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MHS uses bye week to take step forward offensively

Mitchell quarterback Kanin Nelson (12) receives a snap from center Andrew Getty (62) during last week’s game against Spearfish. Mitchell won the game 34-7. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

After four games, the No. 3 Kernels are using their bye week to focus on several aspects of the game.

“If you asked me in the summer what we’re going to do this week, I wouldn’t have known,” said Mitchell football head coach Kent VanOverschelde, whose team is 3-1 on the season. “But after four games, it gives you a better understanding of what you need to work on and get better at.”

He said his team is adding to its offensive and defensive schemes, healing from injury, focusing on fundamentals and picking up the tempo in practice.

For the first time, Class 11AA football teams have a bye week during their regular-season schedules.

VanOverschelde said the look of the Kernels has been the same within the past year and now is the time to implement new plays.

“I don’t think we’ve run the ball as effectively as we wanted to and that’s been a focal point,” he said. “The next step is to include the pass offense, and it’s just time to take another step forward.

In the first four games, the Kernels are averaging 141 rushing yards per game and just 222 yards of total offense per game. Junior Mitch Johnson leads the Kernels on the ground with 66 carries for 250 yards and four touchdowns. First-year starting quarterback Kanin Nelson is Mitchell’s second-best rusher with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 40 attempts.

In pursuing more of a passing offensive scheme, Nelson has thrown to five receivers — junior Matt Larson, junior Landon Neugebauer, junior Tyler Larson, senior Ethan Jones and junior Beau Brown. Brown, who sat out of Mitchell’s homecoming game because of concussion-like symptoms, leads the receiving corps with nine receptions for 138 yards and a score.

“Beau right now is on a hold as far as what we plan to do with him,” VanOverschelde said. “We expect him back for the end of the season.”

He added Tyler Larson, a 6-foot-2 tight end, suffered a rib injury during the Kernels’ game against Spearfish Friday but is probable to play next week.

VanOverschelde said the week off gives the Kernels the opportunity to heal and focus on fundamentals.

“With not having a game routine this week, we’ve had the opportunity to build some tempo in our practices,” he said. “Throughout the course of a game week, you get to Wednesday and you have to have everything put in for the game on Friday. This week has also been beneficial from a mental standpoint.”

Defensively, the Kernels are led by Matt Larson, who has a team-high 44 tackles this season. The Kernels have four interceptions with three coming in the season opener against Yankton.

The Kernels will need to take advantage of the bye week to prepare to take on Class 11AAA No. 2 Sioux Falls Roosevelt.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.