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Tigers pounce on ’Horns, 46-30: Mitchell’s Gilliland scores 4 TDs
September 16, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Mitchell running back Drake Gilliland heads for a TD during the first half hosting Kimball. It was one of four he scored on the night in a 46-30 drubbing of the Longhorns.

In what appeared to be a high scoring affair in the first half ended up that way for Mitchell.

Once they got going, the Tigers, led by junior running back Drake Gilliland, dominated the Kimball Longhorns in their third game of the season, 46-30, rebounding from a disappointing 40-7 loss the Pine Bluffs Hornets (Wyoming), the week prior.

The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Gilliland had a workman like effort with 30 carries, rushing for a total 314 yards and four touchdowns, accounting for more than half of his team’s scoring. Overall, on the season, Gilliland has amassed 601 yards accruing an 8.5-yard rushing average, and like his brother Drew, Class of 2016, could pan out to be an All-Star one day.

Currently, Mitchell is in a four-way tie with C1-8 District foes Chase County, Gordon-Rushville, Ogallala, and Chadron. The Tigers take on the Bridgeport Bulldogs at home tonight, September 16, and face Gordon-Rushville next week.

Non-district opponent last Friday, Kimball at 0-3, is still searching for its first win of the season.

“The guys focus has really improved through the season,” said Mitchell Football Head Coach Jimmie Rhodes. “The guys know that they have to play with an upbeat attitude or bad things will happen.”

On Gilliland’s dominating performance, Rhodes said, “Drake has done a great job of understanding his role on the team and has enjoyed playing behind his O-line.”

With 5:45 left in the first quarter, Kimball had tied things up at 6-6, matching the Tigers early TD. Both teams missed points after which proved to be a pattern for the night. On the second play of Mitchell’s next drive, junior QB Ryan Hubbard hit receiver Abe Hernandez in stride for a 32-yard pickup. That set up a ground attack that was all Gilliland, who pounded away at the Longhorn defense for an eventual TD from five yards out. Mitchell led, 12-6. Kimball answered as time expired in the first quarter, back on top, 14-12.

Mitchell sputtered on its next drive punting from about midfield. Kimball did the same on a short-lived five-play effort.

The Tigers mounted their next drive from their own 36, relying once again on Gilliland who tore off large chunks of real estate on five runs, including a TD. The drive, aided by an off-side penalty, put the Tigers back in the lead, 18-14.

Kimball answered with a 96-yard run back on the kickoff by senior Kyle Spicer, making the score 22-18, in the Longhorns’ favor.

Mitchell recaptured the lead on its next drive, back up 25-22 with 4:59 left in the second quarter. After starting in good field position on its own 41, Kimball squandered a promising drive. Running back Jaden Withrow coughed up the ball on Mitchell’s 19. Mitchell back with the ball answered with a TD-reception by Hernandez. The Tigers led, 32-22, with 30 seconds left.

After the half, it was all Mitchell. On an almost identical drive to its last one, Mitchell improved the score to 39-22. In the next drive, Kimball turned it over on an interception.

Getting the ball back, Rhodes put it back in the hands of Gilliland and company for his last TD on the night.

Kimball mustered a positive drive, starting at its own 9, with about 4:41 left in the game. The Longhorns went 91 yards in seven plays, capped by 20-yard run by freshman running back Braydan Tyan, making the final score 46-30.

In the look ahead, sans Bridgeport and Kearney Catholic on September 30, the Tigers will be challenged by district opponents down the stretch and a chance at post-season life.

“The locker room has been upbeat and loose, expecting great things to happen for them,” Rhodes said. Even though, “We really don’t have captains, we have leaders of this team. The guys understand that playing hard for each other wins games. Every week someone or a group of guys have stepped up, we’re still a very inexperienced team learning how to play together.”

Regarding a strategy in taking on the Bulldogs tonight, Rhodes said, “We’ve found some things that the guys are good at and understand inside and out. We’re sticking with it.”
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