SPEARFISH -- For three quarters on Friday, mistakes hampered Mitchell High School each time it was on the verge of scoring a touchdown.
The Kernels saw two highlight-reel touchdowns called back due to penalties in the first half and they fumbled at the Spearfish 4-yard line on the first drive of the second half. But they finally found a way to finish in the final frame, despite the Spartans finishing the game with an edge in first downs, 14-11.
Parker Phillips ran for two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes of the game, including an untouched 98-yard scamper to help Mitchell survive a scare and earn a 17-3 win over Spearfish at Lyle Hare Stadium.
“(Spearfish) had a good plan of bringing pressure,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “But our guys siphoned through it. I think getting Austin Kerr involved in the running game was beneficial and it opened things up for Parker.”
After the Kernels recovered a Spearfish fumble on the third play of the game, Phillips maintained his balanced despite being spun around by a Spartan defender and made his way into the end zone. The play was called back and Mitchell (2-1) settled for a 33-yard field goal by Trevor Lambert.
Spearfish answered with a field goal of its own and the teams were locked in a stalemate for the rest of the first half. The Spartans limited Mitchell to two first downs and 66 yards in the first 24 minutes of the game, much of which came as a result of penetration from the defensive line.
At one point, they traded turnovers and neither could gain an advantage on the scoreboard.
“I think it’s just about gaining that momentum,” VanOverschelde said. “We dropped a fade route in the middle of the field and we got a penalty on the (Isaac) Rew touchdown that got called back. It’s all about building momentum. We struggled to begin with, but give credit to Spearfish.”
While the offense needed a jumpstart, the defense was able to keep the game close, as the Kernels held Spearfish to 54 yards rushing in the game and put constant pressure on quarterback Peyton Mills.
Mills threw for 145 yards, but completed 11 of 25 attempts and was sacked twice, while Jake Helleloid stepped in front of a fourth-quarter pass to end any hopes of a comeback.
“We didn’t do as good of a job as we would of liked -- especially in third down situations,” VanOverschelde said. “That’s something we’re going to have to look at, but our guys battled. It was a good overall effort on the defensive side.”
Finally, the Kernels put together a seven-play, 56-yard drive that resulted in Phillips weaving his way through the Spearfish defense for an 11-yard score.
Less than three minutes later, after the Mitchell defense forced a punt that landed at the 2, a gaping hole opened on the left side of the line and Phillips bolted through for the game-clinching touchdown.
Phillips racked up 163 of his 228 yards in the second half, while accounting for all but 30 yards of Mitchell’s rushing total and doing so on 25 attempts.
“We finally executed,” VanOverschelde said. “We made some mistakes with the blitzers, but we started to execute and get some momentum.”
Austin Kerr finished 4 of 9 for 51 yards and an interception through the air.
Mitchell returns to action against Dell Rapids at 7 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Joe Quintal Field. Spearfish (0-3) faces St. Thomas More on Sept. 20 in Rapid City.
M: Trevor Lambert 33 field goal
S: Derek Webster 38 field goal
M: Parker Phillips 11 run (Lambert kick)
M: Phillips 98 run (Lambert kick)
PASSING (C-A-INT-YDS): M: Austin Kerr 4-9-1-51; S: Peyton Mills 11-25-1-145.
RUSHING (ATT-YDS): M: Parker Phillips 25-228, Austin Kerr 14-38, Peyton Nash 1-(-8), Total 40-258; S: A.J. Veldman 12-51, Jacob Johnson 6-30, Aidan McCarty 2-10, Jaden Guthmiller 1-2, Dawson Craig 4-(-3), Peyton Mills 15-(-36), Total 40-54.
RECEIVING (REC-YDS): M: Carter Jacobsen 2-25, Caden Hinker 1-15, Isaac Rew 1-11; S: Derek Webster 6-80, Cade Lyon 3-28, Jacob Johnson 1-23, Logan Langenfeld 1-14.