When the Tigers take the field against Aberdeen Roncalli, a long string of losses to the Cavaliers is on the line. The Tigers and Cavaliers kickoff on Friday at 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.
It has been a long time since the Tigers have beaten the Cavaliers, in fact, it has been 19 years and 14 games since the Tigers have come out on top.
Coach Dan Merkel remembers the last Tiger win. He was a sophomore on the team that beat the Cavaliers 15-6 in ’98.
As for the losses, “I’ve coached most of them,” said Merkel.
Merkel and his Tigers think Friday is the night the long losing streak comes to an end.
So, what do the Tigers have to do to come out on top on Friday?
“We have to jump on them and score early and then we need to keep the pressure on them,” said Merkel.
The Cavaliers are 2-1. They beat Groton Area 21-0 and Redfield/Doland 46-0 to start the year, but were beaten soundly in Canton on Friday. Canton handed the Cavaliers a 38-0 defeat.
The 1-1 Tigers started the season with a dominating 49-8 win in Redfield, but were beaten 36-7 by second-ranked Sioux Falls Christian in the home opener two weeks ago.
While the Tigers return starters and experienced players at nearly every position on the field, the Cavaliers lost a lot of talent to graduation, and they have a new head coach for the first time in 30 years. Longtime coach Terry Dosch retired. Billy Young is in his first year leading the Cavaliers.
Merkel is not sure how much different the Cavaliers are, but not having Dosch on the opposing sideline will be a huge change.
“He outcoached me a lot of times,” said Merkel.
As for what he thinks the Tigers will see from the Cavaliers, Merkel said, “They’re going to struggle running the ball. Our defensive line gives us an advantage. They’re going to switch sets a lot so we can’t get caught out of position and give up a cheap six. So, we have to stop them up front and not give up the deep pass.”
Merkel said the Tigers should be pretty healthy on Friday. Dylan Cerney is looking strong on the practice field this week, having recovered from his ankle injury suffered in Redfield, but Parker Blom is still hobbling from the ankle he hurt in the Sioux Falls Christian game.
“I like the way we line up against them,” said Merkel. “If we play the way we’re capable of, I think we can put an end to the losing streak.”
The Tigers and Cavaliers are playing for the 27th time in a series that began with a 34-7 win by Mobridge 1965. The Cavaliers have had the upper hand since then, running up a 22-4 all-time record.