Senior-heavy Kernels hit gridiron
Kent VanOverschelde thought his Kernel football squad made the most of its first day of practice.
With the team returning 18 seniors, the first day of practice Thursday at the Joe Quintal south field was a way for the team to start figuring out what kind of team it will be during the 2014 season.
"I felt there was a good sense of urgency with our players," Kernel head coach VanOverschelde said. "From the time in the locker room before practice until the time practice ended, I think there has been an effort to want to be successful. I was very pleased with the first day of practice."
Mitchell finished the year 3-6 in 2013 and looks to get a fast start this season against Yankton in the season opener at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.
"The main goal is to build on developing a team," VanOverschelde said about the goals of the crucial few practices before the season starts. "Make each drill a value to the next one, and work on developing a crispness to each drill.
"Overall, our first and foremost goal is to worry just about the Mitchell Kernels, and not our opponents coming up."
The team worked on position drills for a large part of Thursday's practice, with each position drill having its own coach. VanOverschelde worked with the quarterbacks and said returning starting quarterback, junior Kanin Nelson, put in a lot of time over the summer.
"From my observations today, he has prepared so well throughout the last year," VanOverschelde said. "Kanin is a real verbal leader, but you can tell with his poise, calmness and approach, he's the leader of our football team."
Last season as a first-year starter and sophomore, Nelson threw for 1,009 yards and six touchdowns, while rushing for 267 yards and six touchdowns.
Nelson, who received his first scholarship offer Wednesday to play football for Dakota Wesleyan University, said it was great to work with the team all together for the first time.
"We had a goal this summer to come prepared for this first practice," Nelson said. "I think we had a good, prepared practice today."
Along with Nelson, VanOverschelde said the seniors and returning varsity players will be asked to lead the team on and off the field.
"They need to establish their own roles on this football team," VanOverschelde said. "I think across the board, all our kids that have experience need to step up."
Nelson agreed and said every player needs to play his part to improve off last season.
"We need to have everyone know what they need to do at a certain position," said Nelson, who attended five football camps this summer. "I think the team knows that is what we need to do."
The team started its day at the South Dakota National Guard building north of town, where the players took part in team and leadership building activities before hitting the gridiron. VanOverschelde, who said he wasn't present for those activities, said all indications from the team was that they enjoyed the experience.
"It was a good way to get them focused in," VanOverschelde said about the team working with the National Guard.
The team will continue to practice weekdays leading up to the first game of the season. Last year, Mitchell beat Yankton for the first time since the 1980s in its season opener, and the Kernels look to build a winning streak of their own against the Bucks.
"We're just preparing every day and getting better every single day," Nelson said. "Last year, we started with a big win and we need to do that again this year."