Mike Lecher’s 101st win as the Chadron High head football coach came easier than he had expected. He told his players following the 44-8 victory Friday night at Mitchell that he did not anticipate they would win by such a comfortable margin.
But the offense was firing on all cylinders, racking up 512 yards, and the defense learned how to stop the Tigers’ array of misdirection plays and counters. Three pass interceptions also boosted the Cardinals after Mitchell had connected on a 38-yard toss that resulted in the first touchdown scored against the Chadron varsity this season.
The Cardinals are now 5-0 for the first time since 2009. They have outscored their opponents 193 to 21 points and out-yarded them 440 to 172 yards per game.
After the Cards had kicked off and forced the Tigers to a “three and out,” they scored on their second play from scrimmage. The touchdown came on a 55-yard pass from quarterback Justus Alcorn to a wide open Michael Sorenson, who made two similar TD receptions against Gering the previous week.
Mitchell retaliated on its next possession. The Tigers gained 41 yards on a half dozen rushes before a pair of sophomores, quarterback Carter Reisig and wide receiver Santiago Castillo, connected on a 38-yard TD. Castillo was nearly as wide open as Sorenson had been and scampered untouched into the end zone to tie the score at 6-6.
Despite sustaining a block-in-the-back penalty that erased 24 of Dawson Dunbar’s 70-yard romp to the goal line on their first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff, the Cardinals still scored 42 seconds after Mitchell had tied the count.
Alcorn ran for 13 yards on the first play after the penalty was assessed and on the next play he hit Xander Provance with an 11-yard pass for the TD.
The Cardinals added two more touchdowns in the second quarter to own a 24-6 halftime margin.
The first was bolstered by a 32-yard pass from Alcorn to Provance and was cashed in by Dunbar’s one-yard plunge four plays later with 9:04 left in the second period. The second came on a 53-yard aerial to Seth Gaswick with 1:56 remaining.
The catch was one of four outstanding (maybe spectacular) catches that Gaswick made in the contest. He also hauled in a 36-yard bomb in the third period and then picked off two Mitchell passes that also were worthy of making a highlight reel.
Following Gaswick’s first interception, the Cardinals went 92 yards in three plays. Alcorn picked up 17 yards on the first one, freshman Quinn Bailey dashed 64 yards down the right sideline before finally being bumped out of bounds and Dunbar made it look easy going the final 11 yards into the end zone. That made the score 36-6 with 3:52 left in the third quarter.
Gaswick’s second interception was the impetus for a rare safety against the Cardinals. After three carries by Reisig gained for 41 yards, the Mitchell quarterback’s ensuing pass was swiped by Gaswick at the Cardinals’ one-yard line. The Cards initially rushed for four yards, but while Alcorn was looking to pass after taking the snap from the shotgun formation, the Tigers caught him in the end zone for two points on their side.
During the final minutes, the Red Birds posted their seventh touchdown. Back-to-back runs by Bailey gained 19 and 23 yards before Malachi Swallow carried three times for 11 yards and the TD.
Something unusual for this game happened next. The Cardinals added the conversion on a run by freshman Caden Buskirk. Following each of the previous six TDs, the Cards had failed to add the PATs, missing on two kicks, two passes and two runs.
That was about the only shortcoming the visitor’s experience, but it’s something that seems fixable. Gaswick kicked all six PATs after the TDs against Gering. Lecher also was not happy with of the five major penalties his team was assessed at Mitchell, calling the them “sloppy.” But the 512 yards, 44 points and no turnovers were pleasing.
Mitchell defeated Chadron 35-14 a year ago, and with just two seniors on the team and about 30 good-sized freshmen and sophomores on the roster, the Tigers could be a strong team again in a couple of years if they stick together.
Bailey was the game’s leading rusher, gaining 139 yards on just 10 carries. Dunbar carried five times for 86 and Alcorn 11 for 70. The quarterback also connected on seven of 15 passes for 205 yards and the four touchdowns, giving him 11 TD tosses for the season.
Lecher noted during his coach’s show Saturday morning that the six senior offensive linemen deserve much of the credit for the Cards’ offensive clout. They are, in alphabetical order, Jerek Anderson, Ryan Bickel. Garrett Ferguson, Cody Hall, Shawn Schremmer and Jesse Stolley.
They also have been among the defensive standouts.
The Cards will host Sidney at 7 p.m. Friday. The Red Raiders won their first two games—36-6 over Bridgeport and 8-6 over Chase County—before losing to Cozad 38-20 and to both Holdrege and Yuma, Colo., by 21-12 scores.
The Mitchell statistics:
; Chad.; Mit.
First Downs; 19; 12
Total Net Yards; 512; 221
Rushes, Yards; 31-308; 44-170
Passing Yards; 204; 51
Passing; 7-15-0; 3-12-3
Return Yards; 62; 89
Punts, Ave;. 1-30; 4-29.5
Fumbles, Los;t 0-0; 1-0
Penalties, Yards; 7-70; 7-55
Chadron 12 12 12 7 ----44
Mitchell 6 0 0 2 -----8
Chad—Michael Sorenson 55 pass from Justus Alcorn (kick failed)
Mit—Santiago Castillo 38 pass from Carter Reisig (kick failed)
Chad—Xander Provance 11 pass from Alcorn (run failed)
Chad—Dawson Dunbar 1 run (pass failed)
Chad—Seth Gaswick 52 pass from Alcorn (run failed)
Chad—Gaswick 36 pass from Alcorn (kick failed)
Chad—Dunbar 11 run (pass failed)
Mit—Chadron quarterback tackled in end zone
Chad—Malachi Swallow 1 run (Caden Buskirk run)
Rushing: Chad—Quinn Bailey 10-139, Dawson Dunbar 5-86, Justus Alcorn 11-70, Malachi Swallow 3-11, Xander Provance 2-2. Mit—Carter Reisig 12-69, Hayden Umble 11-56, Cael Peters 15-27, Allen Jackson 5-22, Luke Wetherington 1-minus 4.
Passing: Chad—Justus Alcorn 7-15-0, 205 yards, 4 TDs. Mit—Carter Reisig, 3-12-3, 51 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving: Chad—Seth Gaswick 2-88, 2 TDs; Xander Provance 3-61, 1 TD; Michael Sorenson, 1-50, 1 TD; Dawson Dunbar 1-0. Mit—Santiago Castillo 1-38, Cael Peters 1-9, Adrian Garza 1-4.
Tackles: Chad—Rhett Cullers 3-7, 10; Jesse Stolley 1-9, 10; Dawson Dunbar 2-7, 9; Ryan Bickel 2-5, 7; Gage Wild 1-4, 5; Xander Provance 2-2, 4; Jerek Anderson 1-3, 4; Cody Hall 1-3, 4.