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Kernels looking for quick start

Kevin Pottebaum/Republic Mitchell linebacker Micah Hettinger (34) looks to make a tackle during the Kernels' game against Pierre last week at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.

There is a fireworks show after the Mitchell High School football game tonight, but head coach Kent VanOverschelde wants his offense to be the first to show sparks.

The Kernels (0-5) take on Rapid City Central (2-3) at 7 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell's homecoming football game, with a free fireworks show sponsored by The Daily Republic to follow.

"It's going to be important for us to get ahead early and play with a lead," VanOverschelde said. "We feel that there are some things that we can do to make big plays, and I don't really know if we can work from behind with the experiences we've had."

Mitchell is averaging just shy of 10 points per game and the Kernels' coach said the team needs big plays to get the offense rolling.

"We have to make our big plays. We can't just think they're going to happen," he said. "Our emphasis this week has been that we need to get the linemen to the linebackers and our receivers to the defensive backs to make those big plays happen."

Besides an 80-yard touchdown run by Chase Harms late in a blowout loss to Brandon Valley, Mitchell's biggest play on offense so far this year is a 26-yard reception by Landon Neugebauer from quarterback Matt Larson. Neugebauer also has a 26-yard run.

VanOverschelde hopes that Larson, a sophomore, has gotten the experience needed to help lead the offense to more explosive plays.

"Last week I saw him set his feet and throw some nice passes in the third and fourth quarters," VanOverschelde said.

For the season, Larson has thrown for 452 yards and one touchdown. He's completed 52 of 93 passes and thrown five interceptions.

On defense, VanOverschelde knows the Kernels have to avoid big plays. Last week, Pierre's offense was kick-started by a 78-yard touchdown pass to take a lead and never looked back.

"I think we've made improvements from last week," VanOverschelde said. "(Rapid City Central) will try to spread it out and throw the ball, but they're also big up front. We're going to have to be ready for multiple alignments and adjust our coverage."

Trent Pikula, the Cobblers' head coach, said last season his offense had the outside attack taken away by the Kernels.

"We've got to be able to exploit some of the things that we think we can do," he said. "We've got to get the ball to some of our speedy kids in space."

Rapid City Central is coming off a 76-13 win over Douglas in Rapid City.

"We have to continue what we worked on and hopefully that will follow through," Pikula said. "It's important for us to go out and play well and continue to gain confidence."

The Cobblers average more than 200 yards rushing per game and are led by junior Blake Stone with 437 yards and three touchdowns on 51 carries. Senior Ben Dingus has 167 yards and two touchdowns on 36 attempts.

Donnie Pallatto runs the offense at the quarterback position. Pallatto is 31-of-68 passing for 547 yards and five touchdowns.

With the game being Mitchell's homecoming, VanOverschelde said it would mean a lot to the seniors on the team to come away with a victory.

"To see the success of their labor, that would be pretty significant," he said. "For them to be able to experience a win, plus gain some momentum here at the end of the season, would be tremendous."

Mitchell senior Ben Kummer agrees.

"It would really be nice to finally get a win for homecoming," he said. "We definitely have the talent. We just need to work harder and play at the top of our game."