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ESD coaches' poll has Kernels at the bottom

(Kevin Pottebaum/Republic) Mitchell High School's Kanin Nelson, left, hands the ball off to Damon Wangerin during a scrimmage Friday at the practice field at Joe Quintal Stadium in Mitchell.

One year after finishing at the top of the poll, the Mitchell High School football team finished at the bottom of the Eastern South Dakota Conference's preseason coaches' poll.

In a poll conducted via e-mail by The Daily Republic, the eight ESD coaches picked the Kernels to finish last in the conference. In the poll, coaches were asked to rank each team -- except their own -- one through seven. Teams picked to finish first received seven points in a system that awards seven points to first place, six for second, five for third, four for fourth, three for fifth, two for sixth and one point for a seventh-place vote.

Mitchell, which returns two starters on offense and two on defense from last year's squad, finished with 11 points in the poll.

"Everybody knows that we graduated a bunch of kids and have a bunch of unknowns," Mitchell coach Kent VanOverschelde said.

"Based on the poll, we've got a mountain to climb."

Brandon Valley finished with 49 points, receiving all first-place votes.

Yankton was second place in the voting, receiving one first-place and six second-place votes.

Huron head coach Mike Postma said Brandon Valley's experience on the roster make them a dangerous team in the conference.

"They've got a lot of quality players returning," he said. "With what they have coming back, they're kind of the cream of the crop in the ESD."

After the top two teams, schools seemed to bounce around as to where coaches picked the teams to finish.

"The other six teams have a lot of new faces coming in," Postma said. "When you have a lot of younger guys, it's kind of a wait and see to find out how the kids are going to step in and how competitive they are."

Yankton's coach Arlin Likness said he believes Brandon Valley has a team that could make a run at a state title.

"They've got good numbers and good size to go with that," he said. "If you're going across the state, I think a lot of people have (Sioux Falls) Washington and Brandon Valley as the top two picks."

Pierre finished the poll in the third spot with 32 points. Brookings and Aberdeen capped off the top five with 26 and 25 points respectively and Watertown -- Mitchell's first opponent at 7 p.m. Saturday in Watertown -- received 21 points for sixth place. Huron's 17 points put them in seventh place in the poll.

"In the ESD, anything can happen," VanOverschelde said. "I think this will be a year where a lot of things will happen."

ESD preseason coaches' poll

1. Brandon Valley 49 (7)

2. Yankton 43 (1)

3. Pierre 32

4. Brookings 26

5. Aberdeen 25

6. Watertown 21

7. Huron 17

8. Mitchell 11

*First number indicates total points awarded from coaches. The second number in parentheses

indicates total number of first-place votes. Poll

conducted by The Daily Republic via e-mail to eight ESD football coaches.