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Golden Eagles celebrate homecoming with win over Mitchell

Aberdeen Central’s Karson Carda (4) runs free along the sideline in front of the Mitchell bench early in the third quarter of Friday night’s game at Golden Eagles Field. Giving chase for the Kernels are Trevon Austell (89) and Bryce Palmer (24). Photo by John Davis taken 9/16/2022

Justin Briese shivered in the post-game breeze. The gatorade bath – that age-old tradition of sports – had been chilly, but the first-year head coach didn’t actually mind. Winning was worth it.

Briese and the Aberdeen Central football program celebrated a 27-13 victory over Mitchell Friday evening, capping its homecoming week in entertaining fashion and earning Briese his first career victory in the process.

“Week four,” Briese said. “Our first two weeks were pretty tough, and then last week we thought we had a chance against Sturgis, and didn’t play the best. But tonight, we came out and played a whole 48 minutes. It felt pretty good to play a complete game.”

Everything, it seemed, bounced Central’s way. The Golden Eagles recovered five fumbles, an onside kick and an interception in the win, and that was just the defensive side of the field. Karson Carda had 24 carries for 207 yards, while Dustin Hermansen was 8-for-12 for 177 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions to pace Central’s offensive efforts.

“Our defense has done a great job all year of keeping us in games and giving us good field position,” Briese said. “It’s been huge for us.”

Senior defensive lineman Brian Johnson came up with two of Central’s five fumble recoveries. Both of Johnson’s recoveries came early in the game, helping set up a short field on Central’s first two offensive drives.

“It means a lot,” Johnson said. “We’ve waited a long time for this, going 0-3 (to start the season). Those were big stops that gave us a lot of momentum.”

Drew Salfrank got the Golden Eagles on the board with the first of his two touchdowns. Austin Erickson followed just minutes later and Central never looked back.

Up 14-7 at the half, Central took its opening drive of the second half down for a quick score, then pulled off a surprise onside kick. Jett Carlson recovered that ball near midfield, then Salfrank hauled in a 40-yard catch from Hermansen on the very next play that effectively sucked the lifeblood from the Mitchell sideline.

Hermansen found Salfrank again for a 10-yard touchdown for the Golden Eagles’ final score.

“If I’m not mistaken, this is our first (homecoming) win in 14 years,” Johnson said. “For it to be our first win (of the season) and on homecoming – we’ve been building up to this since I was a little kid in seventh grade. So for it to come true, and I’m actually playing in the game, it’s unbelievable. It’s surreal. There’s no feeling like it.”

Aberdeen Central’s Brian Johnson, top center, tries to pull the ball away from Mitchell’s Treyson Schulz (12) as Central’s. Max Leberman, bottom right, combines to make a tackle during Friday night’s game at Golden Eagles Field. Schulz was ruled down on the play. Looking on are Central’s Will Heinert (2), Jett Carlson (5) and Parker Lemer (11). At far right for the Kernels is Jagger Tyler. Photo by John Davis taken 9/16/2022

Mitchell, for its part, was able to move the ball and pick up yardage in sizeable chunks at times. Quarterback Treyson Schulz ran for 74 yards and was 13-for-21 for 120 yards and a touchdown.

“Sometimes we have to be willing to give up things,” Briese said. “That was one of the things we were willing to give up and let them have those yards instead of big yards over the top.”

But it was ultimately the turnovers, particularly early, that upended any hope of a comeback from the Kernels.

Central made a big fourth-quarter defensive stand to gain the ball back on downs, after which Carda galloped downfield for a 42-yard gain that helped seal the victory for the Golden Eagles.

“It’s always fun to watch Karson Carda run the ball,” Johnson said. “Drew, Spencer – our entire offense is really good. We have some talented guys on our team, so it’s really cool to watch them. We see it in practice, but to see it prevail in a game is even better.”

Central will head to Huron next Friday for another Eastern South Dakota Conference contest.

Mitchell 0 7 0 6 – 13

Aberdeen Central 14 0 13 0 – 27

First Quarter

AC – Drew Salfrank 6 run (Tayden Brownson kick).

AC – Austin Erickson 3 run (Brownson kick).

Second Quarter

MIT – Jagger Tyler 24 run (Brenen Rose kick).

Third Quarter

AC – Spencer Barr 24 pass from Dustin Hermansen (Brownson kick).

AC – Salfrank 10 pass from Hermansen (kick failed).

Fourth Quarter

MIT – AJ Siemsen 15 pass from Treyson Schulz (kick failed).

OFFENSE: Mitchell rushing 28-150 (Schulz 14-74), passing 14-22-1 for 170 (Schulz 13-21-1 for 120, Tyler 1-1 for 50), receiving (Siemsen 6-107, Bryce Palmer 4-41); Aberdeen Central rushing 44-232 (Karson Carda 24-207, Avery Ligon 9-38), passing 8-12-0 for 177 (Hermansen 8-12-0 for 177), receiving (Salfrank 5-117, Erickson 2-26, Barr 1-34).

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