EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the fourth installment in a weekly series examining a key play in the previous week’s football game for Mitchell High School.
Mitchell High School knew Brookings would have a size advantage during Friday’s contest at Dykhouse Stadium and the Kernels developed a game plan to offset it.
Using technique and different alignments, Mitchell hoped it would be able to create penetration into the backfield against a Bobcat offensive line that averaged 248 pounds.
At times, the Kernels were able to execute the plan, but Brookings utilized its size and power more frequently by rushing for 319 yards in a 41-7 win.
Playing with a low pad level
One of the most defining plays of the game occurred in the first quarter, with Brookings holding a 7-0 lead.
Mitchell forced a fourth-and-8 at its own 40-yard line thanks to a sack by Nick Robinson two plays earlier. As the Bobcats lined up in an unbalanced formation -- three offensive linemen to the right of the center -- to go for the first down, most in the stadium figured a pass was coming. Instead, it was an inside handoff to running back Matt Girard, who followed to pulling linemen through a hole for a 19-yard gain.
The Kernel defensive linemen were unable to get low enough to create leverage against blockers, which resulted in Brookings linemen moving to the second level to block linebackers and Girard slipped through with little resistance.
“Our pad level was too high,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “Bringing two pullers -- because of that pad level -- our middle linebackers are getting blocked by backside linemen. It’s an example of our pad level and taking on the full man.”
On the ensuing drive, Mitchell was able to execute the plan on another inside handoff on a third-and-3 play to force a punt.
The Kernels lined up three defensive linemen on the right side of the unbalanced offensive line and blitzed on a slant, which was designed to shoot through gaps on the Brookings front before they could get their hands up.
Nick Rubendall and Carlos Contreras were able to get immediate penetration, with Rubendall hitting Girard in the backfield and linebacker Carter Jacobsen evaded a blocker to help clean up a play.
“A slant with a really good read by (Jacobsen) to get to the football,” VanOverschelde said. “What really makes that play go is our linemen are moving in front of the blockers. We’re where we’re going to be instead of where they think we’re going to be. Instead of just being targets to block off the line.”
Such plays were infrequent, though, as later in the first half, the Mitchell linebackers were unable to slip blocks, leading to a 61-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tanner Shepardson to make the score 27-0 at halftime.
Left inside linebacker Joe VanOverschelde made a strong play to move around his blocker, but could not finish the tackle, while Jacobsen got hung up by a free blocker instead moving around him at the snap.
"Instead of reaching there, we'd like to see (VanOverschelde) use the same shoulder and same foot," Kent VanOverschelde said. "He did get to the outside guy with the idea of pushing the runner back in, but he didn't get enough of that guy. When the opposite backer gets down blocked, (we're in man-to-man defense), so there' no one to there to make that play."