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Kernels look to get back on track in homecoming game against Spearfish

Homecoming for the Mitchell High School football team brings a chance for celebration and an opportunity for a quick turnaround following the Kernels’ first loss of the season last week.

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Spearfish will make a 323-mile journey to face the Kernels at 7 tonight for Mitchell’s homecoming game at Joe Quintal Field. There will be fireworks following the game, sponsored by The Daily Republic.

After starting the season on the highest of highs, Mitchell (2-1) was brought back to the pack last week with a 48-7 defeat on the road at the hands of No. 1 Pierre. The Kernels will have to find the opportunistic play that led them to two wins to start the season, coupled with added consistency on offense tonight against Spearfish (0-3).

“After a loss like last week, you have to take everything and turn it into a positive and move on,” Mitchell head coach Kent VanOvershelde said Wednesday. “You have to dust it off and get right back to it.”

The Spartans know all about trying to rebound from a lopsided loss, as Spearfish has been outscored 114-7 in its three losses this season.

“We’ve been plagued by injuries and have struggled the last three games getting the ball into the end zone, and we’re eager to get some things going,” said Spearfish coach Chad McCarty, whose team lost last week to Brookings 47-0.

The Spartans have not accumulated more than 100 offensive yards in any game this season.

VanOverschelde knows that judging the Spartans by their record is a mistake the Kernels cannot make, and focus on Spearfish is something the seventh-year head coach has stressed to his team in practice this week to make sure there is no let down.

“It’s double-A football and anyone can beat anyone on a given night,” VanOverschelde said. “A 0-3 team is obviously going to be hungry and prepared to come in and prove something.”

The Kernels will look to feed off the homecoming crowd tonight as they try to get their sometimes stagnant offense moving against Spearfish. Mitchell’s run game has seen tough sledding at times through the first three games, averaging just over 100 yards per contest.

Starting running back Mitch Johnson has 47 yards on 25 carries over the last two games for the Kernels, including 14 yards on 16 carries in the team’s home opener Sept. 7 against Harrisburg.

VanOverschelde said it’s not all on Johnson and quarterback Kanin Nelson to get the offense moving.

“For us, it’s been continuous focus on fundamentals and continued focus on what we need to do to be successful down the stretch,” VanOverschelde said.

The backdrop to tonight’s football festivities will be homecoming and the potential distractions that can provide a football team. Keeping the players focused come game time will be on the minds of all Mitchell coaches.

“We expect to have their focus and attention for two hours and for them to be high school students the rest of the week,” VanOverschelde said. “They have done a good job of enjoying the week so far.”

The players know that when the whistle blows it is time for football, but taking in the homecoming experience is important, especially for the Mitchell seniors.

“We are really excited for the game and for the pep rally with it being homecoming,” senior tight end and defensive lineman Ethan Jones said Wednesday.