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Kernels found ways to win in 2017

The Kernels huddle up prior to the start of a game against Brookings on Saturday night at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The winning continued for the Mitchell High School football team in 2017.

For a third straight season, the Kernels reached the Class 11AA semifinals and posted a winning record, finishing the season at 7-4. In the playoff-era, the Class of 2018 has been a part of the three most winning seasons in a row as the group totaled a record of 25-9 from 2015-17.

Entering the season with plenty of question marks, most notably replacing nine offensive starters, MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said he's proud of what his team accomplished.

"The work ethic that our players put forward stands out," VanOverschelde said. "This group of seniors and this football team wanted to find their own path. They definitely did that. They found ways to win football games."

Mitchell averaged 21.5 points, 216 rushing yards and 69 passing yards per game, while the defense allowed an average of 14 points per game. The Kernels raced out to a 3-0 start to the season and won five of their first six games before dropping a pair of close contests to eventual state champion Pierre and runner-up Harrisburg. Mitchell fell to the Tigers 20-7 in the semifinals on Nov. 3.

"They competed at a high level," VanOverschelde said. "Each and every day these guys found ways to improve and get better. They competed in a semifinal game and credit those seniors but also the entire football team for finding ways to be competitive each night."

Individually, the Kernels were led by junior running back Drew Kitchens, who finished the season with 207 carries for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Kiel Nelson added 122 carries for 676 yards and six touchdowns, while junior Carson Max had 63 carries for 506 yards and six touchdowns.

Nelson went 48-of-142 passing for 719 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. His top targets were seniors Jordan Dirkes (15 catches for 272 yards and three touchdowns) and Tate Larson (11 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns).

Defensively, Max led the team with 83 tackles, while Max Schoenfelder and Briggs Havlik each had 80 tackles. Max, Dylan Krogman and D.J. Krogman each had three sacks and Jarod Uher and Austin Kerr each recorded two interceptions to lead the team.

The Kernels will say goodbye to 12 seniors—Uher, Havlik, Dirkes, Larson, Kyle Foote, Miles Rolle, Jordan Mallett, D.J. Krogman, Sabastian Antaya, Jose Tovar, Gregory Guthrie and Lane Jorgensen. But the future looks bright for Mitchell as the team returns 31 juniors, including seven offensive starters and five defensive starters.

"We've developed a pretty good foundation, but we have to continue to find ways to improve," VanOverschelde said. "We proved we have some grit and determination. The challenge is to find ways to operate and function."

VanOverschelde pointed to assistant coaches Eric Witte and Jason Greenway as members that will help evolve the Mitchell offense.

"We're not going to take a step forward by having the same approach," VanOverschelde said. "We can't show up and have the same success. It's the next group's turn to find ways to achieve great things."

Mitchell team awards: MVP: Carson Max; Offense POY: Drew Kitchens; Defense POY: D.J. Krogman; Offensive Linemen POY: Carter Max; Defensive Linemen POY: Levi Winne; Special Teams POY: Trevor Lambert; Scout Team POY: Jordan Mallett; Most Improved: Miles Rolle; Dan Ammon Sportsmanship Award: D.J. Krogman.

Mitchell football 2017 statistics: RUSHING (Carries, yards, TDs): Drew Kitchens 207-907-11, Kiel Nelson 122-676-6, Carson Max 63-506-6, Austin Kerr 33-153-1, Sabastian Antaya 15-67, Carter Jacobsen 20-32-1, Briggs Havlik 6-19, Colby Gillen 6-13, Max Schoenfelder 2-2, Kyler Bauder 1-(-1), Milles Rolle 1-(-2); PASSING (Completions, attempts, yards, TDs, Ints.): Nelson 48-142-719-6-5, Kitchens 1-1-20-0-0, Max 1-1-21-0-0, Havlik 0-1-0-0-0; RECEIVING (Catches, yards, TDs): Jordan Dirkes 15-272-3, Tate Larson 11-122-2, Kitchens 4-49, Kerr 4-81, Koby Larson 4-74, Rolle 3-61, Kaden Soukup 2-23, Max 2-16-1, Peyton Nash 1-10, Schoenfelder 1-5, D.J. Krogman 1-6, Payton Olseon 1-35, Havlik 1-5; TACKLES: Max 83, Schoenfelder 80, Havlik 80, Levi Winne 67, Dylan Krogman 62, Jarod Uher 62, D.J. Krogman 54, Kerr 35, Logan Sparks 32, Kitchens 26, Gregory Guthrie 24, Jordan Dirkes 17, Kyle Foote 14, Tate Larson 13, Nash, 12, Jarod Street 10, Taylor Feterl 9, Rolle 7, Reed Foster 6, Jose Tovar 4, Zach Mohr 4, Cole Gehrke 4, Gillen 3, Reese Siever 2, Koby Larson 2, Jacobsen 2, Ryan McGinnis 1, Carter Max 1, Miguel Reyes 1, Soukup 1, Olson 1, Antaya 1, Ty Vander Pol 1; SACKS: Carson Max 3, Dylan Krogman 3, D.J. Krogman 3, Schoenfelder 2.5, Winne 2.5, Guthrie 2, Foote 2, Havlik 1.5; INTERCEPTIONS: Uher 2, Kerr, 2, Schoenfelder 1, Carson Max 1, D.J. Krogman 1, Dirkes 1; KICKING: Trevor Lambert 3-6 field goals, long of 40 yards, 25-32 PATs; PUNTING: Kiel Nelson 24 punts, 27.0 average, 49 long, 7 inside 20; Adam Vieth 9 punts, 24 average, 50 long, 1 inside 20; Carson Max 8 punts, 35.3 average, 43 long, 2 inside 20.