Kernels hope home-field advantage remedies recent slide

Mitchell's Ben Ziebarth (72) tackles Spearfish's Jaden Guthmiller (2) during a game on Sept. 12 at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The final week of the regular season has arrived, bringing along a matchup of two teams that hoped to have more at stake at the beginning of the year.

Class 11AA No. 5 Mitchell hosts Huron at 7 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field with the No. 5 seed and a likely trip to Sturgis in the first round of the playoffs on the line. Both teams are 3-5, with the Tigers holding onto the fifth seed by .750 power points on the Kernels.

Perhaps the most important prize is pride, however, as the two rivals look to build momentum heading into the postseason. Mitchell is seeking to snap a five-game losing streak after starting 3-0, while Huron is looking for its second consecutive win after beating Tri-Valley 27-8 last week.

“All of our experiences are there to help us prepare for this event,” MHS head coach Kent Van Overschelde said. “I’m so focused on putting those experiences in their proper perspective and using them in a positive way. I’ve never been more relieved to be at home, but I think it’s all about being present in the task at hand.”

Home comfortability

Since losing to Dell Rapids and Yankton in games decided on the final play, Mitchell has lost its last three by an average of 23 points per game and has allowed 44.7 points during that span. With today’s game against Huron likely serving as the final home game of the year, it has been emphasized by seniors to finish strong.


The Kernels are also still smoldering over the Tigers’ 51-17 thrashing in the regular-season finale last season, a game in which they felt effort was lacking. After a stretch of four road games in five weeks, it is a welcomed change to play at Joe Quintal Field.

Mitchell has scored 35.9 points per game at home the last two seasons, compared to 21.8 on the road. Parker Phillips has also had more success at home during that time, rushing for 199 yards per game and scoring 19 touchdowns at home, while his drop to 96 yards per game and eight touchdowns on the road.

“There’s some benefit to being at home,” Van Overschelde said. “Our guys are excited to have that opportunity. Our first round game isn’t set, but it’s going to be on the road. We want to play football and play it at a high level. I think our guys are excited for that opportunity.”

Another week, another bruising back

While the Kernels look to bounce back from a season-low 202 team rushing yards against Pierre last week, the defense must find a way to overcome one of its biggest struggles this season.

Big running backs have caused significant damage to Mitchell this season. Pierre’s 185-pound running back Maguire Raske ran for 213 yards and three touchdowns last week and Brookings’ 201-pound back Josh Buri had 266 yards and two touchdowns against the Kernels. Meanwhile, Huron’s Tyson Lien fits the same mold.

The 195-pound Lien has 621 yards, while change-of-pace runner Jayden Beck has 440 yards and the Tigers will be intent on using them to open up the passing game. Sophomore Cade McNeil has thrown for 768 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions, but has not played the last two weeks.

“We’re going to run the ball, especially if the weather holds up the way it is,” Huron head coach Scott Spanton said. “(The weather) is a little more detrimental to us because we like to throw it a little more. We have to stay ahead of the chains and stay away from third-and-long situations, because we haven’t done a good job on third-down conversions.”


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