No. 2 Kernels stomp No. 3 Tigers
HURON--On its final possession of the first half, the Mitchell High School football team took a knee to let the clock run out. It was the only possession in the first 24 minutes the Kernels didn't score. The No. 2 Kernels put an exclamation point...
HURON-On its final possession of the first half, the Mitchell High School football team took a knee to let the clock run out.
It was the only possession in the first 24 minutes the Kernels didn't score.
The No. 2 Kernels put an exclamation point on their 8-1 regular season Thursday, crushing Huron 59-0 in an Eastern South Dakota Conference battle on a cold night in Huron.
"This football team is carrying some confidence," MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "It was another dominant performance. Give credit to our kids. We prepared, we knew it was going to be a game and we executed really well."
Firing on all cylinders, the Mitchell offense scored 56 unanswered points to blow the game wide open. The offensive explosion began on the first possession when sophomore quarterback Kiel Nelson hit senior Spencer Neugebauer for a 58-yard touchdown pass on the game's first third down.
No. 3-ranked Huron (4-5) looked poised to respond, marching down into the red zone before the drive stalled and a missed field goal gave the ball back to Mitchell. The Kernels moved the ball right back into Huron territory and took an early 14-0 lead on Nelson's second touchdown pass-a 22-yard strike to Connor Morgan.
"They had their defense setup to stop the run," VanOverschelde said. "Hitting those passes was a big part of getting out ahead and staying ahead in this game."
Nelson finished the game 2-for-2 passing for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
"It kept the defense on their heels for the rest of the game," Nelson said about the two touchdown passes. "Their safeties were sucked in pretty tight. I did the play-action to Sam (Michels) and Spencer was wide open, he made a really great catch."
Carson Max capped off the first quarter with a 35-yard touchdown run up the middle to put the Kernels up 21-0. Huron moved the ball back into the red zone on a 34-yard scramble by quarterback Hyland Heinz. On the tackle, Heinz came down awkwardly and suffered an apparent arm injury that knocked him out of the game.
The Tigers weren't able to overcome the loss of their starting quarterback and failed threaten the Kernels the rest of the game. Mitchell put the game away by scoring 35 points in the second quarter.
"It was a super performance," VanOverschelde said. "We talk about keeping our foot to the pedal and we did that tonight."
Neugebauer tacked on four rushing touchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 26 yards, 18 yards, 68 yards and 17 yards, while Michels added a 5-yard touchdown run. Neugebauer recorded 324 all-purpose yards and finished the game with 15 carries for 266 yards and four touchdowns. The senior speedster became the Kernels' all-time career rushing leader, passing Trevor Hohn's playoff era (since 1981) record of 2,955 yards set in 2001-02. Neugebauer now has 2,996 career rushing yards and 1,529 rushing yards on the season. He is 95 yards short of Hohn's single-season rushing record of 1,624.
"We knew it was a big rivalry game with Huron and they'd want nothing more than to knock us off," said Neugebauer, who passed his accolades off to his teammates. "This is good momentum for us going into the playoffs."
While the Kernel offense couldn't be stopped in the first half, Mitchell's defense recorded its first shutout in recent memory. The Kernels held the Tigers to just eight first downs and 173 yards of offense (116 rushing and 57 passing).
Cody Reichelt and Max each had six tackles, while Jed Schmidt, Jordan Dirkes and Morgan each recorded an interception in the win.
"Our defensive line is freeing up Cody and Carson so we're able to shut down the run," Schmidt said. "That allows us to play the pass better. It starts and ends with our line."
With the Mitchell backups playing a majority of the second half, the only points came on a 28-yard field goal by senior Seth Paulson, who also went 8-for-8 on PATs.
"Give credit to our younger guys," VanOverschelde said. "They came in ready to play at the half and they played hard."
The win guaranteed the Kernels homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Mitchell will play in the first round of the playoffs on Thursday at Joe Quintal Field.
"We're in a good situation moving forward," VanOverschelde said.
Mitchell 21 35 3 0 -59
Huron 0 0 0 0-0
M: Spencer Neugebauer 58 pass from Kiel Nelson (Seth Paulson kick)
M: Conner Morgan 22 pass from Kiel Nelson (Paulson kick)
M: Carson Max 35 run (Paulson kick)
M: Neugebauer 26 run (Paulson kick)
M: Neugebauer 18 run (Paulson kick)
M: Neugebauer 68 run (Paulson kick)
M: Sam Michels 5 run (Paulson kick)
M: Neugebauer 17 run (Paulson kick)
M: Paulson 28-yard field goal
RUSHING: M: Spencer Neugebauer 15-266-4, Sam Michels 9-83-1, Logan Sparks 7-50, Drew Kitchens 9-40, Carson Max 1-35-1, Max Schoenfelder 3-3, Austin Jennings 1-2, Kiel Nelson 1-0, Jordan Dirkes 3-(5); H: Chipper Shillingstad 12-49, Nickolas Christensen 8-30, Jett McGirr 4-21, Hyland Heinz 4-17, Alex Hill 2-3, Tyler Lien 5-(-4); PASSING: M: Nelson 2-2-80-0-1, Dirkes 0-1-0-0-0; H: Heinz 2-4-57-0-0, McGirr 0-10-0-3-0; RECIEVING: M: Neugebauer 1-58-1, Conner Morgan 1-22-1; H: Tye Evers 1-59, Lien 1-(-2).