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MHS defensive front expects to return to form

Mitchell's Levi Winne (54), Carson Max (33), Drew Kitchens (22) and Dylan Krogman (11) swarm Watertown's Adam DeJong during a game Saturday, Aug. 25, at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

When a team allows 40 unanswered points in a little more than a quarter like Mitchell High School did in last Saturday's 40-19 loss to Watertown, the blame is not singular.

The Kernels had breakdowns in a variety of areas late in the game, including special teams and on offense. On defense, the Arrows pierced Mitchell with its passing game with four touchdown passes during that span.

For most of the game, the Kernels dominated defensively, giving up four first downs all night and holding Watertown to negative yardage rushing. That success was due largely to the defensive line, which made life miserable for quarterback Brandon Florey. He was pressured and knocked down, even on completions.

Late in the game, though, the pass rush began to fade, which allowed Florey to stand in the pocket and make throws down the field.

"If those guys can get through, then we don't have to blitz and we can maintain our coverage," MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "The last thing we want to do—which we were forced to do on Saturday night—is to play some man (coverage). It's just not something we prefer to do in any situation."

VanOverschelde also felt like the unit needed to add some depth and the coaching staff is searching for players to spell the starters in the future.

In Mitchell's 4-4 defensive scheme, it all starts up front. The system is designed for the four defensive linemen to tie up blockers so the four linebackers have the ability to roam freely to make tackles.

Going forward, the Kernel front four of Levi Winne, Carter Max, Dylan Krogman and Wyatt Winter have been and are expected to be a strength of the unit. The group helped clear the way for seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage against Watertown, including a sack by Krogman.

"Some of our gaps were not our intended gaps, we were just making up our things," Max said. "As coach (Travis) Carpenter always says, our defense is made for the defensive line. If we stick to our assignments, we'll be just fine."

While the defense is made for the defensive line to pave the way for the linebackers to make plays, the group has made plays in the past.

Winne had 18.5 tackles for a loss last season, while Krogman led the team with three sacks, but they are not consistently looking to make headlines, which means Saturday may have been an anomaly.

"Our objective as defensive linemen is to take as many blockers as we can, so we can get some defensive backers in there," Winne said. "It's just that added bonus if I can sneak by them to get that tackle."

On Friday night against Brookings at South Dakota State University's Dykhouse Stadium, the Kernels believe they can get back to playing within the scheme.

"We just stick to our assignments and clean that stuff up—that simple stuff—we're a lights-out defense, I think," Max said.