Kernel Film Room: Mitchell comeback hopes deflated by Huron's diving TD grab
Momentum-changing plays rarely went in Mitchell High School’s favor on Thursday, but none were bigger than a fourth-down pass by Huron that resulted in a game-clinching touchdown.
After the Kernels tied the game at 13, the Class 11AA No. 5 Tigers responded with an 18-yard touchdown run by Jayden Beck. Mitchell was forced to punt on its ensuing drive and Huron marched to the Mitchell 10-yard line, but mustered two yards on three plays.
Faced with a fourth down at the 8, the Kernels had a chance to keep the Tigers off the board and preserve hope for a comeback. But an off-balance throw by Cade McNeil turned into fortuitous ball placement and a diving catch by Max Kranzler gave the Tigers a 27-13 lead with 5 minutes to play in a 34-13 win.
“If we were able to hold them there and get the ball back, it’s a big momentum shift,” MHS head coach Kent Van Overschelde said. “You can kind of see it with our reaction and their reaction. It was a big score in the game.”
As is typical in goal-to-go situations, Mitchell plays man-to-man defense, with cornerback Jace Larson lining up on Kranzler’s inside shoulder to push him toward the sideline. As the play develops, it becomes clear McNeil has one target in mind, despite three players in the route.
The play begins on the left hash mark, McNeil begins a designed rollout to the left and never takes his eyes off Kranzler for the moment the ball is snapped. The slot receiver comes open to his right, but by the time McNeil is ready to throw, he would have to make a hazardous throw across his body and through the Kernel defense.
“It’s pretty universal to play man with the room that you have,” Van Overschelde said. “And we were trying to stop the run at that point in the game.”
Larson’s lone mistake on the play was allowing Kranzler to get too close. He waits a split-second too long to turn out of his backpedal and run with the receiver, making him chase the rest of the play.
Despite the slight misstep, Larson would have been in a decent position to defend the pass if the ball had been thrown on time and on target. Not only is McNeil late on the throw, he never completely sets his feet and it results in an underthrown ball. But with the defender chasing, Kranzler is in a good position to come back for the diving catch and Larson never has a chance to make a play on the ball.
“Technique-wise, playing man, you don’t want to give (the receiver) an inside release,” Van Overschelde said. “They snapped off that route. Playing man, you don’t get that outside linebacker in his drop zone, which makes it a little tougher for that throw to be made.”