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Fast start sputters as Kernel football drops fourth straight in loss to Spearfish

Spearfish overcomes early two-score deficit to defeat Mitchell

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In this file photo, Mitchell's A.J. Siemsen prepares to throw a pass in a Sept. 23, 2022 game against Sioux Falls Jefferson at Joe Quintal Field.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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SPEARFISH — On Friday night, the Mitchell High School football team started strong, something it hadn’t done in the first five games of 2022. But in the end, it still wasn’t enough to come out ahead.

Playing in front of a lively Homecoming crowd, Spearfish overcame two early turnovers and a 14-point deficit to down the Kernels, 26-21, at Lyle Hare Stadium on the campus of Black Hills State University.

Mitchell, in search of its 11th-straight win over the Spartans since 2013, looked to run away early. Spearfish turned the ball over on each of its first two offensive snaps and it didn’t take long for Mitchell to capitalize.

On fourth down from inside the red zone following a fumble, Treyson Schulz connected with Jagger Tyler in the flat for an 18-yard touchdown. Moments later, after Drake Jerke intercepted the first Spartan pass attempt, Mitchell scored again on a 4-yard fourth-down run by Schulz.

But the offense stalled from there, allowing Spearfish to find a foothold. Late in the first quarter, the Spartans forced a fumble on the first play of a Mitchell drive and Ian Rath returned it 14 yards for a touchdown.

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The scoop-and-score seemed to breathe new life into the Spartans. After gaining 14 yards in its first 10 plays of the contest, Spearfish drove 91 yards in eight plays on its next possession and tied the game at 14 on an 11-yard pass from Brady Hartwig to Brayden Delahoyde.

Spearfish threatened to score again before the half, using nine plays to cover 47 yards, but the Kernels thwarted a fourth down attempt from inside their own 35 to preserve the 14-all score heading into the break.

“We got the start that we needed,” said Mitchell head coach Kent Van Overschelde. “We knew they were a good football team, but we got those turnovers and kind of let them back in the football game. We knew at halftime that everything was equal; it was just a matter of who was going to find a way to win.”

Spearfish made up for its stumble to end the first half with its start to the second.

The Spartans recovered a fumble on Mitchell’s second play and then, on third and 15, Bridger Niehaus took a screen pass from Seth Hamilton 28 yards for a 20-14 lead.

Mitchell’s offense responded with one of its best drives of the season, marching 67 yards on 18 plays, capped by a two-yard scoring plunge by Tyler. After a successful point after, the Kernels reclaimed the lead at 21-20.

But again the Spartans had an answer, going 62 yards on five plays, the final 26 yards coming on a pass from Hamilton to Caden Langenfeld late in the third quarter, though a failed two-point conversion left the score at 26-21.

The Kernels once again sustained a long drive covering 63 yards over 17 plays, but the Spartans made the final stand, stopping a completed pass inside its own 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal. Mitchell would only get the ball one more time, running four plays before turning the ball over on downs.

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“We were able to get the football back with three minutes left and got nothing; nothing out of it,” Van Overschelde said. “So here we are. There’s football left to play (this season) and I trust and believe in our guys.”

For the game, Mitchell rushed 43 times for 161 yards, paced by seven carries for 65 yards by Parker Denne and six for 36 by Lukas Bennett. Through the air, Schulz went 9-of-18 for 71 yards, with four passes going to Tyler for 40 yards.

Hartwig and Hamilton combined to go 9 for 15 passing with 156 yards and three touchdowns, adding 55 yards rushing. Langenfeld hauled in two passes for 69 yards, while Delahoyde caught four for 49. Niehaus was the Spartans’ leading ballcarrier with 17 carries for 39 yards.

Mitchell (1-5) returns to Joe Quintal Field to host Watertown on Oct. 7, while Spearfish (3-3) travels east for a meeting with Tea Area next week.

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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