Confident Kernels seeking win over ESD rival YanktonDespite being the underdogs yet again, the Mitchell High School football team practiced with confidence this week.
By: Kevin Pottebaum, The Daily Republic
Despite being the underdogs yet again, the Mitchell High School football team practiced with confidence this week.
The winless Kernels (0-7) take on Yankton (5-2) at 7 p.m. today for an Eastern South Dakota Conference football game in Yankton.
“You could just see there was a little jump in our step and our approach this week has been positive,” Mitchell coach Kent VanOverschelde said.
VanOverschelde credited the team’s optimism to starting quarterback Matt Larson returning to the field.
After missing last week’s game with concussion-like symptoms, Larson returned to practice Monday and was cleared for contact Wednesday and will be starting for Mitchell tonight.
Larson is 68-for-120 passing on the season for 631 yards and is also the team’s third-leading rusher with 102 yards.
“Having him back gives a little more confidence with the line up front,” VanOverschelde said. “With Matt back at the helm and healthy, anything can happen.”
VanOverschelde said even with his team’s confidence, it must control the line of scrimmage to be able to beat the Bucks.
“We have to play physical up front,” VanOverschelde said. “If you think about potential, we have some there. But the reality is the effectiveness and that’s something we have to prove.”
Entering the season, the Kernels’ plan was to handle the line of scrimmage and run the ball effectively. Mitchell has gained 697 yards rushing this season, led by Landon Neugebauer with 252 yards and Mitch Johnson with 203 yards, but Yankton has accumulated 1,550 yards rushing.
Tyler Sipes, a defensive lineman for the Kernels, expects Mitchell to have success stopping the Bucks’ offense.
“We just can’t let their linemen get to the second level and get to our linebackers,” he said. “The linebackers are always able to make big plays and they’re our leading tacklers.”
Linebacker Kirby Fuerst has been the staple of the Mitchell defense, leading the team with 72 tackles. Micah Hettinger is second on the team with 38 tackles, while Alex Herrick, Jon Jamison and Evan Mastel all have 37 tackles on the season.
Yankton coach Arlin Likness said although his team’s run game has been effective — led by Levi Davis with 571 yards and four touchdowns — he would like to see the passing game show some life. The Bucks have thrown for 651 yards this season.
“We need to figure out how to throw and run the ball with equal efficiency,” he said. “We’ve been good at one or the other each game and we need to be able to do both.”
Michael Rucker is the starting quarterback for Yankton. On the season he has completed 44 of 73 passes for four touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s also rushed for a team-high six touchdowns.
Both teams enter the game trying to end losing streaks. While the Kernels haven’t come out on top all season, Yankton has dropped its last two after starting the year 5-0.
“We have to focus on getting momentum and a win gives us a chance to play for the ESD Conference title,” Likness said.
VanOverschelde knows how important this game is for the Bucks.
“Yankton is fighting for one of those first four spots in the playoffs and we can play a spoiler in that,” he said.
Added Sipes: “It’d be nice for us to get some morale. Hopefully the offense can score a few points and lead us to a win.”
When/Where: 7 p.m. today in Yankton.
Last meeting: Yankton won 34-29 on Oct. 14, 2011, in Mitchell.
Coaches: Mitchell’s Kent VanOverschelde, sixth year; Yankton’s Arlin Likness, 14th year.
Forecast: 55 degrees and mostly cloudy at kickoff with a south-southeast wind at 15 mph and a 10 percent chance of precipitation.
Game notes: Yankton has a 28-game winning streak over the Kernels. Mitchell’s last victory over the Bucks came in 1987. … Mitchell’s Alex Herrick got the start at quarterback last week for the injured Matt Larson. Herrick had started on defense for the Kernels in previous weeks, however, Herrick did not return to the starting lineup on defense with Larson’s return. “That’s just how things worked out, but (Herrick) will obviously see time,” VanOverschelde said. “Alex Herrick is an important part of our team and he is going to contribute in a lot of ways.” … Yankton’s leading rusher, Levi Davis, was not an anticipated starter at the beginning of the season. The Bucks dealt with injuries early in the year and the sophomore was given more opportunities. “I thought he’d be a good backup for us and he started on defense,” Likness said. “I didn’t expect Davis to have as good of a season as he has, but we’ll take it.” Davis’ 571 yards rushing is almost 300 yards more than the team’s second leading rusher James Hisek (274).
Mitchell projected starters
Position: Name, year, height, weight
QB: Matt Larson, soph., 5-10, 150
HB: Mitch Johnson, soph., 5-7, 155
FB: Landon Neugebauer, soph., 5-11, 150
WR: Beau Brown, soph., 5-11, 145
TE: Evan Mastel, sr., 5-10, 180
TE: Ethan Jones, jr., 6-0, 180
C: Andrew Getty, jr., 6-1, 220
LT: Chandler Nelson, soph., 6-1, 220
LG: Ben Morken, sr., 5-10, 230
RG: Justice Hinker, sr., 6-1, 235
RT: Dylanger Pierson, jr., 6-4, 270
DL: Justice Hinker, sr., 6-0, 220
DL: Tyler Sipes, sr., 6-1, 250
DL: Brad Muller, sr., 5-11, 230
LB: Jon Jamison, jr., 6-2, 165
LB: Ethan Jones, jr., 6-0, 180
LB: Kirby Fuerst, sr., 5-11, 175
LB: Micah Hettinger, jr., 5-9, 175
CB: Chase Harms, jr., 5-6, 145
CB: Nathan Wahlen, jr., 6-0, 140
S: Evan Mastel, sr., 5-10, 180
S: Beau Brown, soph., 5-11, 145
K: Kanin Nelson, fr., 6-3, 175
P: Nathan Wahlen, jr., 6-0, 140
Yankton projected starters
Position: Name, year, height, weight
QB: Michael Rucker, sr., 6-0, 185
RB: Evan Schroeder, sr., 5-9, 175
RB: Levi Davis, soph., 5-8, 155
FB: Jordan Lightner, soph., 5-9, 215
TE: Troy Hunhoff, sr., 6-4, 232
TE: J.J. Hejna, jr., 6-4, 190
C: Adam Spencer, sr., 5-10, 220
LT: Logan VanWinkle, sr., 6-1, 236
LG: Steven McKee, jr., 5-11, 228
RG: Kellen Soulek, sr., 6-4, 270
RT: John Iverson, sr., 6-0, 2-5
DT: Steven McKee, jr., 5-11, 228
DT: Kellen Soulek, sr., 6-4, 270
DE: Troy Hunhoff, sr., 6-4, 232
DE: Sam Wendte, sr., 5-10, 155
LB: J.J. Hejna, jr., 6-4, 190
LB: James Hisek, sr., 5-11, 180
LB: Jordan Lightner, soph, 5-9, 215
LB: Levi Davis, soph., 5-8, 155
DB: Evan Schroeder, sr., 5-9, 175
DB: Kolby LaCroix, sr., 5-10, 150
DB: Tanner Termansen, jr., 6-0, 165