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Mitchell marches past Sturgis

The Class 11AA playoffs got off to a familiar start for the Mitchell High School football team. Last year, Mitchell defeated Sturgis 79-22 in the first round and went on to claim the school's first playoff-era state championship. On a blustery, c...

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Mitchell's Logan Sparks (21) returns a fumble for a score during a playoff game against Sturgis on Thursday night at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Class 11AA playoffs got off to a familiar start for the Mitchell High School football team.

Last year, Mitchell defeated Sturgis 79-22 in the first round and went on to claim the school's first playoff-era state championship. On a blustery, cold Thursday evening at Joe Quintal Field, the No. 2-seed Kernels made a similar statement towards their state title hopes with a 41-12 victory over No. 7-seed Sturgis.

Mitchell (7-3) will host No. 3 Harrisburg in a state semifinal game at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Joe Quintal Field. It's the third year in a row the Kernels have reached the semifinals.

Once again, defense led the way for Mitchell as the Kernels forced two turnovers and held the Scoopers to 21 yards of offense in the first half and 216 total yards for the game.

"We did a great job of just moving the football, keeping our composure, playing field position and allowing our defense to do its job," MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "It was another great defensive effort."

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After both teams exchanged punts to the start the contest, Kiel Nelson slipped free from two Sturgis tackles and raced 30 yards for the game's first touchdown.

With the wind at its back, the Mitchell defense dominated in the first quarter, keeping the Scoopers (3-7) from picking up a first down. Logan Sparks recovered a fumble and ran it back eight yards for Mitchell's second touchdown, putting the Kernels up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Sturgis head coach Chris Koletzky said his offense relies heavily on its rushing attack and the wind didn't affect his team, as much as the Kernel defensive line.

"They were really physical and their defensive line just beat us off the ball," Koletzky said. "It was the same story last year and it held true again this year."

On Mitchell's first drive into the wind in the second quarter, the Kernels put together an eight play, 60-yard scoring drive, capped by a Nelson 10-yard touchdown pass to Tate Larson.

"We were ready to go, it didn't matter what the weather was," Larson said. "Everyone did their job and when everyone focuses on their job, we'll get it done."

Just before halftime, Drew Kitchens broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run and after a missed PAT, Mitchell took a 27-0 lead into halftime.

"Offensively, we were solid," VanOverschelde said. "We dug our heels in and decided to run the football at them."

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In the third quarter, Austin Kerr punched in a 2-yard touchdown run on the Kernels' first possession in the second half. Carson Max then busted loose for a 62-yard touchdown run as Mitchell led 41-0 heading into the fourth quarter.

"This is step one of the process and everything we've done to this point got us ready for this game," VanOverschelde said. "Sturgis is a resilient football team and we're glad to take some momentum into that next round."

In the fourth, with Mitchell's backups in the game, Sturgis was able to capitalize for two touchdowns. Joel Carpenter scored on a 4-yard touchdown run and Noah Wamsher added a 55-yard touchdown run for the Scoopers' 12 points.

Mitchell finished the game with 358 yards of total offense, racking up 348 yards on the ground. Kitchens led with 17 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown, while Max had four carries for 77 yards and one touchdown and Nelson finished with four carries for 59 yards.

Defensively, Levi Winne had a team-high nine tackles, while Briggs Havlik and Max Schoenfelder each had eight tackles. D.J. Krogman recorded one interception and seven tackles.

With a rematch against the Harrisburg Tigers - who beat Mitchell 7-3 on Oct. 13 in Harrisburg - looming in the semifinals, VanOverschelde said the Kernels are eager for another crack at the Tigers.

"We wouldn't want it any other way. That's going to be a heck of a matchup," VanOverschelde said. "We've earned this opportunity and we'll do everything to try and win it."

NOTES: Ty Vander Pol was named the scout team player of the week.

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Sturgis 0 0 0 12-12

Mitchell 14 13 14 0-41

Scoring summary

First quarter

M: Kiel Nelson 30 run (Trevor Lambert kick)

M: Logan Sparks 8 fumble return (Lambert kick)

Second quarter

M: Tate Larson 10 pass from Nelson (Lambert kick)

M: Drew Kitchens 74 run (kick missed)

Third quarter

M: Austin Kerr 2 run (Lambert kick)

M: Carson Max 62 run (Lambert kick)

Fourth quarter

S: Joel Carpenter 4 run (kick missed)

S: Noah Wamsher 55 run (kick missed)

RUSHING: M: Drew Kitchens 17-167, Carson Max 4-77, Kiel Nelson 4-59, Sebastian Antaya 4-23, Austin Kerr 6-23, Colby Gillen 4-7, Kyler Bauder 1-(-1), Carter Jacobsen 2-(-7); S: Noah Wamsher 5-50, Joel Carpenter 8-47, Gavin West 9-37, Bailey Brengle 7-34, Manny Gallosa 10-18; PASSING: M: Nelson 1-4-10-0; S: West 2-10-30-1; RECEIVING: M: Tate Larson 1-10; S: Jay Krull 1-17, Wamsher 1-13; TACKLES: Levi Winner 9, Briggs Havlik 8, Max Schoenfelder 8, D.J. Krogman 7, Jarod Uher 7.

Related Topics: KERNELSFOOTBALL
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