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Three all-ESD players lead MHS football team to 3-6 season

The Mitchell Kernel football team fell on hard times down the stretch in 2013, dropping its last five games en route to a 3-6 finish.

While the result was disappointing for players, coaches and fans, the Kernels showed signs of improvement from the one-win team of 2012, and have pieces in place to take another step forward next season.

“This is a group of football players that understood that to be successful you have to work hard,” seventh-year Mitchell coach Kent VanOverschelde said.

The 2013 season saw the emergence and growth of quarterback Kanin Nelson, who started from week one this year as a sophomore.

“He continuously stayed focused on making plays and was able to show a toughness to come back from dropped passes and hits early in the season,” VanOverschelde said.

Despite losing one of his top targets early in the season — junior Beau Brown, who was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms — Nelson showed improvement each week and gained a toughness that has VanOverschelde excited about having his signal caller for two more seasons.

Nelson finished the year with 1,009 yards on 84-of-179 passing and six touchdowns. He also tossed seven interceptions in nine games.

On the ground, Nelson compiled 267 yards on 114 carries and six touchdowns.

Leading the Kernels on the ground was Mitch Johnson. The workhorse junior racked up 520 yards on 136 carries and four touchdowns.

Landon Neugebauer offered the Kernels a change of pace in the backfield. The junior carried the ball 39 times for 204 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per rush.

Three Kernels — Matt Larson, Ethan Jones and Tyler Larson — were named to the all-Eastern South Dakota Conference team following the season, each having played a significant role on both sides of the ball for Mitchell in 2013.

Junior Matt Larson did a little bit of everything for the Kernels this year. The multipurpose player touched the ball out of the backfield, through the air and even threw it a few times.

“Matt has a proven ability to make plays,” VanOverschelde said. “He exceeded expectations on defense and for him to come back next year with that level of experience will be instrumental.”

Larson compiled 304 yards of total offense and accounted for two Mitchell scores.

On defense, Larson shined at the safety position, racking up a team high 92 tackles, 42 of the solo variety. He also picked off two passes, and recovered and forced one fumble.

Jones also played both sides of the ball for Mitchell and proved to be Nelson’s favorite target through the air. The senior tight end caught 23 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns.

“Ethan did a great job of leading this season and playing with composure,” VanOverschelde said. “He was sure handed on offense as a receiver and played multiple positions well on defense.”

At linebacker and defensive line, Jones had 32 tackles and one sack for Mitchell.

Despite not jumping off the stat sheet each week, VanOverschelde said the ESD coaches saw the value of Tyler Larson by voting him to the all-conference team.

The junior had 42 tackles for the Kernels in 2013 and recovered one fumble.

Other defensive standouts for Mitchell included Chase Harms, who had 21 tackles and two interceptions. Alex Herrick finished second on the team with 67 total tackles, while senior Preston Skinner finished with 58 tackles. Sophomore Austin Getty developed into a force at the linebacker position as the year progressed, finishing with 50 tackles and one fumble recovery.

In all, Mitchell loses 21 seniors to graduation, including four members of the team’s offensive line that started the final game against Yankton. Mitch Morgan, Micah Hettinger, Andrew Getty and Dylanger Pierson will all need to replaced up front on offense for the Kernels.

“This group of seniors has shown what it takes to be successful on the field and in their future beyond football,” VanOverschelde said.

Mitchell football season statistics

PASSING: Kanin Nelson 84-179-7-1009, 6 TDs; Matt Larson 1-3-1-24; Justin Syring 0-1-0-0.

RUSHING: Mitch Johnson 136-520, 4 TDs; Kanin Nelson 114-267, 6 TDs; Landon Neugebauer 39-204, 1 TD; Chase Harms 21-52, 1 TD; Jacob Cersosimo 11-48; Matt Larson 6-24 1 TD; Austin Getty 8-21; Damon Wangerin 3-6; Logan Long 3-0; Justin Syring 1-0.

RECEIVING: Matt Larson 16-256, 1 TD; Ethan Jones 23-235 2 TDs; Nathan Wahlen 12-172, 1 TD; Landon Neugebauer 15-168, 1 TD; Beau Brown 9-138, 1 TD; Tyler Larson 4-38; Mitch Johnson 5-28; Gramm Johnson 1-0.

DEFENSIVE: Matt Larson 92 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 FR, 1 FF; Alex Herrick 67 tackles, 1 INT; Preston Skinner 58 tackles, 1 FF; Austin Getty 50 tackles, 1 FR; Tyler Larson 42 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR; Luke Mauer 37 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR; Mitch Johnson 36 tackles, 1 INT; Jon Jamison 34 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 FR, 1 FF; Ethan Jones 32 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF; Riley Heck 24 tackles, 1 sack; Chase Harms 21 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 FR; Micah Hettinger 20 tackles; Keenan Shannon 19 tackles; Robert McCardle 19 tackles; Damon Wangerin 15 tackles; Chase Klingman 12 tackles; Nathan Wahlen 12 tackles, 1 FR; Dylanger Pierson 9 tackles, 1 sack; Chandler Nelson 8 tackles; Brandon Krogman 5 tackles, 1 sack; Skyler Peterson 5 tackles; Gramm Johnson 5 tackles; Jet-Li Heng 5 tackles; Nick Hartman 5 tackles, 1 INT; Austin Weber 4 tackles; Logan Long 3 tackles; Mitch Berry 3 tackles; Nick Mauer 3 tackles; Justin Syring 2 tackles; Mason Carpenter 1 tackle; Josh Armstrong 1 tackle; Keegan Soukup 1 tackle; Jacob Cersosimo 1 tackle; Alex Murtha 1 tackle; Beau Brown 1 tackle; Zach Buche 1 tackle.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicking: Hakon Gustafson Giaever 6-10 field goals, 29 long, 17-19 PATs; Punting: Nathan Wahlen 40 punts, 31.83 average, 55 long, 4 inside 20; Kanin Nelson 1 punt, 63 yards, 1 inside 20; Luke Mauer 1 punt, 22 yards; Kickoff return: Gramm Johnson 11 attempts, 221 yards, 52 long.