Bobcats face Kernels in home opener

BROOKINGS – Tonight’s Hall of Fame game between the Bobcats and Mitchell will feature a pair of Eastern South Dakota Conference teams with completely opposite outcomes in the opening week of the season.

Brookings rallied to beat Yankton, 24-23, on the road, while the Kernels led 19-0 before allowing 40 unanswered points in a 40-19 loss to Watertown at home.

“Yankton was much improved – they threw the ball really well – I was impressed with their passing game,” BHS head coach Lee Schmidt said of the Bucks’ play last Friday. “We just made too many mistakes in the first half; made some bad decisions.

“In the long run, we regrouped at halftime and the kids willed themselves to dominate the second half – at least halfway through the third quarter, on to the fourth – we just wore them out. We ran the football really well all night.”

The ‘Cats trailed Yankton 10-0 after a quarter and 16-3 at halftime, after giving up a tipped-pass touchdown as time expired, before scoring the only touchdown of the third quarter on a 58-yard pass from Jacob Schoon to Jay Wilber to get within 16-10 heading into the fourth.

The Bucks scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to push their advantage to 23-10, but a pair of long scoring runs – 45 yards by Justin Devine and later a 63-yard jaunt by Carter Eidem, along with two successful PAT kicks by Devine – gave Brookings the lead, and ultimately, the win.

“We had a lot of guys play on both sides of the ball – we rotated a lot of guys,” said Schmidt. “When you face a team that is going to throw the ball as many times as Yankton did, you are going to have to rotate guys to keep them fresh.

“It was nice to see our kids that strong in the fourth quarter.”

Parker Beers led the Bobcat rushing attack with 164 yards on 18 carries; Devine ran for 79 yards on eight rushes; and Eidem touched the ball once for the 63-yard TD.

Schoon finished 3-of-14 for 82 yards and one score, but was picked off three times – all in the first half.

Mitchell led 12-0 over the Arrows at halftime on a 35-yard pass from Kiel Nelson to Payton Olson and a 10-yard pass from Nelson to Drew Kitchens.

The Kernels used a 14-play, 83-yard drive that culminated in Carson Max’s 1-yard TD plunge to push their advantage to 19-0 with 2:41 left in the third.

But a 95-yard kickoff return for a score, followed by a 58-yard punt return to paydirt with 10 minutes to play pulled Watertown within 19-14 after the PAT kicks.

The Arrows took the lead for good less than 2 minutes later on a 41-yard pass play and then tacked on three more touchdowns – an 11-yard run; a 37-yard pass play; and a 24-yard scoring toss with a little more than a minute left – for the 40-19 win.

Nelson finished with 95 rushing yards on 23 carries to lead the Kernels, while Max totaled 56 on 12 touches and Kitchens added 41 on 12 rushes. Nelson completed 7-of-22 pass attempts for 97 yards and one touchdown with Payton Olson pulling in four catches for 60 yards.

“Mitchell has a really good running game between Kitchens and Nelson,” Schmidt said of tonight’s opponent. “They run the option – Nelson is really dangerous – he hurt us a lot last year. We gave up some big plays against them last year, which got us into trouble. We moved the ball on them but we didn’t get into the end zone very much – which was kind of the story of last year, at times.

“The other night, we moved the ball well and we’re going to have to do that against Mitchell – we’re going to have to keep them off the field offensively.”

Schmidt commended the majority of his special teams’ play from last week, as well.

“We had some really good special teams play – field goal and extra point teams; kickoff team; and even our kickoff return team did a nice job – but we had to do a lot of work on our punt team – we didn’t punt the ball exceptionally well, so we’re hoping to improve that this week. We put in a shield punt – we’ve never run the shield punt, we’ve always been a pro-set punt team – so we had to do a lot of work on that this week. Hopefully, that’s shored up, because punt team is probably one of the most important teams that you have creating field position.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium on the campus of South Dakota State University.

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