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'Consistent performer': Michels makes plays for Kernels

There are few players on the football field that do as much as Sam Michels. The 6-foot, 175-pound do-everything backfield player rarely sees a breather during any Mitchell High School football game. Cover the opposing team's wide receivers, block...

Mitchell's Sam Michels (14) finds running room during a game earlier this year at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Mitchell's Sam Michels (14) finds running room during a game earlier this year at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)

There are few players on the football field that do as much as Sam Michels.

The 6-foot, 175-pound do-everything backfield player rarely sees a breather during any Mitchell High School football game.

Cover the opposing team's wide receivers, block and seal the edge on running plays, catch the ball out of the backfield. Run the ball, catch it out of the slot, and secure the football and make a play on special teams; Michels affects the Kernels and their opposition in every phase of the game.

"He understands his role of the football team and his importance," Mitchell head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "He's been a real consistent performer all year and we're excited to see what he can do going into these last few games."

From offense, defense and special teams, No. 14 can be seen all over the field. In nine games this season, Michels leads the team in interceptions (four), punt return yards (162) and is second on the team in rushing touchdowns (six).

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"I'm just trying to help us as much as I can," Michels said. "(I'm) trying to get us better. It's what the coaches want me to do and I'll do whatever they want me to do. I like the challenge."

Michels starts for the Kernels as a cornerback, running back and the team's punt and kick returner. On offense, Michels has 539 rushing yards on 76 carries, while adding two catches for 12 yards. He averages 7.09 yards per carry and six yards per catch.

"Offensively, he just seems to know where to be and he's made play after play," VanOverschelde said. "He goes out and preforms and in practice, he's got a positive attitude."

Beyond his statistical contributions on offense, Michels might pose more damage as a dangerous second-threat to senior running back Spencer Neugebauer. Neugebauer, who leads the team in rushing yards (1,529), rushing touchdowns (28) and carries (154), has benefitted from the threat Michels poses on offense. In the first series against Huron last week, it was a play-action fake to Michels that consumed all the Tigers' attention, which allowed for Neugebauer to streak down the middle uncovered for a 58-yard touchdown pass.

"That one-two combination between Spencer and Sam has just been an integral part of what we're trying to do," VanOverschelde said. "We are very fortunate to have those kind of backs running behind our offensive line."

At the same time, Michels added Neugebauer draws plenty attention away from himself. The two senior running backs have combined for 66 touchdowns in the past 20 games for the Kernels. Combined the duo averages 3.3 touchdowns per game, headlining a high-powered offense behind a strong offensive line.

"It's really fun and when me and Spencer are on the field at the same time and line gets it going," Michels said. "We definitely complement each other very well. They can't really key one person in our offense because we have so many weapons. It makes it hard for other defenses."

On defense, Michels-alongside fellow cornerback Reed Overweg and safety Jed Schmidt-has played a big part in the Kernel defense holding opposing teams to 12 points per game. The defensive backs have combined for 19 interceptions this season.

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"Defensively, you noticed this in the Huron game, they never did throw his direction," VanOverschelde said about Michels. "People understand where he is on the football field."

As a junior, Michels had a breakout season-recording 471 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while adding 477 kick return yards and two touchdowns.

This year, Michels has a long punt return of 39 yards and a long kickoff return of 26 yards.

"Special teams-wise, he just has the capability to make the big play," VanOverschelde said. "He's an important part of this football team."

Related Topics: KERNELSFOOTBALL
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