Kernels rebuilding on O-line
The Kernel football team returns 18 seniors but a key part of the offense must be rebuilt this season.
Mitchell lost four starters from last year's offensive line. Head coach Kent VanOverschelde is looking to senior Chandler Nelson, a two-year starter on the offensive line, to share his experience with the other lineman.
"All of the guys that are projected to possibly start on the offensive line this year have participated in other sports or they have prepared themselves in the weight room," VanOverschelde said Thursday at a middle school camp he ran at the Joe Quintal south field. "We feel we can really start where we left off last year and get some things done up front."
Senior running back Mitch Johnson said the offensive line will be the only question mark for the team heading into the season.
"Hopefully we can get some guys to step up and do really well," said Johnson, who led the team in rushing last year with 520 yards and four touchdowns and was named the team's Most Valuable Player. "I think we can (have some guys step up) and if that happens, the whole season will be really exciting."
Senior defensive lineman Riley Heck, who won defensive lineman of the year last year, said returning 18 seniors will help the team heading into the season.
"A lot of our young guys have put in a lot of hard work," Heck said. "Hopefully in practice we can get them as ready as possible for varsity football, so they're not too surprised with the speed of the game."
With the Kernels opening the season against Yankton, which Mitchell beat early in the year but lost to in the playoffs, Heck said the game will be a good test for the team.
"We have some animosity towards them," Heck said. "It was a big win last year, but it would be a good win to start this year."
Mitchell beat Yankton for the first time since 1987 in the opening game of the 2013 season 27-21 in Yankton.
VanOverschelde said the team feels like it still left something from the playoff game last year against Yankton, which Mitchell lost 48-12.
"Having them come here for opening weekend is pretty exciting," VanOverschelde said. "It's a challenge and I think it's a challenge that we have been working towards since the end of the season last year."
Mitchell, which finished 3-6 last season, hosts Yankton at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.
The Kernels' first day of practice is Aug. 14, which is the first date for all teams around the state to begin practice, according to the rules set by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
"The anticipation and preparation that goes into preparing for season makes it really exciting when it's this close," VanOverschelde said. "Come August 14, we will know what team we really have."