Mitchell gets back to the basics

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Mitchell High School's football team may have put an emphasis on developing its passing attack during the offseason, but the identity of the program is still as a run-dominant offense.

Fans in attendance at Dykhouse Stadium last Friday against Brookings were witnesses as the Kernels ran the ball on 60 of their 68 offensive plays and piled up 430 rushing yards, including a bruising fourth-quarter drive, punctuated by a Carson Max 24-yard touchdown run to seal the game.

This came after throwing the ball 22 times and averaging just 3.3 yards per carry in the season-opening loss to Watertown.

"We're just going to line up and try to make some plays and move the ball ahead with an attitude of we're gonna get four yards and reset," MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "You try to make it look a certain way and understand how you're going to win because the games that we need to get, we're probably gonna try to run the football predominantly."

What makes the Mitchell rushing attack dangerous is not only a variety of different ball carriers with different skills, but the ability to run all of its run plays from any formation in the playbook.

On Friday night, the Kernels scored touchdowns on a toss sweep to Drew Kitchens and a stretch play to Max in the I-formation, along with a 70-yard Kiel Nelson quarterback draw out of the shotgun.

"We're very versatile, we can run just about everything out of every formation and I think that's just good to have in the playbook," said Mitch Schladweiler, a senior offensive tackle.

Mitchell has multiple weapons to work with, but the most important position within the running game is the fullback, according to VanOverschelde. The Kernels have a talented fullback in Max, along with backup Austin Kerr, who typically enters the game when the former moves to tailback.

Against Brookings, not only did Max help pave the way for Kitchens (163 yards) and Nelson (91 yards) as the lead blocker, but he also picked up 124 of his own, to go along with two touchdowns.

"Blocking really gets me motivated, it gets me fired up," Max said. "(When I'm) bouncing back to tailback, I really understand what everyone else is doing in front of me, which helps out a lot reading a play."

While the Kernels like to play a physical brand of football, they aren't always the most physically imposing team. Each of Mitchell's first two opponents this season have boasted bigger defensive lines, which isn't out of the ordinary. At practice, the offensive line spends a large amount of time working on technique to combat the size disadvantage.

"Our guys have to have an understanding of the scheme and what they need to do," VanOverschelde said. "We've been lucky enough to have guys who take a lot of pride in what they do, especially on the offensive line."