Two plays can make a big difference in the outcome of a game.
For most of Friday night’s contest against Sioux Falls Christian, Mitchell High School played stellar defense. The Kernels held the Chargers to 3.1 yards per carry on the ground, while also recording two sacks and an interception.
But on two second-half touchdowns, Mitchell had an opportunity to bring down Sioux Falls Christian wide receiver Noah Van Stedum, and on both occasions, he slithered free. One such play came on a game-deciding 12-yard catch and run with less than four minutes to play to beat the Kernels, 26-23.
The Chargers’ speed and quickness caused missed tackles in the open field at various points throughout the night, but none in more critical situations.
“What we can work on in practice is targeting the near hip and things we’ve been focusing on,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “Continuous work and getting better is going to be a focal point, because defensively, we need to tackle better.
“That seems pretty basic -- we need to block and tackle better,” VanOverschelde continued. “But especially as the game developed, we got a little tired, and mentally, we weren’t executing those things.”
Van Stedum also shed three open-field tackle attempts on a 57-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, as part of one of Sioux Falls Christian quarterback John Overby’s four touchdown passes in the game.
Robinson makes an imprint
Nick Robinson has quietly been an integral contributor for Mitchell on offense and defense. Listed as a fullback on offense, Robinson has played nearly every offensive snap during the first two games, but has yet to record a reception or carry.
On Friday, Robinson was not silent, however, as he made an impact on defense and special teams.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound outside linebacker made 10 tackles -- including 3.5 for a loss -- while also blocking an extra point. Robinson also tipped a punt in the second quarter, setting up a Kerr-to-Jacobsen touchdown pass to take the lead.
The senior made his biggest play early in the fourth quarter, though. As Overby attempted to flee from the pursuit of Maxwell Bennett, he made an ill-advised throw that went directly to Robinson at the Sioux Falls Christian 12 yard line.
It was the second time Robinson made a play to set up a go-ahead score, as Kerr carried Charger defenders into the end zone on the ensuing play.
“As a senior, that’s his role and he identifies that and embraces it,” VanOverschelde said. “We need a continuation of that type of leadership. Nick Robinson did a tremendous job of making plays and keeping us in the ballgame.”
Looking at all possibilities
Leading into the game, VanOverschelde was adamant about striking a balance in Mitchell’s rushing attack after Parker Phillips carried the ball 30 times in its first game.
The Kernels managed to do so, with Phillips and quarterback Austin Kerr totaling 18 rushing attempts apiece, but Carter Jacobsen was largely absent in the offense after racking up 130 all-purpose yards on 14 touches against Douglas.
The Chargers held Mitchell to 116 yards on 3.1 yards per carry, but Jacobsen took his lone carry -- on the final drive of the game -- for 16 yards on a jet sweep. He also had two catches for 19 yards, including a touchdown, and returned one kickoff for 40 yards.
Jacobsen also played the entire game at linebacker -- making eight tackles -- but the offense felt a void without his playmaking ability.
“There’s multiple moving parts within our offense and we have to continue to target multiple parts of it and not get that single focus,” VanOverschelde said. “It’s typical. You usually want to go where you’re most comfortable, but we have to understand there is moving parts and we have to look at those possibilities.”