No. 2 Mitchell hoping for strong offensive game to upset Pierre
Mitchell football coach Kent VanOverschelde knows his offense has to get going if it wants to knock off top-ranked Pierre tonight.
“We have to make sure that we stay on our blocks and keep our heads in the game,” senior offensive lineman Dylanger Pierson said. “We’ve seen them on film and they have a good defensive line. But if we keep our heads up and stay on them, we’ll keep their line down and give our running backs and quarterbacks time.”
The game between Class AA’s top two teams in the state is set to begin at 7 p.m. today in Pierre.
In Mitchell’s two wins, it scored 48 points but earned four touchdowns after big plays on defense or special teams. The Kernels (2-0) are led offensively by sophomore quarterback Kanin Nelson. Nelson has completed 12 of 27 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns and has rushed for 75 yards on 24 carries. Running back Mitch Johnson has 37 carries for 78 yards and three touchdowns.
VanOverschelde said his defense has had solid showings thus far but the offense must execute. Junior defensive back Matt Larson leads Mitchell defensively with 31 tackles this season.
“We haven’t given up any big plays defensively so far, and if you can do that and contain good football teams, you’re going to put yourself in a good situation,” VanOverschelde said, adding the defense also has a tall order ahead of it. “Both (Pierre’s) offensive and defensive lines are really solid, but I think their quarterback is the catalyst to their offense.”\
Alexander Gray — Pierre’s three-year starting quarterback — has scored seven touchdowns this season — four of which were through the air. In two games, Gray has thrown for 450 yards and rushed for 204.
“(Gray) is a good leader for us and makes good decisions,” Pierre coach Jayson Poppinga, whose team is 2-0. “His experience and decision making is resulting in success for us so far. ... We’re going to try to get our best kids the ball, and (Gray) does a good job of doing that.”
Seniors Austin Christopherson, a 6-foot-1 wide receiver, and Garret Pochop, a 5-foot-10 wide receiver, are Gray’s go-to guys. Both receivers have racked up 180 yards on the season.
Poppinga, a first-year head coach for Pierre, said his team must control the line of scrimmage and not make any major mistakes because Mitchell has capitalized on turnovers in previous weeks.
“Mitchell has kind of come out as the dark horse this year,” he said. “They show up to play every Friday night and we’re going to have to play our best game this week.”
VanOverschelde said the new classification system allows these matchups to be highly anticipated games throughout the state.
“It puts new significance on games that were in the past just conference games,” he said. “Part of the overall mission of establishing the new class was to create this type of excitement, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
When/Where: 7 p.m. today in Pierre
Last meeting: Pierre defeated Mitchell 34-6 on Sept. 21, 2012, at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.
Coaches: Mitchell’s Kent VanOverschelde, seventh year; Pierre’s Jayson Poppinga, first year
Forecast: 78 degrees and clear at kickoff with a south, southeast wind at 13 mph.
Game notes: This is Mitchell’s third Eastern South Dakota Conference game. The Kernels topped Yankton for the first time since 1987 in the first game of the season and edged Harrisburg Sept. 6 after Mitch Morgan blocked a punt late in the fourth quarter. … Pierre has one conference win over Watertown and defeated Rapid City Central last week. …This is Pierre’s first home game of the season and Mitchell’s second game on the road.
Mitchell projected starters
Position: Name, year, height, weight
QB: Kanin Nelson, sophomore, 6-3, 185
RB: Mitch Johnson, junior, 5-9, 185
WR: Beau Brown, junior, 6-1, 160
WR: Nate Wahlen, senior, 6-2, 165
WR: Landon Neugebauer, junior, 6-0, 160
TE: Tyler Larson, junior, 6-2, 190
TE: Ethan Jones, senior, 6-0, 180
LT: Mitch Morgan, senior, 6-5, 200
LG: Preston Skinner, senior, 6-2, 185
C: Andrew Getty, senior, 6-0, 220
RG: Chandler Nelson, junior, 6-3, 225
RT: Dylanger Pierson, senior, 6-4, 265
DL: Robert McCardle, junior, 6-0, 240
DL: Riley Heck, junior, 5-9, 215
DL: Chase Klingaman, senior, 6-1, 240
LB: Preston Skinner, senior, 6-2, 185
LB: Micah Hettinger, senior, 5-9, 185
LB: Jon Jamison, senior, 6-2, 175
LB: Tyler Larson, junior, 6-2, 180
DB: Chase Harms, senior, 5-10, 155
DB: Matt Larson, junior, 5-11,165
DB: Alex Herrick, senior, 5-11, 165
DB: Nate Wahlen, senior, 6-0, 170
K: Hakon Gustafson Gimrer, senior, 5-11, 140
P: Nathan Wahlen, senior, 6-1, 150
Pierre projected starters
Position: Name, year, height, weight
QB: Alexander Gray, senior, 5-10, 180
RB: Jace Jerome, junior, 5-8, 175
RB: Ethan Case, senior, 5-10, 170
WR: Garret Pochop, senior, 5-10, 155
WR: Austin Christopherson, senior, 6-10, 180
T: Dylan Bennett, senior, 6-3, 310
G: Kyle Veitz, senior, 6-0, 225
C: Graham Protexter, senior, 6-3, 215
G: Ben Leidholt, senior, 5-10, 195
T: Brandon Swenson, senior, 6-1, 250
DL: Brandon Swenson, senior, 6-1, 250
DL: Kyle Veitz, senior, 6-0, 225
DL: Graham Protexter, senior, 6-3, 215
DL: Shay Reinke, senior, 6-1, 170
LB: Jace Jerome, junior, 5-8, 175
LB: Ben Leidholt, senior, 5-10, 195
LB: Matt Blaseg, senior, 6-0, 175
DB: Connor Ryan, junior, 5-10, 160
DB: Austin Christopherson, senior, 6-10, 180
DB: Nate Blaseg, senior, 5-10, 160
DB: Garret Pochop, senior, 5-10, 155