RAPID CITY, SD — This one was a one-sided brawl.
The high octane South Dakota School of Mines offense caught on fire early Saturday night in the annual Battle for the Homestake Trophy, as the Hardrockers throttled rival Black Hills State University 62-14 Saturday night on Dunham Field at O’Harra Stadium.
The 133rd game between thew two programs — the longest in Division II history — was also one of the more lop-sided, as Mines scored at will and led 48-7 at halftime. Senior quarterback Jake Sullivan had five touchdown passes and senior running back Connor Silveria ran for 139 yards and also caught two TD passes.
All in the first half.
“I thought our assistant coaches put together a great plan,” Mines coach Zach Tinker said. “The men just went out and executed it. This team was not going to be denied this game.”
It was a complete game for the Hardrockers this time as they were still stinging a year later from the 25-24 loss to the Jackets in Spearfish where they led 24-6 at halftime.
There was no letdown in 2018.
“We know we need to finish games. That game from a year ago has lived with us ever since. We were going to get the job done tonight,” Tinker said.
The win Saturday meant everything to the Hardrockers, said Silveria, who sat out last season with an injury.
“We feel that we left something on the field last year,” Silveria said. “This year we took it to them.”
The Hardrockers put up video-game numbers against the BHSU defense, with 597 yards of total offense. Sullivan would finish 21-of-28 passing for 260 yards and five touchdowns. He would also score once on the ground. Silveria had 227 yards rushing, two rushing TDs and two receiving touchdowns, and Manley caught five passes for 87 yards and had two kickoff returns for 93 yards.
Tinker said that they often talk about their best players having to play like it in big games. That was the case Saturday night.
“Isaiah Manley, Connor Silveria, Kevin Thompson, Robert Schrock and Jakeb Sullivan … those guys on offense were just on fire,” Tinker said. “Defensively, Michael Retland was huge tonight. We got the big pic and Dominick Jackson was great again. It was one of those deals that if your best players play very well, then you have a shot.”
It was a tough night all of the way around for the Jackets, who fell to 0-6 on the season.
“The buildup was there, and we have to play better,” BHSU coach John Reiners said. “We didn’t play well. Hats off to them. Mines played as well as I have seen them play all year, and in the last couple of years. They were ready to go, and we weren’t. We have to regroup and figure out a way to get it done.”
Manley sparked the Hardrockers on the opening kickoff, as he returned it 50 yards to the BHSU 45. He also caught a 15-yard pass from Sullivan on the drive before Sullivan hit Silveria from 11 yards out for the score.
“We had been working on it (kickoff returns) a lot in practice this week,” said Manley, who also had a 43 yard return. “We had a couple of good returns against Pueblo, we just were trying to hit it home on the kick returns.”
BH was on the move before the Rockers sacked quarterback Ryan Hommel — in his first action after missing two games. Jacket punter Jacob Parks then shanked an 8-yard punt to the Mines 38.
Seven players later Sullivan took it in from 1 yard out to make it 14-0 with 7 minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Then there was 14 points scored on just three plays between the two teams. BHSU put together a nice drive and got on the board on a 16-yard TD pass from Hommel to Kielar Harpham, but Mines answered on a 47-yard touchdown toss from Sullivan to Manley one player after Manley returned the kickoff 43 yards.
Mines piled it on in the second quarter, getting four more scores. A big turnaround came when the ‘Rockers blocked a 38-yard field goal by BHSU placekicker Trey Fleming after the Jackets had recovered a Mines fumble on the 16-yard line.
Mines drove down the field and made it 28-7 on a 3-yard TD pass from Sullivan to Ian Anderson.
“The blocked kick was the big turning point. I thought if we could have made it 21-10, that would have got us close. We got the fumble and didn’t score on that,” Reiners said. “From then on, the floodgate opened. We couldn’t stop them. Obviously we couldn’t convert and get points.”
The rolling snowball of points continued for the Rockers with a 1-yard touchdown run by Silveria, an 8-yard run out of the Wildcat by Kevin Thompson, and a 20-yard TD pass to Carson Hunt after Adrian Eastman intercepted a Hommel pass on the 45-yard line with under a minute remaining.
“We know that our offense is very talented. We have athletes everywhere,” Silveria said. “When you give us space, we really take advantage of it, and that is what we did tonight.
The Hardrockers had 330 yards net on the ground. Thompson also had 80 yards on 16 carries.
“Our O-line was phenomenal tonight,” Silveria added. “Our coach puts them in the right place every day, every week. Those guys get after it. They are a phenomenal group.”
In the third, Silveria would add two touchdown runs, from 13 yards and 1 yard, before the Yellow Jackets got their second score of the game on a 6-yard TD pass from backup QB Tyler Hammons to Jordan Pace with 5:22 remaining in the game.
“Our game-plan was to get it to the fourth quarter and keep it going as much as we could, peddle to the medal,” Manley said. “It’s a really good feeling.This is as good win for us coming back after what happened to us last week at Pueblo (41-14 loss).”
The 62 points the Mines offense pout up might have overshadowed the strong performance of the team’s defense that held the Jackets to just 254 yards of total offense.
Hommel finished 15-of-33 passing for 153 yards, while Hammons was 5-of-12 for 56 yards. Payten Gilmore, Hommel and Jack Walbye all had 12 yards net rushing.
“We didn’t want to give up any points this week. We couldn’t make that happened, but we tried our best,” said Eastman, who had six tackles to go with his interception.
On his interception, Eastman said he just played a little center field.
“I knew they were going to try and go deep on us because it was getting late in the first half, and they were down a lot,” he said. “I was just playing deep and just read the quarterback and went and got it.”
The Rockers, 3-3 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and overall, stay home next Saturday for what could be a shootout against Adams State, which outlasted Chadron State 65-62 Saturday.
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