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Offseason training key for Kernels' football season

Mitchell Kernel JetLi Heng runs with the ball during the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Football Camp Wednesday morning at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Eric Mayer/Republic)

With the start of football season only a few weeks away, the Mitchell High School football team is already deep into a busy offseason full of camps.

On Wednesday, Kernel head coach Kent VanOverschelde, along with the assistance of the Dakota Wesleyan football staff, hosted the Fellowship of Christian Athletes fundamental football drills and instruction camp for grades 5-12 at Joe Quintal Field.

"The offseason for the Kernels has progressed real well this year," VanOverschelde said. "Not only our football-related events, but also our weight-room preparation has taken a step forward in preparation for the start of the season."

While the football team had some players at the Augustana College football camp Tuesday in Sioux Falls, three Kernel players participated and helped facilitate the FCA camp on Wednesday. VanOverschelde stressed how important each offseason event is in order to be ready by the first official practice in August.

"It's just become an absolute must," said VanOverschelde about offseason training. "Especially with our schedule, starting football right when school starts, there just isn't a lot of time in that two week schedule before the first game to really prepare for an entire season. The work people are doing in the offseason and that push to get multi-sport athletes is just a must for a successful season."

Senior outside linebacker Tyler Larson agreed with VanOverschelde on the importance of a strong offseason schedule,

"It gets you on the right foot and it gets you in shape,' Larson said. "It helps the team out a lot knowing what needs to be done."

Mitchell, which finished 3-6 last season, returns 18 seniors for the 2014 season. VanOverschelde said everyone returning this year had has time on the field before in key skill positions.

"The youth this season will be on the offensive line," VanOverschelde said. "Those younger linemen are the ones who have really put in the time in the weight room and participated in other sports. Hopefully that puts us ahead from where we left off last year on both the offensive and defensive lines."

Larson said the high-school players are working on improving on basic skills and their footwork at the FCA camp and having a strong group of seniors returning should help the Kernels this season.

"It's not a great number, it's not a bad number. We will still be having a lot of experience with the people returning who have been there before," Larson said.

Mitchell Kernel football will start the season against Yankton on Aug. 30 at Joe Quintal Field.

FCA camp teaching more than football

For the 14th consecutive year, Dr. Marty Christensen and his family sponsored the FCA football camp in Mitchell.

The main focus of the FCA camp, which hosted 36 kids, is to provide students with a unique opportunity to improve fundamentally in faith, leadership and football skills.

Christensen said the camp was first started to help improve the skill set of future kickers and punters with the FCA helping develop a spiritual part of the game.

"It helps to train players three-dimensionally," Christensen said. "After football, there is another life, and that involves God."

Former New Orleans Saints punter Brian Hansen, who has helped lead the camp for 14 years, said the camp focuses the athletes on the important parts of football and life.

"With the sports-craze world that we live in today, sports consumes a lot of our time and passions," Hansen said. "From an FCA perspective, we see sports as a tool that God gives us to teach us and test us. Sports teach us valuable lessons about discipline, commitment, passion and sacrifice."