Needing a touchdown in overtime, Mitchell High School had the right play called to put the ball in the hands of its best player. Yankton simply made a better defensive play.
The Kernels had the ball on the 3 yard line on fourth down and called a toss play to the left. It was similar to a play that netted a first down to set up a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of regulation.
This time, however, the Bucks made a strong play up front to wreck the blocking scheme and rangy safety Trevor Fitzgerald shot into the backfield to drop Parker Phillips for a loss. Class 11AA No. 1 Yankton would take possession and Corbin Sohler scored a 15-yard touchdown to take down Class 11AA No. 4 Mitchell 30-24 on Friday.
“You can spend a lot of time second-guessing, but that’s a play on the sheet you’re pretty certain of,” MHS head coach Kent Van Overschelde said. “You’re putting the ball in a pretty good football player’s hands. You have to execute. They knew and we knew we’re going to run the ball, we just have to get a hat on those guys.”
Mitchell ran the ball 72 times for 366 yards in the contest, so there was no question what type of play was going to be called on the penultimate moment of overtime. The Kernels had success in the I-formation late in the game and Phillips had a team-high 146 yards on the night.
The Kernels ran three consecutive plays up the middle previously, while Phillips excels running to the outside and the left side of the line -- featuring tackle Nick Rubendall and guard Adam Fahey -- have been consistent all season. Ryley Johansen, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound receiver, also had a 30-pound advantage on Yankton cornerback Adam Feiser.
“It’s not offense versus defense anymore, it’s numbers,” Van Overschelde said. “We had two receivers (to the opposite side), which gives one less person to block. But (Fitzgerald) was able to run that alley. He was basically spying our running back.”
Rubendall and Fahey made several key blocks throughout the game. Sixty-seven of Mitchell’s 75 yards on the go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter went to the left.
They also sprung Josh Grosdidier for a first down late in the game on a toss play, as Rubendall’s seal allowed fullback Joe Van Overschelde to easily pick up an oncoming linebacker, creating a huge alley to run through.
In overtime, however, Rubendall slipped and could not seal defensive end Jayden Lightner at the snap. As a result, he was not able to move off his initial block to outside linebacker James Stewart.
Stewart moved into the backfield and Van Overschelde was forced to make a last-second block.
His presence slowed Phillips slightly, allowing Fitzgerald -- who was Van Overschelde’s original man -- to make an unabated tackle, his 14th of the game and third behind the line of scrimmage.
“We got our shoulders turned. You’re hoping that even if that first guy gets through, you can go find work, but when you get your shoulders turned it makes it more difficult,” Kent Van Overschelde said. “I think they miscommunicated on the block. (Yankton’s) defensive tackle came inside and I think we anticipated him going outside.”