Mitchell High School heads into a homecoming tilt with Class 11AA No. 4 Yankton at 7 p.m. today looking for some separation.

For three consecutive weeks, the Class 11AA No. 3 Kernels have found themselves in a one-score game heading into the fourth quarter, including last week’s 7-6 loss to Dell Rapids. Mitchell has gone 1-2 in those games and now faces a Yankton team that scored 28 unanswered points a year ago to win 42-21.

Road to the playoffs begins

Not only is Mitchell looking for separation on the scoreboard, but in the standings as well. Starting with Yankton, the Kernels begin a stretch in which all six teams left on the schedule are currently in front of them in the standings.

Yankton dropped a 63-0 outing to Class 11AA No. 1 Pierre two weeks ago, but the Bucks are Mitchell's first Class 11AA opponent ranked in the South Dakota prep media poll. It won’t get much easier with a trip to Brookings on Oct. 4 and a home tilt with Pierre on Oct. 18.

“A lot of things are going to separate here,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “You look at what Pierre has been able to demonstrate and Brookings is right there in the mixed, but Huron, Yankton and Sturgis have all been competitive. We want to be playing our best football toward the end of the season.”

Controlling the tempo

Mitchell and Yankton are both 2-2 on the season, but the two teams implement contrasting styles on offense.

The Bucks run an up-tempo scheme with a mix of run and pass, while 220 of the Kernels’ 280 yards per game come on the ground.

Parker Phillips has run for 580 yards and seven touchdowns through four games and is likely to be a focal point again this week. Carter Jacobsen has also emerged into a dual threat with 206 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns on 21 touches.

While Mitchell has shown some fast-paced play at times this season, one of the keys will be to stay within its system.

“They play in a pretty relaxed mode of just going to the next play,” VanOverschelde said. “We have to make sure we don’t tighten up or allow circumstances to affect what we’re doing. It’s a really good opponent for us at the right time of the season.”

Buckling down the Yankton offense

When Yankton visited Joe Quintal Field a year ago, quarterback Ethan Wishon put on an aerial display with 374 yards and six touchdowns. Wishon has since graduated and the Bucks have more of a balanced offense this season.

Running back Brodey Peterson is coming off a 197-yard performance in last week’s win over Vermillion. Peterson and Warren have four rushing touchdowns apiece, while new quarterback has Cooper Cornemann has four passing touchdowns..

The Mitchell defense may be up to the task in defending the run, having allowed 126.5 yards per game and just 2.9 yards per carry. This could be the biggest test to date, though, with Buck offense that uses a variety of formations and attempts to make opposing players think on the fly.

“We’re trying make defenses uncomfortable as possible formationally,” Yankton head coach Brady Muth said. “But it comes down to blocking and tackling. We can draw up all the fancy stuff we want, if we don’t block and tackle, we won’t have a very good night.”