MESTER: Tonight's Mitchell versus Yankton football game to decide ESD raceEric Bortnem remembers the moment he started to believe Mitchell was going to pull the upset last week against Sioux Falls Lincoln.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
Eric Bortnem remembers the moment he started to believe Mitchell was going to pull the upset last week against Sioux Falls Lincoln.
“That pass interference call at the end really seemed to take the air out of them,” Bortnem said.
The senior wide receiver was referring to Jason Greenway drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone in the final minutes last week’s game. The flag moved the ball deep into Lincoln territory and set up Brent Havlik’s eventual game-winning quarterback sneak in Mitchell’s 50-49 upset victory.
When the air was taken out of Lincoln last week, a jolt of energy was put into the Mitchell football program.
The Kernels’ challenge tonight is to make sure the celebration of the program’s biggest victory in memory has not lasted too long.
Without a doubt, last week’s victory was a huge one for the third-ranked Kernels. What it also did was put a spotlight on a team ready to host its biggest Eastern South Dakota Conference game in years tonight.
Mitchell is riding high and will have the home crowd behind it. And the Kernels will have a team they haven’t beaten in more than two decades lining up across from them.
Yankton has been atop the ESD all season long. The Bucks won five straight ESD games to start the season before falling to a pair of Sioux Falls schools — top-ranked Roosevelt and fourth-ranked Sioux Falls Washington — in the past two weeks.
And while beating a Sioux Falls school did send shockwaves through the rest of the state, it does nothing to help the Kernels win an ESD crown — something MHS has not won since before everyone on this year’s roster was born.
“This is the game that matters for the ESD title,” Mitchell junior inside linebacker Kirby Fuerst said. “Last week is over with.”
The Kernels, currently sitting in fourth in the Class 11AA power-point standings, are a notch ahead of Yankton when it comes to the playoff picture. The Bucks are in fifth and Sioux Falls Washington is sixth heading into today’s action.
That all can change in a hurry after today, though.
A loss and the Kernels are eliminated from ESD title contention.
A win tonight puts Mitchell in the driver’s seat to at least sharing the conference title, as the team travels to Huron (3-4) next week.
Yankton is 5-0 in the ESD and next week hosts Brandon Valley, which is 4-1 in conference play entering tonight’s game against Pierre. Next week’s games are being played on Thursday and will end the regular season.
So, despite the remarkable victory a week ago, Mitchell’s ESD hopes come down to this evening at Joe Quintal Field.
“We have a group of kids that, if you’re willing to stay up past midnight, you can see some action,” VanOverschelde said, referring to last week’s weather-delayed win that ended early Saturday morning.
If for no other reason than the fact the newspaper has a deadline, let’s hope this week’s action can get over a bit earlier.