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Kernel football team's trickery becoming a trend

Trick plays have defined some of the great moments in football, as the execution of the unexpected can bring the sounds of cheers and looks of shock.

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The hook and lateral — or hook and ladder — is one of those trick plays that, when executed properly, can catch a defense off guard and bring life to a struggling offense.

“The hook and ladder has been around for a long time and our kids enjoy helping with ideas for how to implement it,” Mitchell High School coach Kent VanOverschelde said.

A hook and ladder is when a quarterback throws a forward pass to a receiver and the receiver almost immediately pitches the ball backward to a teammate on the run. The concept of the play is to get the defense moving one way and quickly change direction with the pitch. When done properly, the hook and ladder can lead to an exciting moment in a football game.

This was never more present then during Mitchell’s game against Brookings Oct. 11 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.

Down 14-12 late in the fourth quarter, the Kernels looked to be finished as they faced a fourth-and-eight from the Brookings 45-yard line.

VanOverschelde dipped into his bag of tricks and pulled out a hook and ladder at just the right time.

Having already used the hook and ladder earlier in the game with limited success, the Kernels had to execute perfectly to get it right, as Brookings was surely aware it could happen.

Quarterback Kanin Nelson hit tight end Ethan Jones with a strike along the sideline, which if he caught it may have given Mitchell a first down. Instead Jones tipped the ball without catching it into the oncoming arms of wide receiver Matt Larson.

The crowd was shocked and there was a moment of noticeable silence as onlookers tried to grasp what had just happened. But as Larson sprinted along the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown, everyone knew they had just seen something special.

“When it works it creates a highlight situation and we would have liked it to have been the last play of the game,” VanOverschelde said. “If the opportunity arises again we will look to throw it in there again.”

Mitchell eventually lost the game 21-18, but it does not take away from the play that nearly defined the season for the opportunistic Kernels.

The hook and ladder is nothing new to anyone that follows Mitchell football, as the Kernels seem to run some version of the play in nearly every game.

“It takes a certain level of execution and we have tried it several different ways this year,” VanOverschelde said. “At times we’ve been successful with it and other times, the ball has bounced the wrong way.”

Despite the number of the potential pitfalls with the hook and ladder, VanOverschelde believes the reward outweighs the risks.

“Over the years, it has been significant to us because it has been in that situation where we needed a big play or a first down,” VanOverschelde said. “It is obviously something that teams have to prepare for.”