The Mitchell High School defense did not shutdown Sioux Falls Christian, but it made big plays in timely situations.
Then Parker Phillips took care of the rest.
The Class 11AA No. 3 Kernels gave up 382 yards, but forced three turnovers and nine tackles for a loss. More importantly, Wyatt Winter blocked a punt and Carson Fahey intercepted a pass at his own 10 yard line on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter to send Mitchell to a 33-20 win over the Chargers on Friday at Joe Quintal Field.
Those plays were just enough to put the ball into the hands of Phillips, who ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns on 26 attempts as the Kernels earned their first 2-0 start since 2017.
"Just because there's adverse moments, it's always about going back to the next play," MHS head coach Kent Van Overschelde said. "... It's within the fabric of our team. We understand that if we stick together, we can accomplish some positive things."
Phillips was electric from the opening kickoff, taking a handoff 58 yards for a touchdown on the third offensive play and then moments later, he took his next touch 36 yards for another score to give Mitchell an early lead.
Sioux Falls Christian (0-1) managed to slow down Phillips temporarily in the third quarter, but quarterback Tucker Vilhauer and Josh Grosdidier carved space up the middle. Yet when the Kernels needed a big play, they ball went to No. 41.
"I'm extremely competitive, so even when I'm not out there on defense, I'm yelling," Phillips said. "I want to go out there every play."
After Winter’s blocked punt put Mitchell inside the Charger 20, the ball went to Phillips two plays later for what turned out to be the game-clinching score.
"They're a physical team and they run like four plays," Sioux Falls Christian head coach Jared Smith said. "We know what they are, we knew when they were coming and we couldn't stop them. But if you can't do that, you're going to be in for a long night. We couldn't stop them offensively. We had a really good back and forth, but they didn't have the mistakes that we did."
Sioux Falls Christian found plenty of success moving the ball throughout the game, but could not finish drives, particularly in the second half.
The Chargers tried vehemently to establish a rushing attack early in the game, leading to a 5-yard touchdown by Isaiah Young to tie the score at 6-6 in the first quarter. Even after Phillips’ second touchdown of the game, Sioux Falls Christian came back with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brooks Nelson to Tyson Reitsma to cut the lead to 13-12 in the second quarter.
But when the Class 11A Chargers had opportunities to draw even or take the lead, Mitchell made stops on defense. Grosdidier pushed the Kernel lead to 20-12 with less than two minutes left before halftime, but Sioux Falls Christian had a chance to strike back, only for Jacob Schumacher to haul down 6-foot-6 Mitchell Walker at the 2-yard line to take a lead into halftime.
After Mitchell was stopped on the opening drive of the second half, Grosdidier secured an interception with the Chargers driving in Kernel territory, setting up his second rushing score of the game and proving to be a precursor for the remainder of the game.
"That gave us our momentum as an offense and as a defense," MHS linebacker Joe Van Overschelde said. "It gave us field position, it just kept giving us momentum, momentum, momentum. It was important for us to start the half off like that."
Gage Renken made his first career sack to lead to Winter’s blocked punt shortly after Sioux Falls Christian had cut the lead to 27-20 when Nelson found Tate Snyder for a 16-yard scoring strike with 11 minutes, 48 seconds to play.
Fahey’s interception sealed the game, coming on the heels of a 54-yard pass-and-catch from Snyder -- who relieved Nelson due to leg cramps multiple times in the second half -- to Carter Van Donge as Mitchell won consecutive games for the first time since October 2017.
"The non-football part matters to them -- the character," Kent Van Overschelde said. "All of that applies to what we want to accomplish on the football field. They're a group with character that continued to commit, continued to improve and I think we can continue to be successful."
Joe Van Overschelde made a team-high 11 tackles, while Grosdidier had eight tackles to go with his two touchdowns and interception before exiting the game with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
Nelson went 11 of 22 for 159 yards and two touchdowns, while Young had 102 yards on 26 attempts for the Chargers.
Mitchell hosts Spearfish at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Joe Quintal Field.
Mitchell 33, Sioux Falls Christian 20
M: Parker Phillips 58 run (Kick failed)
SFC: Isaiah Young 5 run (Kick failed)
M: Phillips 36 run (Joe Haddon kick)
SFC: Tyson Reitsma 15 pass from Brooks Nelson (Pass failed)
M: Josh Grosdidier 10 run (Haddon kick)
M: Grosdidier 1 run (Haddon kick)
SFC: Tate Snyder 16 pass from Nelson (Nelson to Mitchell Walker pass)
M: Phillips 12 run (Run failed)
PASSING (C-A-YDS-INT-TD): M: Tucker Vilhauer 1-4-32-0-0, Treyson Schulz 0-2-0-0. SFC: Brooks Nelson 11-22-159-1-2, Tate Snyder 5-8-91-1-0.
RUSHING (ATT-YDS): M: Parker Phillips 26-220, Vilhauer 7-46, Josh Grosdidier 4-22, Jagger Tyler 1-3, Team 1-(-1), Schulz 1-(-2). SFC: Isaiah Young 26-102, Nelson 6-33, Carter Van Donge 2-3, Snyder 2-(-6).
RECEIVING (REC-YDS): M: Ryley Johansen 1-32. SFC: Jaden Witte 6-64, Van Donge 4-93, Mitchell Walker 2-48, Tyson Reitsma 2-21, Snyder 1-16, Gavin Mulder 1-8.