Bennett County kickoff for a TD.
In order to get the mercy rule, the Diggers would have to forego the services of perhaps the best kicker in the state, Pablo Munoz Fraga, because they would need eight points. They got six of those eight when Charlie Hanel ran the ball in from four yards out. That left the two-point conversion to reach the 50-point difference necessary for a mercy rule ending. Normally, the Diggers would go with Janke, the seasoned muscle needed for such a task, but Tieszen instead elected to hand it off to the birthday boy, Zak Mau, and despite the good day the offensive line was having, Mau found himself facing three Warrior defenders, still a yard shy of pay dirt. He lowered his head, forcing a wedge between two defenders, and then powered his way across the goal line.
Lead/Deadwood hosts McLaughlin next week, has a bye, and then closes out on the road against Custer, a team much improved from last season, and tough at home. Bennett County hosts Red Cloud, and the outcome of that game depends on the health of Red Cloud’s one man wrecking crew, quarterback Ale Rama.
(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@ msn.com)