Kernels scorched by Sturgis’ aerial attack in fourth straight loss
STURGIS -- Sturgis flipped the script on Mitchell High School.
The Class 11AA No. 5 Scoopers entered the night averaging 8.5 points per game, but they were a different team on Friday. Sturgis tallied 281 passing yards on a perfect 11-for-11 passing in the first half and scored 29 points over the first two quarters in a 42-20 win. It marks the first time the Kernels have dropped four consecutive games since 2013.
The No. 4-ranked Kernels had no answer for the Sturgis passing attack, which was in rhythm from the opening snap, when Kaden Phillips hit a wide-open Sanden Graham for an 80-yard reverse-pass touchdown on the Scoopers’ first offensive play of the game.
"You're always going to be disappointed in a loss, but it's the process we went about losing," MHS head coach Kent Van Overschelde said. "Allowing another team to be more physical, making some uncharacteristic mistakes, penalties -- you have to work to overcome them. It seemed we allowed some of that stuff to snowball instead of pulling ourselves back up."
Sturgis quarterback Owen Cass came into the game with 281 passing yards and two touchdowns on the season, but eclipsed both in the game. Cass was 10 of 10 in the first half, throwing for 191 yards and three touchdowns for the Scoopers (3-4).
More importantly, his touchdown passes were timely. With Mitchell leading 13-10 in the second quarter, Cass capitalized on a Tucker Vilhauer interception with a 63-yard strike to Graham on the ensuing play. After the Kernels were stopped on fourth down at their own 30-yard line, Cass found Phillips for a 30-yard touchdown on the next play.
Mitchell (3-4) managed to cut into the lead when Vilhauer tip-toed down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown, but Sturgis delivered a game-changing moment as time expired in the first half. Cass heaved a pass on the run, hitting a streaking Phillips behind the Kernel defense for a 52-yard touchdown on the final play.
"The receiver went vertical and we didn't go with him," Van Overschelde said. "It was a mental breakdown. With the space that was allowed, the quarterback was able to make a connection. It was a situation where you'd like to have those 2.7 seconds back."
Offensively, Mitchell had little trouble moving the ball in the first half, as Vilhauer picked up 149 of the team’s 236 rushing yards. But the Scoopers gave the Kernels little breathing room in the second half, allowing 62 yards on the ground and 91 total yards
Sturgis stopped Mitchell on downs on two crucial possessions, and for the first time all season, forced the Kernels to abandon the run. Parker Phillips was held to 77 yards on 19 attempts, marking the first time he has been held to fewer than 100 yards all season. Meanwhile, Vilhauer was held to negative yards in the second half, finishing with 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Vilhauer went 1 of 5 passing for nine yards and backup Treyson Schulz was called into action, facing similar struggles. Schulz went 2 of 12 for 23 yards and an interception, as Mitchell played catch-up for the remainder of the game.
"Their ability on the backside to blow up plays was obviously the difference," Van Overschelde said. "To come out of that second half with no points on the board and unproductive series'. They forced us into some situations where we went for it twice and twice we didn't get it. Those are the yards we have to get. There has to be some urgency in that process."
Cass ended the night 15 of 23 for 304 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, while Graham had seven catches for 207 yards and two scores. Phillips had four catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
Mitchell travels to Pierre at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16. The Governors dropped a 21-14 decision to Brookings on Friday.
Sturgis 42, Mitchell 20
S: Sanden Graham 80 pass from Kaden Phillips (Brodie Eisenbraun kick)
M: Tucker Vilhauer 18 run (Kick failed)
S: Brodie Eisenbraun 21 field goal
M: Josh Grosdidier 3 run (Trenton Regan kick)
S: Graham 63 pass from Owen Cass (Kick failed)
S: Phillips 30 pass from Cass (Pass failed)
M: Vilhauer 68 run (Regan kick)
S: Phillips 52 pass from Cass (Eisenbraun kick)
S: Wren Jacobs 2 run (Pass failed)
S: Phillips 18 pass from Cass (Eisenbraun kick)
RUSHING (ATT-YDS): M: Tucker Vilhauer 19-148, Parker Phillips 19-77, Josh Grosdidier 13-58, Treyson Schulz 4-10, Lukas Bennett 1-5, Total 56-298. S: Wren Jacobs 17-35, Konner Berndt 4-6, Talon Elshere 4-3, Owen Cass 2-1, Total 27-45.
PASSING (C-A-YDS-INT-TD): M: Schulz 2-12-23-1-0, Vilhauer 1-5-9-1-0. S: Cass 15-23-304-1-4, Kaden Phillips 1-1-80-0-1.
RECEIVING (REC-YDS): M: Tyson Degen 1-12, Jace Larson 1-11, Bennett 1-9. S: Sanden Graham 7-207, Phillips 4-103, Kaden Nelson 2-14, Braden Temple 1-32, Elshere 1-21, Jacobs 1-7.