After a defensive resurgence last week against Sturgis, Mitchell High School will face its biggest test of the regular season when Class 11AA No. 1 Pierre pays a visit to Joe Quintal Field.
The unbeaten Governors roll into a 7 p.m. tilt today on an 11-game win streak and averaging 54.6 points per game.
Pierre has scored at least 54 points in its last five outings, but the Class 11AA No. 3 Kernels have not allowed 50 points since Oct. 10, 2014 -- a string of 54 consecutive games.
Preparing for a powerhouse
There has been chatter from some coaches and fans around the state that Pierre may be the best 11-man football team in South Dakota, particularly after a resounding 54-6 win against Class 11AA No. 2 Brookings a week ago.
No team has come within 25 points of the Governors this season and have outscored teams by 323 points, while allowing just 8.4 points per game.
Mitchell understands its role as the clear underdog in the matchup, but the Kernels are not willing to concede the game before it begins.
“Pierre’s been dominating this year and we’re going to prepare to play our best football,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “We’ve got some momentum after a good win against Sturgis, and for us, it’s preparing for a game at a very high level. Every game we’ve ever prepared for, we’ve had the intention of winning that game.”
Points are pertinent for Mitchell
If Mitchell wants to spring the upset on Pierre, points are going to be a necessity.
The Kernels are averaging 40 points per game in their four wins this season, but only 12 points in three losses.
Mitchell received a significant boost last week when quarterback Austin Kerr accumulated 179 yards of total offense, including a career-high 105 yards rushing and no turnovers.
Parker Phillips is 43 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, but has not topped the 100-yard barrier in his last two outings as opponents begin to key on him, so Kerr’s added offense is crucial.
“It just creates that one-two punch from that quarterback position,” VanOverschelde said. “For Austin, it just proves that he has that gamesmanship. He wants to make the right play, but also the big play. There was some uncertainty last week, but he answered that with his performance.”
Attempting to stop Stout
Mitchell had success last week against a Sturgis team that deployed a misdirection offense, but Pierre prides itself on the sophistication of its offense.
The Governors used more than 15 formations against Brookings last week, and while it runs many of the same plays from those formations, the hope is to make defenses understand how to defend each scenario.
At the helm of the Pierre offense is quarterback Garrett Stout, who has proved to be a dual threat. Stout has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,537 yards, 22 touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing for 996 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“The main reason that (Stout) has been able to perform the way he has is his trust in his offensive line,” Pierre head coach Steve Steele said. “It allows him to play free back there. He’s not getting hit in the pocket, he feels comfortable stepping up in the pocket and going through his progressions. I think that was a huge area of growth from last year.”