Today’s contest at Joe Quintal Field pits two teams coming off vastly different outcomes a week ago and jockeying for position in the Class 11AA standings.
Mitchell High School is looking to rebound from a 41-7 loss to Brookings puts it fourth in the standings, while Sturgis pulled off an 18-13 win over Yankton to move in the No. 5 spot in the South Dakota prep media polls.
Today’s 7 p.m. tilt with the 2-4 Scoopers is pivotal for the Class 11AA No. 3 Kernels’ hopes of landing a home playoff game.
Shaping the playoff path
Mitchell enters the game one spot ahead of Sturgis in the standings, and with three games to go, neither team has much room for error when it comes to hosting a first-round playoff game.
A season-ending date with Spearfish is the lone Class 11AA game in the slate for the Scoopers after this week, while the Kernels have games against Pierre and Huron and likely need to win two of their last three.
“Last week we wanted to measure where we’re at, but the true measure is how we react,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “It is a game of significance because it’s going to help shape that playoff picture for us and for a lot of teams.”
No distractions needed
The Mitchell defense falls into the spotlight this week and it cannot fall for any distractions, including a weather forecast that calls for a blast of snow.
Through the first four games of the season, Kernels were stingy against the run, allowing 126.5 yards per game on 2.9 yards per attempt. But in the past two weeks, Yankton and Brookings have combined to rush for 580 yards on 6.4 yards per carry.
Sturgis provides a different kind of offense that relies upon misdirection, meaning Mitchell must shore up assignment miscues that were partially responsible for big gains during the last two games.
“We have to communicate and absolutely have to play disciplined,” VanOverschelde said. “They made some mistakes early, but in that game between Yankton and Sturgis, they snapped the ball 180 times. It’s an uptempo double-wing with the ability to spread it out.”
The Scoopers may have an uptempo offense, but they have yet to reach the 20-point plateau in a game, which means a high-scoring affair is unlikely. Mitchell won’t mind, given it has seen its last two opponents score more than 40.
Mitchell must get its rushing attack back in gear after being held to a season-low 112 yards on 40 carries last week. The Kernels also has to establish running back Parker Phillips.
Phillips has surpassed 200 yards in each of Mitchell’s three wins, but he has been limited to 59.7 yards in three losses, including a 19-carry, 21-yard performance against Brookings.
Sturgis is aware of Phillips’ importance and that 10 of his 11 touchdown runs have come in wins.
“I think (Phillips) is one of the best running backs in the state,” Sturgis head coach Chris Koletzky said. “... He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s got great vision and that’s going to be the big challenge. Even if you have success, he can stick his foot in the ground and take it to the house.”