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Todd County gets past Red Cloud

PINE RIDGE—Just like the first time they played Red Cloud, Todd County took a 16-0 lead, but unlike that first game, Red Cloud could not muster a comeback against a tough, determined Falcons team, who held off the Crusaders for a 36-24 victory.

“A lot of it was we were just pushing through,” said Tristan Rogers, Todd County’s bruising senior fullback. “Because a lot of bad stuff happens. We get hurt, we get cramps, and we gotta come back still. The first time, we took our foot off the gas, we stopped going, we stopped being intense, we stopped talking, we stopped playing hard because we thought we had it. But this time, all four quarters—foot on the gas pedal. “

Red Cloud’s Nate LeBeau’s stiff arm covers the mask of the Todd County defender. (Photo by James Giago Davies)

The win earned the 6-2 Falcons a trip to the Dakota Dome in Vermillion, where on Saturday at 3 pm mountain, they will take on the undefeated Winnebago Indians for the All-Nations “A” championship. Back on September 17, Winnebago defeated Todd County, 48-12. The Indians earned their way to the title game with a 52-0 mercy rule over Cheyenne-Eagle Butte.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” said Todd County Head Coach Bob Kornely. “That’s a good football team over there. We knew it was going to be a battle all the way to try and beat them. That’s just a testament to these guys right here, working hard every day in practice and coming out here and believing all the way through it. They overcame a lot of adversity today, they kept fighting together.”

Few teams are held together by as fiery, aggressive, and focused, a football player as Todd County’s Rogers. His constant hustle, on both sides of the football, was an expression of the overall toughness of a Falcon’s team that ground down and beat a team that had done the same to them just weeks before.

“When you talk about toughness,” Kornely said, “all you gotta say is Tristan Rogers. He’s the heart of our team, and he’s a warrior. He’s our senior leader that starts it off for us. We got some young guys that are really clicking along now, that sophomore class is gonna be really good. We’re starting to believe, and some of those guys are growing now. We never played football last year (due to COVID).”

Key injuries to Todd County helped seal the win for Red Cloud in the first game, and key injuries to Red Cloud helped do the same for Todd County in this game. Sam O’Rourke a big play maker linebacker went out with a shoulder injury on the second drive of the game. Nate LeBeau, Red Cloud’s big sophomore quarterback, displayed a dangerous arm in the first game, but he was also knocked out by the hard-tackling Falcons. LeBeau would come back later, alternating in the backfield with Adriano Rama, but the net result did not equal the effort of the first game. Add that to the fact this was not the same Todd County team. The Falcons were not going to let up until the clock wound down to zero.

Red Cloud’s Adriano Rama looking for running room against Todd County’s Tristan Rogers (14) and Rocky Weidman (35).
(Photos by James Giago Davies)

It was a disappointing loss for Red Cloud, given they appeared to be the better team, but appearances are converted into reality on the field, and Todd County proved the more resilient. O’Rourke also attempted to come back into the game, but he was basically a one-armed player at that point. He reflected on what the All-Nations has meant to a basketball-oriented school like Red Cloud: “I think it’s good for us because the games are always high intense and it wouldn’t be like this if we were playing some 11A, 11B school across the state. It just helps us maintain these rivalries that we had for years in eleven-man. It was a good battle, and they just came out on top. Good luck to them in the Dome.”

The big separation between Todd County and Winnebago is not talent, it is execution. The Indians don’t make many mistakes, and they tend to capitalize on the opponent’s mistakes. Just as the Falcons reversed the outcome against Red Cloud, sending them off the field with injury, instead of them sending Todd County off the field, the Falcons have a chance to limit their mistakes against Winnebago, and the opportunity to take advantage of any mistakes the Indians might make. The problems are bad snaps, false starts, offsides, holding, fumbles and blown assignments. The Falcons don’t have to transform themselves into better athletes overnight, just discipline themselves to limit mental mistakes.

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

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