It’s a new era for the Yankton football team.
And to further prove that point, its young talent came up big in Friday night’s season opener.
It’s not just that they’re freshman and sophomores inserted into a varsity system, it’s that Yankton’s youngsters are capable of getting the job done.
“That’s a talented group; they earned it,” head coach Brady Muth said.
A year after a senior-led squad broke numerous school records, the Bucks rode the wave of their new playmakers and a 35-0 halftime lead to the tune of a 49-0 blowout of Spearfish at Crane-Youngworth Field.
Of the seven touchdowns for the Bucks (1-0): Two from junior Brodey Peterson, one each from sophomore Cameron Zahrbock, junior Trevor Fitzgerald, sophomore Owen Warren, freshman Tyler Sohler and sophomore Jaden Supurgeci.
On top of that, freshman kicker Trevor Paulson was 7-of-7 on extra points and narrowly missed a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
“I’m really proud of the way they handled themselves. The lights weren’t too bright for them.”
And then there was the defensive performance.
By the time Yankton pulled most of its starters in the fourth quarter, Spearfish had mustered negative-24 yards against the Bucks defense.
Muth raved about the way junior lineman Zavier Leonard eats up two gaps (which frees up others), and how inside linebackers senior Dylan Yaggie and sophomore Owen Warren control the middle of the field.
“That’s a completely different group this year,” Muth said. “They play with a different attitude, and they’re physical and really good.”
For a new-look team trying to establish footing, Yankton couldn’t have scripted the start of the game any better.
Spearfish fumbled on the game’s third play and Yankton needed five plays to find the end zone — a Peterson 2-yard run.
After punting on its second series, Yankton scored touchdowns — three on the ground, one through the air — on its final four drives of the first half to build a massive cushion.
Peterson scored again on a 15-yard run late in the first quarter, and then came a Zahrbock 7-yard touchdown catch, a Fitzgerald 7-yard touchdown run and a Warren 1-yard scoring run.
As efficient as Yankton’s offense was in the first half, its defense was even more effective: Spearfish was held to minus-22 yards.
The starting offensive unit for the Bucks capped off its night with a Cornemann 24-yard pass to Sohler late in the third quarter.
Yankton’s final score came on a 1-yard TD plunge by backup sophomore quarterback Jaden Supurgeci with 8:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Unofficially, Cornemann completed 12-of-13 passes for 148 yards in his starting debut, while Zahrbock caught four passes for 45 yards and Sohler hauled in five passes for 44 yards. On the ground, senior Grant Nelson rushed 24 times for 86 yards.
As the rain began to fall and the final horn sounded, the Bucks gathered on the midfield for a brief speech from their head coach — it was a short message, and the players ran over to the student section.
All in all, it was a crisp game for the Bucks.
“We still have some things to clean up,” Muth said.
“We can still play faster. Our magic number is 82, and we were at 41 at half,” he added, in reference to the number of plays.
“But I know I’m nit-picking,” Muth said, with a smile.
Yankton hits the road next Friday for a matchup with Class 11A member Dakota Valley, down in North Sioux City.
Follow @jhoeck on Twitter
SPEARFISH (0-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
YANKTON (1-0) 14 21 7 7 — 49
YHS — Brodey Peterson, 2-yard run (Trevor Paulson kick); 9:24
YHS — Peterson, 15-yard run (Paulson kick); 3:52
YHS — Cameron Zahrbock, 7-yard pass from Cooper Cornemann (Paulson kick); 8:58
YHS — Trevor Fitzgerald, 7-yard run (Paulson kick); 6:13
YHS — Owen Warren, 1-yard run (Paulson kick); 1:59
YHS — Tyler Sohler, 24-yard pass from Cornemann (Paulson kick); 1:56
YHS — Jaden Supurgeci, 1-yard run (Paulson kick); 8:51