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Making noise: MVP starts 4-0 in second 11-man season

Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Weston Tobin, right, carries the ball during an Aug. 17 high school football game against Stanley County in Mount Vernon. Blocking on the play, at left, are Thomas Baker (50) and Cody High Elk (79). (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

MOUNT VERNON—Mount Vernon/Plankinton is just 13 games into its switch from 9-man football to 11-man and it appears to have found its footing early in the 2018 campaign.

The Titans are currently 4-0 and outscoring opponents 188-27, which has earned them the Class 11B No. 3 ranking in the South Dakota Prep Media poll.

Last year's squad went 5-3 during its first regular season in Class 11B before bowing out to Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central in the first round of the playoffs. During that run, MVP's coaching staff had to make some adjustments on the fly since none of them had coached an 11-man football game before the season, but apparently, those glitches have been fixed.

"It was really a struggle for us to do that last year and the players not knowing what they were seeing to report back to us was difficult," MVP head coach Brent Olson said. "Now we've kind of got that changed and in a little better position this year."

The Titans have been steamrolling opponents, averaging 47 points per game and 376 yards of offense per game thus far.

The coaching staff, however, believes the defense has put the offense in good field position frequently thanks to nine forced turnovers. The unit is led by junior linebacker Hunter Pranger, who has recorded 38 tackles, five for a loss and two interceptions, including a pick-six against Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central.

"Our defense has been forcing a lot of turnovers, giving us short fields, holding people to three-and-outs," Olson said. "When you do that, your offense is in great position all the time, so I think our point totals have more to do with what our defense has been doing than what our offense has been doing."

Standout junior running back Jesse Hastings has racked up 517 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 9.9 yards per carry in the process. Senior running back Weston Tobin has also rushed for five touchdowns.

The Titans are averaging more than eight yards per play as a team and four of senior quarterback Hayden Haak's 12 completions this season have resulted in touchdowns, but the MVP coaches believe they must get better in the second half of the season.

"When we broke down each individual guy, the effort was lacking and some of the plays were wrong," Olson said. "We kind of got sloppy with some things and ran some wrong pass routes. We're completing less than 50 percent of our passes right now. Just general clean up stuff is what we need to do."

Should MVP get through Friday's game at Flandreau—a team still searching for its first win—it puts the Titans in a good position heading down the home stretch.

The schedule gets significantly tougher, as the final three opponents have a combined record of 7-3, including a Sept. 21 date at Class 11B No. 5 Winner, where the Olson family rivalry reconvenes.

"We have our minds set on Flandreau this week and we have to take care of that," Olson said. "It's probably circled on my mother's calendar because my brothers both coach in Winner. I'm from Winner so that's a pretty big deal there."