Tigers rope Longhorns, 35-21
     2015-09-17      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen - Mitchell QB Drew Gilliland scored a touchdown in the early going against Kimball Friday night. Drew Gilliland had 16 carries for 74 yards, the biggest chunk came during a 71-yard punt return. 
Pulling away in the fourth quarter, the Mitchell Tigers outlasted the Kimball Longhorns in a non-conference tilt Friday night, 35-21, at Kimball’s Keith Staehr Field. The Tigers ran 39 plays and racked up 261 all-purpose yards, with 184 yards on 34 plays rushing, and just five passes.

The Tigers (2-1) made their biggest dent with brothers Drake and Drew Gilliland who combined for several long rushes. Senior QB Drew Gilliland’s longest run came on a 71-yard punt return to close out the third quarter; he had 16 carries for 74 yards, while sophomore Drake Gilliland had 15 carries for 117 yards. Junior wide receiver Abe Hernandez had 1 carry for 9 yards, topping off his performance with a 67-yard reception and run for a touchdown.

Calling them “fun to watch with all kinds of speed,” and making an impact for the team, Head Coach Jimmie Rhodes said Hernandez, the Gilliland brothers, and running back Christian Perez also make up the 4x100 relay team for Mitchell.

Rhodes also praised the play of the offensive line made up of left tackle Wyatt McMillen, left guard Ethan Einfalt, center Bailey Branson, right guard Noah Hernandez, and right tackle Calin Bosse for opening up some big holes against the Longhorns.

“Defensively, Drake had a good night, along with sophomore linebacker Casey Peterson,” Rhodes said. “Defense did a nice job of causing them problems in the backfield.”

Notably, Hernandez had six solo tackles, and one assisted tackle. Christian Perez had three solo

tackles, and five assists. Drew Gilliland had four solo tackles, three assists, and one pick. Trenton Strawder had two solos, four assists, and a fumble recovery.

So far this season, Rhodes said the most improved player has been junior lineman Cleveland Burnett, who had never played high school football. “He is doing a great job for us,” Rhodes said.

As the contest opened, Mitchell and Kimball traded punts. In their second offensive series, the Longhorns got on track, driving deep into Mitchell territory. At about the 4:30 mark, the Tigers defense dug deep. After two measures by the officials, Mitchell halted the drive with just inches to spare at about Kimball’s 40. In their second offensive series, the Tigers started on their own 26-yard line. After eight plays, a flag for holding, and a negative run, the Tigers faced a long fourth down, opting to punt from the about their own 20. Kimball returned the ball to the Mitchell 44. It didn’t take long for Kimball to strike first, capping a five-play drive with a 30-yard scamper by running back Jaden Withrow to end the first quarter, thus giving Kimball the lead, 7-0.
Kimball recovered an onside kick to start the second quarter, but the Tigers defense held, snuffing the drive on their own 41. The Longhorns turned the ball over on downs. Four plays later, Mitchell struck back after runs of 25 yards and 12 yards by Drew Gilliland. The Tigers missed the field goal try, making the score 7-6. More than midway through the second quarter, Kimball fumbled on the seventh play of the drive. The Tigers middle linebacker Strawder recovered.

On the next play, Tigers’ running back Drake Gilliland gained nearly 40 yards rushing. Officials tacked on an unsportsmanlike penalty, putting the ball at the 9-yard line, where Mitchell scored again. Kimball wasted little time responding, returning the kickoff for good field position at the Tiger 48. Nine plays later, the Longhorns again found the end zone, tying the score at 13 apiece after Kimball missed the field goal.
The score remained tied 13-13 at the half.
When the second half opened, the Tigers received and returned the kickoff to their 41. Three plays later, junior wide receiver Hernandez hauled in a Drew Gilliland pass, taking it 67 yards into the end zone for another Tigers score, putting Mitchell ahead, 20-13. In their next turn on offense, the Longhorns fumbled during the return. Two plays later, the Tigers fumbled, giving the ball back. A hard fought drive from the Kimball 37, the Longhorns scored again, tacking on a successful two-points try to make the score 21-13, with just seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. It was all the offense the Longhorns would get.

Both the Tigers and Longhorns next drives fizzled. When Kimball punted away from its own 39, Drew Gilliland gave the Tigers faithful something worth the 50-mile trip from home. His spectacular punt return for a 71-yard TD, and run for the extra two points, put Mitchell ahead for good, 28-21, in the closing moments of the third quarter.

Mitchell’s last score came with nearly 3:21 in the fourth quarter. A gassed Longhorns team turned it over on downs on their own 44. Icing on the cake, Drew Gilliland’s 12-yard TD after a six-play drive ensured the Tigers victory, 35-21.

Rhodes said that this week his team “needs to focus on assignments and defense to stop Lingle-Fort Laramie’s misdirection offense. They do a lot of spinning around, and running parallel to the line, using an unbalanced formation. If we get caught watching, they’ll take advantage of us. We want our players to keep focused and gap sound.”
Mitchell (2-1) takes on Lingle-Fort Laramie tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 18) at 7 p.m.

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