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Pierre proves No. 1 ranking, tops Kernels

Mitch Johnson looks for room to run during Friday's ESD contest at Hollister Field in Pierre. The No.1-ranked Governors defeated the No.2-ranked Kernels 48-7. (Wade LaRoche/Capital Journal)

By Wade LaRoche

Pierre Capital Journal 

PIERRE -- A special start from Austin Christopherson ensured that the top-rated Pierre Governors made their own luck against No. 2 Mitchell Friday.

The Governors (3-0) were dominant in Friday’s showdown between Class 11AA’s top-rated teams as they defeated Mitchell (2-1) 48-7 at Hollister Field in Pierre.

The heavyweight bout between the two ESD school’s was one that many in the state had circled this week, but the Governors didn’t have any added motivation with Class 11AA’s second-ranked team coming to the state’s capital.

“We have to have the mentality that every team we play is the No.1 team, so we didn’t really have any extra emphasis on making a statement,” Poppinga said. “We can’t play up or down to our competition. We want to be steady, and they were (Friday).”

Pierre scored early, racking up 21 points in the first quarter. Mitchell head coach Kent VanOverschelde said it was hard for the Kernels to rebound from the early deficit.

“I have to give credit to Pierre,” Mitchell coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “They have a very fast and physical football team, and it was very difficult to recover from being down 14-0 in the early stages in the game.

“Fundamentally, we didn’t play very well. We have some things that we need to do to get better.”

Christopherson put points on the board in a hurry for the Governors as he returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.

After the Governors forced the Kernels to punt, Christopherson did it again by returning the ensuing punt 41 yards for a touchdown. The Governors had been weary of the Kernels’ excellence on special teams, but two plays flipped the script in Pierre’s favor.

The Governors forced another quick punt by the Kernels after the touchdown and looked to go up big when Jace Jerome took the opening play of the drive 17 yards with a run.

The Governors went to the air to close the quarter as Alex Gray found Ethan Case, Christopherson and Shay Reinke for big gains. The result was an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a seven-yard touchdown run by Gray, giving Pierre a 21-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Governors scored twice more in the second quarter to bring their halftime lead to 34-0.

The Kernels found success to begin the half through a six-play, 71-yard drive in the opening drive of the third quarter. Mitchell scored its only points of the game during the drive when quarterback Kanin Nelson found Ethan Jones for a 27-yard touchdown on fourth down.

The Kernels started the second half the right way, but they only accumulated 217 yards of total offense to Pierre’s 417. Mitchell also had 103 yards on the ground in the loss.

“Overall, Pierre was in control and we still need to continue to focus on getting better on the offensive and defensive lines,” VanOverschelde said.

The Kernels look to rebound from the defeat Friday when they host Spearfish in their homecoming game. The game begins at 7 p.m.