SIOUX FALLS-Throughout the 2018 football season, the Mitchell High School football team has had trouble stopping big plays. On Friday night at Howard Wood Field, the Kernels faced a big-play offense in Sioux Falls Washington.
It wasn't a recipe for success.
The fourth-ranked Class 11AAA Warriors thrived on the big chunks of yards, as the Kernels allowed eight plays of 20 yards or more in a 49-12 loss.
"The big play takes the wind right out of the sails," MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "Those things that go wrong, those things that go bad-that's no reason to make an excuse. We just have to continuously work the play."
Washington standout running back Tupak Kpeayeh didn't make any excuses, especially after fumbling on the opening drive of the game, bringing a successful series to a halt.
It didn't take Kpeayeh long to atone for his miscue, however. After Mitchell's drive stalled, Washington took over at its own 20. It only took five plays for the Warriors to march down the field, punctuated by a 1-yard run by Kpeayeh.
That drive appeared to loosen up one of the top running backs in the state, as he scored three of his four touchdowns in the first half-breaking the school's career touchdown record in the process-while also running for 176 yards on 18 carries.
"It was just a mental mistake," Kpeayeh said of the fumble. "I wanted to just come out and prove a point because the last two games we've kind of been lacking."
Washington built a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter, but Mitchell proceeded to march down the field in response. The Kernels went 70 yards on nine plays, with Kiel Nelson picking up 52 on four carries before Drew Kitchens scored on a four-yard run.
Trailing 28-6, Mitchell - ranked fifth in Class 11AA - also finally got a stop as Peyton Nash intercepted Washington quarterback Jayden Johannsen at his own 35 with 2:34 left in the half, setting up a crucial drive. Momentum had swung in favor of Mitchell and a touchdown prior to halftime could help put it back in the game, especially since it was due to receive the second half kickoff.
Kitchens set the Kernels up with just one yard to gain on third down, but back-to-back incomplete passes ended the drive near midfield.
"You always kick yourself with some of the decisions that you make and that was one," VanOverschelde said. "... We probably stayed in the pass look too long because once (we) changed to the run game, we realized we could move the ball."
The Kernels gained 186 rushing yards on the night, including 104 from Nelson, but was also just 7 of 20 for 42 yards and two interceptions through the air.
"We still need to be able to progress the football with the forward pass," VanOverschelde said. "Tonight, in inopportune times, we didn't execute."
Johannsen finished 7 of 11 for 149 yards and a touchdown for Washington (2-2), which plays at Rapid City Stevens on Friday.
Max had 54 yards on eight carries for Mitchell (1-3), which plays Douglas on Friday in Box Elder.
W: Tupak Kpeayeh 1 run (Freddy Frederic kick)
W: Jhett Andersen 13 pass from Jayden Johannsen. (Frederic kick)
W: Kpeayeh 4 run (Pass failed)
W: Kpeayeh 60 run (Andersen pass from Johannsen)
M: Drew Kitchens 4 run (Kick failed)
W: Kpeayeh 25 run (Frederic kick)
W: Frederic 64 interception return (Frederic kick)
W: Gabe Person 61 pass from Max Thomson (Frederic kick)
M: Kiel Nelson 1 run (KIck failed)
RUSHING (ATT-YDS): M: Kiel Nelson 16-104, Carson Max 8-54, Drew Kitchens 8-34, Carter Jacobsen 2-6, Team 1-(-1), Blake Fredericks 3-(-5), Parker Phillips 5-(-6); W: Tupak Kpeayeh 18-176, Jayden Johannsen 4-21, Luke Behrens 7-18, Max Thomson 1-7.
PASSING (C-A-INT-YDS): M: Nelson 7-20-2-42; W: Johannsen 7-11-1-149, Thomson 1-3-0-61.
RECEIVING (REC-YDS): M: Max 3-16, Payton Olson 2-15, Koby Larson 1-6, Jackson Sadler 1-5; W: Gabe Person 4-156, Jhett Andersen 3-44, Tyus Hanson 1-10.