Sioux Falls Lincoln’s football team has faced a host of problems this season, and Friday night the Patriots added another to the list: The Mitchell Kernels.
Mitchell (5-1) balanced a steady running game with a terrific effort on defense to earn a 28-7 win at Howard Wood Field.
The Kernels dominated the line of scrimmage which helped them wreak havoc in the Lincoln backfield all night. Mitchell totaled 10 tackles for loss and eight sacks, as it also picked off Lincoln quarterback Preston Eisenbraun three times and forced two turnovers on downs.
“We just couldn’t get any rhythm,” said Lincoln head coach Brian Bechard. “We had some protection problems up front. They were able to get pressure just (rushing) four or even five (players). We should be able to pick that up.”
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When Mitchell’s front seven wasn’t terrorizing the Patriots’ offensive line, running back Spencer Neugebauer was imposing his will.
Neugebauer scored all four of the Kernels’ touchdowns on 74 yards rushing and 55 receiving yards.
“He’s a warrior and he’s a team player,” Mitchell head coach Kent VanOverschelde said of Neugebauer. “He’ll be the first one to give that credit to his team, but it’s nice to have him on our sideline.”
Neugebauer’s most impressive play came late in the second quarter. The 6-foot-1, 185 pound senior streaked down the right sideline and quarterback Kiel Nelson slightly underthrew the ball. Neugebauer came back on it, met a defender at the point of the catch and seized possession near the 30-yard line.
He spun toward the end zone and shed a would-be-tackler before racing away for the score. It was Nelson’s only completion of the night.
The struggles continue for the Patriots, who drop to 2-4 on the season and have lost both games since former head coach Aaron Beavers resigned.
Lincoln’s offense gained just 163 yards on 55 plays and committed five turnovers.
Compare that to 253 yards on 45 plays for Mitchell.
Lincoln played from behind almost the entire game which only exacerbated the protection issues as they were forced to throw more often than if the score had been closer.
“You get in situations where you have to throw the ball and the defense can pin their ears back and come,” Bechard said. “That’s advantage (to) them.”
“Tonight was pretty tough,” said Eisenbraun. It’s tough when you’re down 21-0 coming into the half, but we all believed we could come back.”
The Patriots sure looked like they believed.
Lincoln forced a Mitchell three-and-out on the first possession of the half then blocked the ensuing punt. Eisenbraun took over at the Kernels’ 22-yard line and drove the Patriots inside the five, but Mitchell bared down and a goal line stand ended with an incomplete pass on foruth-and-goal from the two.
Neugebauer staked Mitchell to that 21-0 halftime lead with a pair of two-yard touchdown runs before his 55-yard catch-and-run.
Lincoln’s lone touchdown came with 5:36 left in the game when Eisenbraun hit Eric Looby over the middle for 10-yard score.
Follow Ryan Heuer on Twitter at @ArgusRHeuer .