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MHS football team picked ninth by ESD head coaches

Mitchell wide receiver Chase Harms returns a kickoff during a game against Eastern South Dakota Conference foe Brandon Valley last season. (Daily Republic file photo)

Brandon Valley is the Eastern South Dakota Conference football head coaches’ favorite, but despite returning most of its starters, Mitchell didn’t seem to sway the coaches the same way.

In a survey conducted by The Daily Republic, the nine ESD coaches — including the newest team Harrisburg — picked the Kernels to finish last in the conference this season. In the poll, coaches were asked to rank each team — except their own — one through eight. Teams picked to finish first received eight points in a system that awards eight points to first place, seven for second, six for third, five for fourth, four for fifth, three for sixth, two for seventh and one for eighth.

Mitchell, which returns eight starters on both the offense and defensive sides of the ball from last year’s team, finished with 13 points.

“If you watched us play at times last year, we’re probably pretty deserving of that prediction,” said Mitchell head coach VanOverschelde, whose team won its only game against Huron last year. “But basically the challenge is in front of the coaching staff and players to go out and prove that we’re able to compete. “We’ve improved in areas that are going to help us be successful and we’ll probably know more about where those rankings fall after the first week.”

The Lynx were the favorite, receiving five first-place votes. Last season, the Lynx made the Class AA state title game before losing to eventual champion Sioux Falls Washington 35-20.

Pierre was second place and received three first-place votes. Yankton was close behind the Governors in third, but did not receive any first-place votes. The Bucks were picked as the preseason No. 1 ranking in Class AA in the South Dakota Sportswriters Association poll released Monday.

“Being ranked helps solidify you can get to that point,” Yankton head coach Arlin Likness said. “There are a lot of things that some come through and others don’t. It comes down to how teams gel together, and it’s too early to make anything out of it.”

With a new look to the conference this year with nine teams, there are a lot of questions. No team will play all of its conference opponents this season. With the addition of Harrisburg, each team will play six in ESD matchups. This year, the Kernels dodge the two Class AAA schools — Brandon Valley and Aberdeen Central.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that that’s a huge advantage,” VanOverschelde said. “Looking at our schedule and looking ahead, we can be competitive each and every week. When it’s all said and done, with the double-A schedule and ESD changes, I think it’s going to be a pretty exciting fall.”

Aberdeen and Brookings rounded out the top five in the poll.

ESD preseason coaches’ poll

1. Brandon Valley 58 (5)

2. Pierre 52 (3)

3. Yankton 51

4. Aberdeen Central 40

5. Brookings 36

6. Watertown 34

7. Harrisburg 20

8. Huron 17

9. Mitchell 13

* 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 email to nine ESD football coaches

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.