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Rushing game, defense helps Kernels upend Watertown

MHS’ six-game losing streak ends

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Mitchell's AJ Siemsen heads to the end zone on a 18-yard touchdown pass from Treyson Schulz in the first half of the Kernels' 27-13 Eastern South Dakota Conference football victory over Watertown on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 at Watertown Stadium.

WATERTOWN — The Mitchell High School football team put together a complete effort Friday night and snapped a six-game losing streak in the process.

The Kernels asserted their dominance up front for 262 yards, converted 12 times on third and fourth downs and forced three turnovers in a 27-13 win over Class 11AA No. 5-ranked Watertown in an Eastern South Dakota Conference football game at Watertown Stadium.

After the game was tied at 13, Mitchell answered with an 11-play drive — 10 runs, 1 pass — that included three runs of 10-plus yards by Josh Grosdider, and was capped by a seven-yard scamper from quarterback Treyson Schulz to give Mitchell the lead at 20-13 with with 9:07 left. It was a lead Mitchell would not relinquish.

Mitchell forced two fumbles — both recovered by Tucker Vilhauer — sandwiched around a Vilhauer fumble of his own, and then embarked on an 11-play, 72-yard drive capped by a Vilhauer 4-yard touchdown run with 1:53 remaining to put the game away at 27-13.

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As shown on the drive, the win was not without some gumption, with the Kernels converting 3 of 4 fourth-down attempts in the game. None were bigger than a fourth-and-1 at midfield with about 3 minutes left when quarterback Treyson Schulz plunged ahead for a short gain that moved the first-down chains. On the very next play, Schulz broke off a 41-yard run that set up the eventual game-sealing touchdown from Vilhauer.

It was Mitchell’s second-best rushing performance of the season on yardage, only behind the 274 yards in the season-opening win over Spearfish, and the first game of the year for the Kernels with three rushing touchdowns.

Grosdidier rushed for 155 yards on 25 carries, while Schulz had 55 yards on 11 carries and Vilhauer had 53 yards on 11 carries, with all three parts of the rushing triumvirate scoring touchdowns.

MHS had Watertown on its heels all night, and opened the scoring with a strong opening drive, marching 80 yards on 12 plays and being undaunted in a tough goal-to-go situation. After a play with a bad snap lost 11 yards, Schulz found A.J. Siemsen for an 18-yard touchdown to put Mitchell on the board first 7-0 midway through the opening quarter.

The Arrows wasted little time responding, scoring in five plays on a 70-yard drive when Drew Norberg capped a speedy scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

Mitchell had a pair of big defensive stops in the game, including midway through the second quarter, when Grosdider’s tackle for loss at the goal line forced a 20-yard field goal from Andrew Czech, capping a 16-play drive with just three points from the Arrows.

Mitchell answered the bell again, driving 14 plays to see Grosdider punch in the go-ahead touchdown before halftime from two yards out on fourth-and-1 for Mitchell to lead 13-10 (the extra point was blocked.)

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In the third quarter, Mitchell stopped a 14-play Watertown drive at the Kernel 5-yard line, forcing another Czech field goal, this time from 22 yards out to tie the game at 13 with 2:44 left.

The Kernels, who had been shut out in each of the last two games and lost by a combined 94 points, outgained Watertown 333-280 for the game. Six different Kernels had catches in the game, including Siemsen finishing with 28 yards on two catches. Schulz finished the game 8 for 16 passing for 71 yards for Mitchell.

Watertown (3-5) got a big game out of running back Owen Spartz, who had 129 yards on 23 carries. Norberg was 9-for-17 passing for 90 yards and had 42 yards rushing on eight carries and a touchdown.

There were six fumbles in the game, with Mitchell able to get three of them back. Joe VanOverschelde and Grosdidier each forced one. Jagger Tyler had an impressive interception late in the first half for the Kernels to halt Watertown’s efforts before halftime.

Mitchell (2-6) heads to Huron to close the regular season on Thursday, Oct. 21.

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