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Proud Kernel: VanOverschelde grateful for coach of the year honor

Mitchell High School football coach Kent VanOverschelde consults his notes during warm-ups prior to the Class 11AA state championship game Nov. 11, 2016 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Kent VanOverschelde couldn't help but notice some of the names of past winners of the South Dakota High School Coaches Association football coach of the year.

Since the 1971-72 school year, the SDHSCA has handed out an award to the coach of the year in football and some of the past names include the three winningest coaches in South Dakota history—Steve Kueter (Sioux Falls O'Gorman), Max Hawk (Yankton) and Kim Nelson (Sioux Falls Roosevelt).

On Tuesday, VanOverschelde became the first Mitchell High School football coach to earn the honor, which he received at the SDHSCA Hall of Fame and Awards banquet as part of the South Dakota Coaches' Clinic at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell.

"I know I represent our players and our parents from our program in the past and in the future,"

said VanOverschelde, who will enter his 11th season as the head coach of the Kernels this fall. "To be considered among those names of coaches, who've been great contributors to the sport of football in South Dakota, is very humbling."

The former Kernel standout and 1988 MHS graduate led Mitchell to an 11-1 record and the Class 11AA state championship, where the Kernels defeated Harrisburg 41-6 for the school's first football title in the playoff era. He has compiled a 46-55 coaching record while at Mitchell.

VanOverschelde praised all the assistant coaches and players he's worked with over the years, thanking his current assistant coaches Travis Carpenter and Joe Kramer as well as a long list of past assistants.

"For me, coaching was a natural progression and I was lucky to be around some great coaches in high school," VanOverschelde said. "I would describe most of my career as being persistent. Taking the good with the bad and continue to work. I've always pressed on the students, we can control our attitude and our effort. That's something I've done in this professional because every day I can do something to promote this program."

VanOverschelde helped coach youth baseball since his high school days, but his start as a head football coach was with Sioux Valley-Round Lake-Brewster in Minnesota, where he coached from 1996 to 2003.

Since taking over the MHS job in 2007, VanOverschelde said he always believed Mitchell could win a state football championship and his belief would start to rub off on others around him.

"My plan was to develop our program from the inside out," VanOverschelde said. "We had to get our players bought in and not whisper about state championships. We've had great kids throughout my career and we hope we'll continue to grow our program, build young people and build something our community is proud of."