The De Smet Bulldogs kicked off the 2021 football season on Friday night. Although technically a homecontest for the Bulldogs, the game was played at Dana J Dykhouse Stadium on the campus of South Dakota State University. The bigger stage was fitting for the matchup top ranked teams in Class 9A - #1 Wolsey-Wessington and #2 De Smet.
De Smet won the opening coin toss but deferred the ball until the second half leaving the Bulldog defense to take the field first. The defense made quick work of the Warbird offense and forced a three and out punt to start the game.
The Bulldog offense began their drive just inside midfield. The first play of the game was a quick pitch to Kadyn Fast who gained 31 yards on the carry. After two shorts runs by quarterback Colt Wilkinson and a sack by Wolsey-Wessington, Wilkinson found Rett Osthus in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Wilkinson then completed a pass to Tory Holland for the 2-point conversion, and De Smet took an 8-0 first quarter lead.
The Bulldog defense would hold the Warbirds again, forcing a turnover on downs with a big 4th down stop and giving the offense great field position inside the 50-yard line. De Smet was unable to capitalize and gave the ball right back to Wolsey-Wessington.
The Warbirds took advantage this time, and quarterback Marty Gohn found wide receiver Jemitrius Scott for a wide open 47-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point conversion was stopped by the Bulldogs, and De Smet held an 8-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs’ next possession would see Kalen Garry haul in two long passes, the second resulting in a 35-yard touchdown. Wilkinson rushed for the 2-point conversion, and the Bulldogs went up 16-6.
De Smet got another quick stop defensively, and the offense again began with great field position at midfield. After a defensive penalty on the Warbirds and a few short runs, Wilkinson threw up a 45-yard pass to Garry. Garry made an acrobatic touchdown catch and run in double coverage - a catch that would end up #9 on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 Plays for Friday night. Wilkinson powered his way in for the 2-point conversion, and the Bulldogs’ lead increased to 24-6.
Wolsey-Wessington took the kick-off and began driving down the field. A would-be interception by Osthus was called incomplete, and Gohn capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Gohn also rushed for the 2-point conversion, and the Bulldog lead was cut to 24-14, still in the 2nd quarter.
The Bulldogs began with a short run by Fast and a two short first down conversion passes to Osthus. Wilkinson then broke through two tackles down the sidelines for a 31-yard touchdown run. The 2-point conversion pass was no good, and De Smet led 30-14. Osthus intercepted a Warbird pass, and that would be the score going into halftime.
The second half became more of a defensive battle. Wolsey-Wessington scored one more touchdown in the 3rd quarter on a 1-yard by Gohn but were stopped on the 2-point conversion pass attempt.
The Bulldogs were hampered by muscle cramps, keeping some key players out of the game for much of the second half. The Warbirds had one final attempt at a long pass down the field that was stopped by a great interception by Fast, and the De Smet defense held on long enough to ward off any of Wolsey-Wessington’s last shots at scoring. The Bulldogs went on to win 30-20.
Offensive leaders for De Smet: Wilkinson 9-17 passing for 163 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, Garry three catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, Osthus three receptions for 35 yards and one touchdown and Holland two catches for 21 yards. Rushing leaders: Fast five carries for 74 yards, Wilkinson 31 yards and Holland two carries for 28 yards.
Defensively, Garry and Osthus each had 13 tackles, and Wilkinson had 11. Osthus and Fast both had an interception.
For the Warbirds, Gohn was 5 of 11 passing for 87 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Gohn rushed for 163 yards, and Eric Klanchnik ran for 80.
The now #1 ranked Bulldogs take on Oldham-Ramona/Rutland next Friday night in Rutland.