Tigers clinch playoff berth with win over Mitchell
HURON — The Huron Tigers got a 40-yard touchdown pass from Colt McNeil to CJ Gainey with just over one minute to play, then Gainey intercepted a Mitchell Kernel pass with 21 seconds to play to clinch a 19-14 win for the Tigers Friday night at Tiger Stadium.
“This was a big win for us,” said Tiger coach Dru Strand after the emotional victory. “We know these kids and they know us, so it was good to get this one in the win column.”
The win, which moves Huron to 4-4 on the season, clinches a berth for the Tigers, for the 11AA playoffs which will begin in two weeks.
While the rain subsided for the most part prior to kickoff, a pesky north wind affected play for both teams, as all the points in the contest were scored in the south end zone, in the direction of the wind.
Huron earned one first down after taking the opening kickoff, but the drive stalled and the Tigers’ punt ran smack into the wind, giving Mitchell the ball at the Huron 36.
The Tiger defense gave up territory grudgingly, but the Kernels, assisted by a Huron encroachment penalty slowly moved down the field, riding the rushing double threat of Parker Denne and Mick Dailey. Facing a third and short at the Huron six-yard line, the Tiger defense rose up and tackled Denne for a three yard loss, but on the fourth down play, Mitchell quarterback Lukas Chenoweth managed to get outside the Huron defense and found the endzone on a nine-yard run. Mitchell led 7-0 after a Hunter Magee kick.
Neither team could move the ball on subsequent possessions; Mitchell due to an inability to hold on to the ball in key situations, while Huron saw a couple of passes dropped to end drives.
After Huron took over on its own 20 yard line, quarterback Colt McNeil dialed long distance and connected with Gavin Moeding for a 35-yard gain, into Mitchell territory.
After short runs by Cashton Caudell and Mason Jurgens, McNeil rolled right and completed a 33-yard pass to Logan Leyendecker for the touchdown.
Leyendecker found himself all alone as Mitchell left the middle of the field open. Nick Kleinsasser knotted the score with the PAT.
Huron forced a three-and-out on the next Mitchell possession, and took over with just under three minutes to play in the half. McNeil ran for a first down on a third and 11 play, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty.
Huron quarterback Colton McNeil runs the option as Nathan McCormick (14) of Mitchell closes in during their game Friday at Tiger Stadium.
Facing third and 16, McNeil tossed a 15-yard pass to CJ Gainey and Gainey did the rest, putting down his head and earning the first down. Another pass to Moeding and a 21-yard McNeil run set Huron up with a first down at the Mitchell 10.
A fumbled pitch forced Huron back six yards, by McNeil hung tight in the pocket and tossed a 16-yard scoring pass to Kolby Hofer. The PAT was blocked, but Huron took a 13-7 lead to the halftime, after holding the Kernels on their final possession of the half.
Mitchell took the second half kick and managed one first down, before turning the ball back to Huron, who went three-and-out, but got a great punt and a subsequent Kernel penalty pushed Mitchell deep into their own territory.
The Kernels rode Denne and the junior responded, gaining chunks of yards, including a 28-yard run off the left side, that was enhanced by a face mask penalty on the Tigers that set Mitchell up with a first down at the Huron 24-yard line.
Denne took the next snap and instead of running the ball, pulled up and tossed a halfback pass to Tyson Sabers for 20-yards, then carried the ball the last four yards for the touchdown, which after the PAT put Mitchell up 14-13 with 21 seconds to play.
After a series of changes of possession yielded little for either team, Huron took the ball back with just over five minutes to play, at their own 33-yard line, after Mitchell turned the ball over on downs.
Caudell ran for three yards, then McNeil tossed a pass to Leyendecker, before Caudell took the direct snap and rumbled for 33 yards, giving Huron a first down at the Mitchell 25.
However, the next Tiger play, the Huron running back was held up and stripped of the ball, giving the ball back to Mitchell with 3:20 to play. Denne ran for 15 yards on first down, then ripped off a 68 yard run that went to the endzone, but the Kernels were whistled for holding and eventually were force to kick the ball back to Huron.
Huron cheerleaders and fans brave the elements to cheer on the Tigers.
Taking over at its own 18 yard line, Huron faced 82 yards of green with 1:57 to play. McNeil connected with Leyendecker for 17, with Caudell on a screen for 12 and with Moeding for 12 yards. Moeding stepped out of bounds at the Mitchell 40 with 1:25 to play in the game.
On the next play, McNeil’s protection held up and he lofted a pass deep down the middle, where Gainey had a step on a pair of Mitchell defenders. Gainey caught the ball with his fingertips and momentum carried him into the endzone with the go-ahead score. A conversion run attempt failed, and with 1:18 to play, Huron clung to a 19-14 lead.
Mitchell moved the ball down the field, using short passes to the sidelines from backup quarterback TJ Jellis to move to the Huron 32 with 27 ticks on the clock. But the Kernels went away from the sideline pass, opting instead to throw it down the middle of the field and Gainey had plenty of time to step in front of Sabers for the interception with 21 seconds to play.
A kneel down sealed the Huron win, the first for this year’s seniors over their Highway 37 rivals to the south.
Huron had 403 yards in total offense, 181 of them on the ground. Caudell carried the ball 18 times for 139 yards and McNeil lugged the rock nine times for 44 yards. Through the air, McNeil ended the game 12/19, for 221 yards the three touchdowns.
Huron’s defense again played bend-but-don’t-break, allowing 276 yards in offense to the Kernels. Denne ended with 54 yards on 24 carries, as he was victimized by some lost yardage on poor pitches by the Mitchell quarterbacks. Dailey finished with five carries for 49 yards. A collection of Mitchell quarterbacks were 12/19 for 130 yards and one interception.
Huron wraps up the regular season on Thursday this week, as they host the Yankton Bucks back at Tiger Stadium. The Huron High School Music Parents group is hosting a fundraiser tailgate prior to the game.
Score by quarters
Mitchell 7 0 7 0 — 14
Huron 0 13 0 6 — 19
MITCH — 4:50 - Lukas Chenoweth, 9-yard run. (Hunter Magee kick).
HURON — 3:57 - Logan Leyendecker, 33-yard pass from Colt McNeil. (Nick Kleinsasser kick).
HURON — :49 - Kolby Hofer, 16-yard pass from McNeil (kick failed).
MITCH — :21 - Parker Denne, 4-yard run (Magee kick).
HURON — 1:18 - CJ Gainey, 40-yard pass from McNeil. Conversion run failed.