By Noah Dalton
FERDINAND – Mitchell High School’s season came to an end on Friday, as the Bluejackets were beaten by Forest Park 57-7 in the opening round of sectional play.
The Rangers’ offense racked up 424 total yards of offense, with the majority of those coming on the ground with backs Jace Berg (145) and Jaxon Lueken (197) combining for 242 rushing yards. Lueken had four touchdowns on the night, including a 53-yard passing TD to Jaden Bettag in the first quarter, with Berg adding three scoring runs of his own.
Injuries plagued Mitchell in the matchup, according to Bluejackets’ head coach Kevin Kling.
“We’ve had injuries. We just started running out of pieces, we ran out of bodies and when you run out of bodies and you start playing with a bunch of young guys on the field, it’s not good,” he said.
Mitchell’s offense was slow to get started, being held without a first down for nearly the entire first quarter.
They scored their first and only touchdown of the game in the second quarter, stringing together multiple big gains, including two 20-plus yard completions from quarterback Kale England to Kyzen Wigley, which brought the Bluejackets to the goalline, where tight-end Lucas Gosnell was able to catch a deflected pass for the score.
Though they weren’t able to find the endzone again in the second half, Mitchell’s ground game was able to get going during the back half of the game. In the first half Bluejackets’ running back Gavin Robinson had been held to just 6 yards on 8 carries, being stopped in the backfield on nearly every attempt. In the second half, Robinson rushed for 62 yards on the same number of tries.
Kling commended the effort of his young offensive line, which had been reduced to just one of the team’s original starters remaining from the beginning of the season due to injuries, with many underclassmen stepping in for the game.
“We had a freshman, three juniors and a senior. One junior, this was his first year playing. Freshman, you know what you’re going to get with freshman and the other juniors have been backups and JV guys all year and that’s kind of where were at,” he said. “But they fought their butts off and they did everything they could to try to get us creases so we can move the football and got progressively better and better.”
“That’s all you can ask for when you’re in the situation we were in with the injuries tonight. The fact that those guys showed up and did everything they could try to get us there. I mean, hats off to them. They busted their butts,” he added.
Robinson finished the game with 68 rushing yards across 16 attempts. England threw for 169 yards, completing 18 of his 30 attempts. His top targets on the night were Wigley, who caught four passes for 65 yards and Ashton Luman, who brought in seven receptions for a team-high 71 yards.
With this being the final game of their season, Mitchell will be saying goodbye to their seniors, which includes 11 members of the roster. Kling praised the group’s efforts this season.
“They’ve worked really, really hard. Core guys that came every day and did everything that we asked them to. We did everything we could by them and it’s tough to watch them go,” he said.
With a final record of 2-8, going 1-4 in Patoka Lake Athletic Conference play, this was a tough season for the Bluejackets, even with their final record improving from last year’s outing of 1-9.
Kling said he could feel the team’s improvement as the season progressed, but knows they’ll need to be more consistent moving forward if they want to continue getting better.
“I know some games it didn’t show up, but I thought we were better this year than last year. We did some things better this year and then when the injuries start creeping up on you and you’ve got a youth movement, it’s hard. It’s really hard,” he said.
“It’s hard to stay consistent and consistency is the biggest thing right now. We just have to find a way to be consistent. We put it together for a drive or two. We put it together for a game, but then we struggled to put it back together. But like I’ve said day in and day out, when they’re that young, they don’t understand the consistency and that’s part of the development for young kids.”