Kernels look to erase memories of last year's 75-7 loss to Pierre

Mitchell quarterback Tucker Vilhauer (16) runs past Brookings' Keegan Fields (7) during a game on Oct. 2 at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Mitchell High School football players trudged off the field on Oct. 18, 2019 dismayed at what unfolded during the two hours prior.

Many acknowledged chances of upsetting a Pierre team on path for a third consecutive Class 11AA championship were slim and up to that point, the Kernels had not allowed 50 points in five seasons.

So, losing 75-7 was jarring and residue from that to the Governors still lingers a year later.

With a return contest looming at Class 11AA No. 3-ranked Pierre at 7 p.m. on Friday, Mitchell players are mentioning the 68-point loss throughout the locker room with an eagerness to eradicate those memories.

“I was just broken, honestly,” Mitchell quarterback Tucker Vilhauer said. “I thought we’d do better, but it turned out we got busted up. … We kind of want to go beat them now, since they destroyed us last year. We want to beat them on their home field.”


Following the loss, Mitchell head coach Kent Van Overschelde stressed the importance of moving on from the loss, but warned failure to do so would be defining. A year later, the Kernels find themselves in a similar situation.

Mitchell is in the midst of a four-game skid, the most recent coming in a 42-20 loss to Sturgis, an opponent the fifth-ranked Kernels were confident in beating. Instead, the Scoopers threw for a season-high 384 yards and five touchdowns, adding more reason to put forth a quality effort against a 4-2 Pierre squad this week.

“I don’t ever want to be blown out by a team like that ever again,” said Ben Ziebarth, a three-year starting lineman. “Those guys all thought they were better than all of our guys and I didn’t like that feeling very much.”

If pride is not reason enough to get back into the win column, a loss to the Governors all but ensures Mitchell’s seniors will play their final home game against Huron on Oct. 22.

The current seniors are quite familiar with such a scenario, having gone through it each of the previous two seasons with unpleasant results.

Despite Van Overschelde’s warnings last season, the Kernels never completely recovered from the loss to Pierre. The following week, they dropped a 51-17 lackluster outing to Huron and a chance for a home playoff game.

Mitchell was forced to travel to Sturgis in the first round and needed a late touchdown to slip past a team it had beaten by 19 points three weeks prior. The season came to an end the next week in a 57-7 loss to the Governors in the semifinals.

In 2018, the Kernels dropped back-to-back games late in the season -- starting with a 42-14 loss to Pierre -- and were out of contention for a home playoff game before the final week of the regular season.


“I think we’ve learned from it,” lineman Nick Rubendall said. “The senior guys, we’ve gotten together and talked and said we want to have one home playoff game so we can build for this playoff run. It’s our goal to finish strong.”

Even if Mitchell does win its final two games and somehow does not secure a home playoff game, Van Overschelde would not mind a second chance to face Sturgis.

“The reality of playing a playoff game is somewhat distant,” Van Overschelde said. “The reality is to hope that we get a return trip to Sturgis. That’s where I’m at. They may not have been the picture a week ago, but the reality is that as a football team, our identity is yet to be determined. But we took a step backward and it’s time to go compete.”

What To Read Next
Get Local