A fourth-quarter surge pushed Mitchell High School to a win last week in Spearfish, but this week the Kernels move from a familiar foe, to an unknown opponent.
This week marks the second of two rounds of crossover games between Class 11AA and Class 11A schools and Class 11AA No. 3 Mitchell has drawn perennial power Class 11A No. 2 Dell Rapids.
The unbeaten Quarriers present a new challenge for the Kernels, who hope to carry last week’s momentum into tonight’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Joe Quintal Field.
Gaining confidence on the ground
Mitchell’s strong fourth quarter against Spearfish brought a win, the way it came may have been more important.
For most of six quarters -- dating back to a loss to Sioux Falls Christian on Sept. 6 -- the Kernels struggled to consistently move the ball on the ground. By halftime in Spearfish, Mitchell had averaged 3.4 yards per carry on 51 attempts in the previous six frames.
In the second half, the Kernels ran for 203 yards on 7.8 yards per attempt. Parker Phillips ran for 163 of his 228 yards -- his second 200-yard outing in three games -- in the second half and scored both of Mitchell’s touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
“I think that just built confidence,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “It reassures that the offense has -- with the linemen to the backs -- and that belief that it takes all 11 guys to execute and make plays. The end of that game not only reassured that, but confirmed it.”
Quarriers hope scheme offsets size
While Mitchell looks to continue building confidence in its offensive line, Dell Rapids will look to establish some balance on offense with its three-back double-wing offense.
Quarterback Colin Rentz has 517 yards through the air this season, along with three touchdowns and three interceptions, including a 236-yard outing in a 14-13 win over Madison last week.
The Quarriers prefer to grind games away on the ground, however, despite being held to 52 yards as a team a week ago. Logan Stone (180 yards and three touchdowns) leads a three-headed rushing attack that has totaled 430 yards in the first three games.
Running the ball may be a tough ask against a Mitchell defense that surrendered just 54 yards on 40 carries against Spearfish. Dell Rapids hope misdirection runs and angle blocks can offset the quickness and size of the Kernel defensive front.
“Typically we aren’t always the biggest team upfront,” Dell Rapids head coach Jordan Huska said. “Some of the things we do help that and not force our kids not to have to go one-on-one.”
Preparing for a challenge
This will be Mitchell’s second crack at playing a Class 11A team after falling to Sioux Falls Christian on a late touchdown pass.
The Kernels once again have a sizeable advantage with a difference of 365 kids in average daily membership. While Dell Rapids is a different opponent and two weeks removed from the game against the Chargers, VanOverschelde wants his players to remember the past, but improve for the future.
“For us to not some recognition of the past would be a mistake,” VanOverschelde said. “But the focus has to be on improvement and moving forward. Our team knows that we have a challenge in front of us. This football game against Dell Rapids is going to be a dogfight from start to finish.”