Wildcats pummel Spartans

Jason Ferguson
Down 7-0 following a 69-yard Spearfish touchdown run and with its offense stuck in the mud, the Custer High School football team needed a spark.
Cue Dathon Elmore.
Elmore fielded the ensuing kick and raced through and around the Spartan kickoff return team on his way to an 87-yard touchdown that was just the first highlight of many for the Wildcat senior in the game.  Elmore did everything but sell popcorn in the game, as he added an 80-yard touchdown run, a 27-yard touchdown pass, pooch punt inside the Spartan 20, a two-point conversion and 12 tackles and a fumble recovery from his safety position in Custer’s 44-13 demolition of the Class AA Spartans last Friday evening at Lyle Hare Stadium on the campus of Black Hills University in Spearfish.
Elmore piled up 411 all-purpose yards in the game while showing off the return skills on special teams that made him an all-state punt returner a year ago.
“Oh man, he is a special one,” head coach Dave Williams, who picked up his first career win as a head coach in the victory, said. “He is our life. His return ignited everything. It’s great to have him on our team.”
Elmore said he loves special teams, but was quick to deflect the praise to the wall of Wildcats in front of him who opened up the lanes.
“The blocking was great. You can’t do anything without blockers,” he said.
Daniel Sedlacek punched in the two-point conversion after Elmore’s kick return to put Custer up 8-7, where the score remained until deep into the second quarter when a Spartan interception of an Elmore pass set the Spartans up with a first and goal on the Wildcat three. On the Spartans’ first play quarterback Peyton Millis kept the ball for a score, putting the Spartans up 13-8.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, it would be the final time they would score.
Custer wasted no time answering Spearfish’s score, as Micaiah Grace took a handoff from Elmore and race around the left side for a 68-yard touchdown run. The two-point attempt after the score failed, and the Wildcats were forced to go for two the rest of the game as offensive tackle/kicker AJ Kortemeyer injured his ankle on the play and did not return.
Kortemeyer suffered a severely sprained ankle and will miss the next four weeks, Williams said.
Spearfish went three and out on its next possession, and Elmore again set Custer up with great field position with a 54-yard punt return to the Wildcat 21. Grace was in the end zone seconds later when he again ran virtually untouched into the end zone.
Grace piled up 137 yards on the ground in the game and Custer racked up 369 rushing yards as a team thanks to an offensive line that continued to open big holes for Wildcat ball carriers.
“For having AJ injured there, I was pretty happy with how everybody stepped up and we executed without him,” senior tackle Garrett Carlin said of the offensive line play. Carlin was joined on the line by center Eli Steele, guards Dossen Elmore and Ty Dailey and Kortemeyer, although Dailey kicked outside to tackle and a combination of Dylan Thaut and Nick Herman filled in at guard once Kortemeyer exited the game.
“Our line is our heart. The big guys up front are what we live and die on,” Williams said. “They did a great job. We had some guys step up.”
Sedlacek punched in another two-point conversion after Grace’s run, giving the Wildcats a 22-13 lead.
The Wildcats special teams contributed on the ensuing kickoff, as backup kicker Bradley Immormino executed an onside kick that Custer recovered, setting the Wildcats up on their own 46 yard line. A few plays later on a fourth and five from the 27 yard line Elmore found Sedlacek on a  screen pass for a score that put Custer up 28-13.
The ’Cats took that lead into the half thanks to its defense, as Spearfish worked the ball all the way from its own 18 to the Wildcat 10 on its next possession before being shut down by the Wildcats as time expired in the half.
“Defensively we played well,” Elmore said. “Just as a team we played well.”
“The defense played a great last game and stood up this game,” Williams said. “We just have some little things to tighten up. But it was a great defensive night. (Defensive coordinator) Coach (Russ) Evans had done some great things with them.”
Grace scored his third touchdown to start the scoring in the third quarter as he again burst through a big hole for a 17-yard score on a drive that was kept alive by a 34-yard run by Elmore on a third and 19 play. Elmore kept the ball after a fake and ran around the left end for two after Grace’s touchdown to make the score 36-13 in favor of Custer with 3:41 left in the third quarter.
Elmore put the exclamation point on the game on Custer’s next possession when he took the snap and picked his way through the Spartan defense and down the sideline for his 80-yard score. The two-point conversion was a success with Elmore throwing to Gage Tennyson, who made a tough catch in traffic.
Williams said the team’s second-half offensive explosion was just a matter of execution and trying to avoid taking the ball toward the Spartans’ 6-1 240-pound linebacker Jacob Johnson.
“He’s a great player. We just avoided him all night and it paid off,” he said.
Both Elmore and Carlin said getting a win on the road against a Class AA team was big for Custer’s season.
“It shows how good of a team you actually are,” Elmore said.
“I felt we made a good impression last week (against West Central) even though we lost,” Carlin added. “So coming out and taking this ‘W’ was pretty nice.”
Elmore had 53 yards passing in the game, with Sedlacek, Kaleb Wragge and Dustin Plaisted all hauling in a pass. Sedlacek had seven unassisted and three assisted tackles, while Brennan Hanes added four solo and three assisted tackles.
The Wildcats return home Friday night and will once again host a team crossing the state as the Lennox Orioles make their way to town for a 5 p.m. kickoff.
The Orioles are 0-2 on the season but have lost to a pair of undefeated teams, dropping a 7-6 opener to Dell Rapids before losing to 2-0 Class AA Brookings last Friday.
“We know they’re tough. They’re from the East River,” Williams said. “But we’re coming after them.”

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