Mitchell High School football team shuts out Watertown to start seasonOct. 9, 2009: That was the last time Watertown visited Joe Quintal Field for an Eastern South Dakota Conference football game.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
Oct. 9, 2009: That was the last time Watertown visited Joe Quintal Field for an Eastern South Dakota Conference football game.
It also was the last time the Mitchell High School football team shut out an opponent before its 26-0 blanking of the Arrows Saturday night.
The Kernels, who were preseason picks by the ESD coaches to win the league for the first time since 1986, started their season with a strong defensive effort over the Arrows in both teams’ season opener.
Mitchell, ranked No. 5 in the preseason Class 11AA Sportswriters Association Poll, beat Watertown 14-0 the last time the Arrows visited nearly two years ago on the Kernels’ homecoming night.
“(Saturday night) was a solid performance and, hopefully, it only gets better from here,” fifth-year Mitchell coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “Our defense played well, and we played with some confidence on that side of the ball.”
The Kernels did not waste much time jumping on Watertown, which shared the ESD title with Brandon Valley and Pierre last season.
The Arrows mishandled the opening kickoff of the game and Mitchell senior Austin Loes recovered the ball. Senior Justin Greenway made Watertown pay with a 9-yard touchdown run two plays later — just 41 seconds the start of the season.
On the third play of Watertown’s first possession, Mitchell senior linebacker Dylan Hart intercepted Adam Fjeldheim. Three plays after that, Jason Greenway got around the corner and scored from 39 yards out to make it 14-0 Kernels less than 6 minutes into the contest.
“We have an awfully young team and we made a lot of mistakes right away,” ninth-year Watertown coach Scott Leitheiser said. “They’re a veteran team and they took advantage of it.”
The Mitchell defense made sure those two scores were all the Kernels would need.
Watertown had six offensive possessions in the first half and managed just two first downs. Hart and Josh Schmidt each had interceptions for Mitchell, and the Arrows punted three times and turned the ball over on downs once.
“We didn’t want them to score on us,” said Hart, who finished with nine tackles, a sack and an interception. “They threw a little more than we thought they would, but we had them covered.”
Mitchell remained in front by two touchdowns until Jason Greenway took a punt 40 yards for a score midway through the third quarter. Brian Maxwell and Jade Miller applied pressure to the Watertown punter on the play.
Jason Greenway finished with 130 yards on 19 carries. Justin Greenway, who was playing his first game after learning he has a torn ACL in his right knee, carried it 10 times for 88 yards.
“We had some young guys that were not staying on their responsibilities and against the option. If you have the wrong guys going with the wrong guys, it’s going to open up some things,” Leitheiser said. “I have to give the skill kids from Mitchell some credit. They run the ball well. If (Jason) Greenway gets the corner on you, he’s gone.”
Senior quarterback Brent Havlik finished off an 11-play, 68-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for the final score of the game.
“My favorite thing was the drive where we were able to punch it in after the punt return,” VanOverschelde said of the Kernels’ final scoring drive.
Havlik finished with 42 yards rushing on 14 carries for Mitchell, which ran a form of the pistol offense for much of the game. Havlik also 2-for-8 through the air for 18 yards and threw two interceptions.
It was the first time using the new wrinkle against an opponent for the Kernels. In the pistol offense, Havlik lines up four yards off the ball with a tailback behind him, instead of the normal shotgun attack, in which Havlik is seven yards behind center.
The objective is to provide the offensive lineman more time to get on their blocks and Havlik and the Greenways a better chance to survey the defense once they get the ball.
“We felt good in the offense,” Havlik said. “We knew what it was going to be like and it’s not easy to tell a guy like Jason to slow down because he’s always 100 miles per hour, but I thought we were comfortable.
“The linemen have been able to adjust well.”
Mitchell outgained Watertown 317 to 168 in the yards department. The Kernels rushed for 299 yards as a team.
The Mitchell backups kept the shutout in tact with a pair of late defensive stands in the red zone. Sean Meyer picked off a pass on the 10-yard line with less than 4 minutes to play to stop one Watertown threat. Gramm Johnson broke up a pair of passes — one in the end zone and one just outside of it — with a little more than a minute left to end the Arrows final scoring chance.
Watertown hosts Brandon Valley next week, while Mitchell goes to Brookings at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
NOTES: Mitchell lost a 27-20 decision at Watertown last year when the Arrows were undefeated and ranked No. 3 in Class 11AA. … After Havlik’s touchdown run with a little more than 10 minutes remaining, many of the offensive starters were pulled for the Kernels. Havlik had ice on his right shoulder on the sideline during the fourth quarter. VanOverschelde said his quarterback just had some soreness in the shoulder and that they would reevaluate the situation today.… With 3 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the game, Watertown recovered a fumble and returned the ball 30 yards in the wrong direction. … Former Mitchell High School girls’ and boys’ tennis coach Gayle Klein was the honorary captain for the Kernels and flipped the coin prior to the game. Klein retired after 27 years of coaching and teaching last season. … Seniors Dylan Hart, Justin Greenway, Jason Greenway and Brent Havlik were the four team captains that joined Klein at midfield.
Mitchell 26, Watertown 0
M: Justin Greenway 9 run (Jade Miller kick), 11:19
M: Jason Greenway 39 run (Miller kick), 9:03
M: Jason Greenway 40 punt return (pass failed), 5:43
M: Brent Havlik 6 run (kick failed), 10:59
Team and Individual Statistics
Watertown: Adam Fjeldheim 17-36-3-160.
Mitchell: Brent Havlik 2-8-2-18.
Watertown — Team: 17-34. Blake Heiser 2-11, Alex Turbak 3-10, Alex Thorson 3-6, Adam Fjeldheim 9-7.
Mitchell — Team: 58-299. Jason Greenway 19-130, Justin Greenway 10-88, Brent Havlik 14-42, Austin Loes 2-22, Dylan Hart 6-6, Sean Meyer 1-5, Micah Hettinger 2-1, Alex Herrick 1-(-5).
Watertown: Mason Menninga 4-46, Alex Renner 4-36, Tye Raml 3-29, Jordan Foust 2-24, Alex Thorson 2-8, Nathan Danforth 1-14, Blake Heiser 1-3.
Mitchell: Jason Greenway 2-18.
Mitchell: Dylan Hart 9 tackles, sack, interception; Dalton Wangerin 4 tackles, sack; Josh Schmidt 2 tackles, sack, interception; Austin Loes 2 fumble recoveries; Jason Greenway fumble recovery; Sean Meyer interception.