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Mitchell set to open with Kernel Bowl

The third annual Kernel Bowl has finally arrived as Mitchell High School is set to open its 2018 football season tonight against Watertown at the newly renovated Joe Quintal Field.

After dropping the inaugural Kernel Bowl to Harrisburg, Mitchell won last year’s contest against Brookings, 21-7. Watertown pays a visit this time around, looking to snap a four-game losing streak to the Kernels, which included its first home loss to Mitchell since 1991 in last year’s season-opener.

Managing adversity

Mitchell was pegged as the favorites in the Class 11AA South Dakota Media preseason poll, and on paper, has the talent to win its second state championship in three years. Now the time has come to back up those high expectations on the field.

The first week of the season brings the most emotion, as each team technically starts with a clean slate. Like every other football team in the country, the Kernels hope to be the aggressors, but if Watertown happens to connect on the first punch, how Mitchell responds to the adversity is critical and something Mitchell head coach Kent VanOverschelde is concerned about because it isn’t something that can be gleaned until the lights are turned on bright.

“I come in with a certain level of expectations for players,” VanOverschelde said. “Some of them meet that and some of them won’t exceed that. We have guys that have exceeded those expectations, but it’s about playing the game and we’ll go find out.”

Winning in the trenches

It’s no secret where the offensive production will come from for Mitchell. Carson Max, Drew Kitchens and Kiel Nelson have all proven to be dangerous runners with the ball in their hands and a revamped passing attack could be unveiled this year, but against Watertown, winning along the line of scrimmage is critical.

An all-senior offensive line of Mitch Schladweiler, Reese Sievert, Zach Mohr, Carter Max and Tegan Alm will have its hands full with Watertown linebacker and University of South Dakota commit Blake Holden.

Winning along the defensive line may be more critical, however, with the group of Carter Max, Levi Winne, Dylan Krogman and Wyatt Winter needing to get pressure to help stop the aerial attack for the Arrows.

“The defensive line is absolutely critical to the success of our defense,” VanOverschelde said. “I think we have a level of confidence in stopping the run. The key to stopping the pass game, is getting pressure on the quarterback.”

Eliminating big plays

Solving Watertown’s passing attack is the most critical area to stop defensively. Wide receiver Garrett Determan is among a group of talented weapons on the perimeter and the ability to create big plays is what helps the offense thrive.

Defending deep passes against the Arrows has been an issue in previous games in the series, but making open-field tackles on underneath throws is just as important to the coaching staff.

Mitchell won’t be able to completely stop the passing game, but eliminating the chunk plays is something VanOverschelde believes is a necessity.

“Where they have been successful against us (in the past) is getting behind our defense and completing long passes,” VanOverschelde said. “My biggest fear of the players they have returning is not only getting over the top, but catching the ball underneath and we’re not in position to make a play.”

When/Where: 7 p.m. tonight at Joe Quintal Field

Coaches: Mitchell’s Kent VanOverschelde (12th season); Watertown’s John Hodorff (7th season).

Forecast: 85 degrees at kickoff, with 47 percent chance of rain and southwest winds at seven mph

Records: Season opener for both teams.

Notes: Mitchell has won the last four meetings between the two schools, including its first win at Watertown since 1991 in last year’s 21-7 victory.

Mitchell Kernels projected starters

Offense

QB: Kiel Nelson, Sr., 6-3, 200

RB: Carson Max, Sr., 5-11, 195

RB: Drew Kitchens, Sr., 5-6, 165

WR: Kaden Soukup, Sr., 6-1, 175

WR: Koby Larson, Sr., 5-10, 170

TE: Payton Olson, Sr., 6-5, 195

T: Mitch Schladweiler, Sr., 6-4, 270

G: Reese Sievert, Sr., 6-2, 225

C: Carter Max, Sr., 6-0, 210

G: Zach Mohr, Sr., 6-0, 200

T: Tegan Alm, Sr., 6-7, 200

Defense

DE: Dylan Krogman, Sr., 6-1, 195

DT: Wyatt Winter, So., 5-9, 240

DT: Levi Winne, Sr., 5-10, 210

DE: Carter Max, Sr., 6-0, 210

LB: Carson Max, Sr., 5-11, 195

LB: Drew Kitchens, Sr., 5-6, 165

LB: Jared Street, Sr., 5-10, 205

LB: Logan Sparks, Sr., 5-8, 150

DB: Peyton Nash, Jr., 5-10, 155

DB: Austin Kerr, Jr., 5-9, 175

DB: Jackson Sadler, Sr., 6-0, 180

Special Teams

K: Trevor Lambert, Jr., 5-11, 180

P: Kiel Nelson, Sr., 6-3, 200

LS: Reese Sievert, Sr., 6-2, 225

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