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Kernels win Class 11AA title with blowout of Harrisburg

VERMILLION -- A storybook season for the Mitchell High School football team concluded in historic fashion. It was a victorious ending for the Kernels, as they achieved their first-ever playoff-era state championship by exploding for 28 points in ...

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Mitchell's Spencer Neugebauer (8) stiff arms Harrisburg's Cole Teigen (4) during the Class 11AA state championship game on Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade/Republic)

VERMILLION -- A storybook season for the Mitchell High School football team concluded in historic fashion.

It was a victorious ending for the Kernels, as they achieved their first-ever playoff-era state championship by exploding for 28 points in the second half and earning a 41-6 win over the Harrisburg Tigers in the Class 11AA title game on Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Mitchell (11-1) scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to bust the game open, with the defense forcing three turnovers in the contest.

The offensive eruption began on Mitchell’s first drive on the second half. Cody Reichelt hauled in a one-handed 28-yard pass from Kiel Nelson in the corner of the end zone to push Mitchell up 20-6. Mitchell forced a Harrisburg punt and scored four plays later on a 40-yard touchdown run by Spencer Neugebauer.

The Tigers marched down into Kernel territory, but the drive ended when Jed Schmidt intercepted Harrisburg quarterback Hunter Headlee. On the next play, Neugebauer broke loose for a 83-yard touchdown that put the Kernels up 34-6.

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Nelson delivered a final blow to the Tigers with 8 minutes, 7 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a 90-yard touchdown run. The sophomore quarterback’s run set a Class 11AA title game record for longest touchdown run.  

The win avenged Mitchell’s lone loss to Harrisburg in the first game of the season.

Neugebauer finished with 236 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. Nelson ran for 124 yards on four carries and Mitchell had 434 yards of total offense, with 406 coming on the ground.

The Kernel defense was feisty from the opening possession, as Sam Michels recorded the game’s first turnover -- intercepting a Headlee pass to give the Kernels the ball in strong field position. Mitchell capitalized on the turnover with a Seth Paulson 32-yard field goal and held a 3-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Mitchell’s defense once again set up the offense, stuffing Harrisburg on fourth down and short midway through the second quarter. Spencer Neugebauer scored on a seven-yard touchdown as the Kernel offense took advantage of a short field.

Harrisburg finally broke through on a blocked punt by Michael Curry. Curry ended up picking the bouncing ball at the one-yard line and fell into the endzone for the Tigers’ first touchdown. A bobbled snap led to a missed extra point and made the score 10-6.

The two Eastern South Dakota Conference foes exchanged a pair of interceptions late in the second quarter as Nelson’s pass was picked by Cole Teigen. The very next play, Neugebauer intercepted a Headlee pass and looked like he was going to find the endzone but was stopped on a touchdown-saving tackle by Jack Anderson. Four plays later Paulson, who became the school’s all-time points leader, hit his second field from 25 yards to make the halftime score 13-6.

For more on the championship win, check back with mitchellrepublic.com and see Saturday’s print edition of The Daily Republic.

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