Kernels go up against Brandon Valley in playoffs todayHaving last traveled to take on Brandon Valley just 11 days ago, the Mitchell Kernels shouldn’t be surprised by anything the Lynx throw at them in tonight’s 11AA playoff opener.
By: Matt Bunke, The Daily Republic
Having last traveled to take on Brandon Valley just 11 days ago, the Mitchell Kernels shouldn’t be surprised by anything the Lynx throw at them in tonight’s 11AA playoff opener.
But that doesn’t mean all-state quarterback Austin Sumner and the Lynx will be any easier to stop the second time around than they were the first.
It was no secret the Lynx wanted to throw the ball as often as possible going into the first game less than two weeks ago, but that didn’t stop Sumner from throwing for 266 yards and six touchdowns in a 41-6 win. When 14th-seeded Mitchell takes on No. 3 Brandon Valley again today at 6:30 p.m. in a first-round playoff game in Brandon, the Kernels are hoping that this time, if nothing else, they’re at least a bit more prepared for what to expect.
“We feel like we underperformed,” Mitchell coach Kent VanOverschelde said of the first matchup between the two teams. “Now we’re that much more prepared, because we know what they can do and what they’re capable of. We made mistakes in that first game that we can obviously correct.”
Many of those mistakes in the first game stemmed from matchup and assignment problems. A majority of Sumner’s 266 yards came after the catch, including 80 on his first completion, a bubble screen at the line of scrimmage that ended up going for a touchdown.
Two of Sumner’s other touchdown passes also came on dump offs into the flat. Most of that damage was done by running back Cody Hausman, who seemed to slip out of the backfield unnoticed at times, eventually catching six passes for 117 yards, including four touchdowns.
“What we’re going to hope to do is just account for everybody in their offense, whether it’s a back swinging out or a tight end coming across the formation,” VanOverschelde said. “The key for us is to account for it, and if we get opportunities to make plays, hopefully we make them.”
Mitchell didn’t take advantage of those opportunities in the first game, missing out on a chance at three early interceptions. Instead, Sumner, who started the game 1-for-5, settled into a groove quickly after that. The Kernels failed to get much pressure on Sumner, allowing him to pick apart the defense and throw the ball deeper down the field as the first half wore on.
“We definitely need to get more pressure up front,” said Mitchell cornerback Jason Greenway, who just missed an interception on the first play of the game last time. “We can’t give him that much time to throw the ball, and when he does, we have to keep the inside from them so they can’t have those quick slants. We just have to stay focused.”
Sumner and the Lynx showed they aren’t invincible last week, however, when Brandon Valley snuck past Watertown for a 14-7 win. Watertown (3-6), which Mitchell beat 14-0, was actually tied with the Lynx until midway through the third quarter, when Brandon Valley scored two quick touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead.
But Watertown scored midway through the fourth quarter to cut the lead in half, and actually intercepted Sumner deep in Brandon Valley’s territory late in the game, but failed to tie the score.
Sumner, whose one touchdown pass in that game tied the state career passing record at 79, finished only 14-for-36 for a season-low 110 yards. The off day for Sumner and the Lynx shows they aren’t perfect, but it came a week early for VanOverschelde’s liking. The Mitchell coach said he’s leery playing the Lynx coming off a week like that.
“Watertown just played solid and pretty consistent against them, so I imagine they’re going to be eager to break out of that,” VanOverschelde said. “We’ll approach the game in that we’re going to continue to be aggressive and play hard and try to disrupt their offense.”
Offensively, Mitchell moved the ball on occasion in the last game, but failed to string together a long drive until the Kernels finally got on the board on Brent Havlik’s fourth-quarter touchdown run. This time, the Kernels hope to establish a strong running game earlier in the contest, and a long run here or there could help if the Kernels have trouble sustaining drives.
“We need to stay solid up front, look for our holes and just make big plays when they’re there,” said Greenway, who leads Mitchell with more than 6 yards per carry this season.
The Kernels turned the ball over only twice in the last game against Brandon Valley, which was tied for the second-fewest of the season, but those two turnovers came on consecutive possessions in the second quarter and led to 14 Brandon Valley points.
“We need to do a good job of controlling the football and eliminating turnovers,” VanOverschelde said. “That’s been a constant theme for us, but this is where you put it all out there and you have the opportunity in the playoffs to advance from there, and I feel we have a good opportunity this week.”