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Kernels prepare for 2019 season with weekly sessions

Mitchell's Jace Larson makes a touchdown catch in front of Lukas Bennett during a summer workout session on Monday at Mitchell High School. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

The high school football season is more than two months away, but Mitchell High School has already started gearing up for the 2019 campaign.

The Kernels have begun their annual Monday Night Football sessions, which have varied over the years based on personnel and availability and this year is no different.

Projected starting quarterback Austin Kerr is recovering from shoulder surgery, while other players have devoted time to other sports and activities, so Mitchell has opted to run individual position drills, along with some non-contact team drills for nearly 90 minutes each week.

"Last year we spent a lot more time throwing our quick-passing game," MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "We've been using this time to work on individual fundamentals on both sides of the ball."

One of the most popular summer football activities for high school teams in recent years has been 7-on-7 passing leagues, something Mitchell has dipped into in the past, but had minimal success.

Travel time and distance, along with busy summer schedules have led VanOverschelde to simplify his regimen to focus on gathering those who could attend on Monday night and tailoring the workout to those athletes.

"Truthfully, 7-on-7 isn't as big in South Dakota as it is in Minnesota and other states," VanOverschelde said. "We've tried to get a Monday night where everybody shows up. (Pierre) has some success with that. It just hasn't caught hold. I think baseball has a big influence on that and we try to focus on the time we have in July, where things slow down for the athletes."

In late July, Mitchell intends to partake in the Dakota Wesleyan University team camp, which should account for most of its contact time during the summer, despite being allotted a total of 10 days—only five consecutively—by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

Despite the amount of contact allowed during the season being trimmed back in recent years, VanOverschelde has also refrained from using more contact days during the summer because he wants the first day of hitting to remain an exciting day for players.

"A lot of it's because of how busy these kids are, and to be productive, we would need everybody present," VanOverschelde said. "Because of the size of our team, using those more routinely would be more of a detriment. The big thing is, when we can go full pads, I want that to be something the kids look forward to and aren't dreading."

As for expectations for the upcoming season, VanOverschelde had glowing remarks for his next crop of seniors, particularly after replacing a 26-man class that recently departed due to graduation with 23 wins in three years.

"The senior kids have exceeded my expectations," VanOverschelde said. "Our younger guys are very familiar with Monday Night Football and they've been coming since they were younger and just developed that habit. This group has exceeded my expectations in their desire to have a successful football season."

Mitchell opens official fall practices on Aug. 15 and the opening game is against Douglas on Aug. 30 at Joe Quintal Field.