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Kernels hope to bounce back against Bucks

After suffering what players and coaches called a "disappointing" loss to Harrisburg in the Kernel Bowl, the Mitchell High School football team has its eyes set on bouncing back.

After suffering what players and coaches called a "disappointing" loss to Harrisburg in the Kernel Bowl, the Mitchell High School football team has its eyes set on bouncing back.

Searching for its first win of the 2016 season, Mitchell will look to jump start its campaign with win against Yankton-the two-time defending Class 11AA state champions.

In hopes of providing that spark, Mitchell will make a change at quarterback.

The Kernels will turn to sophomore Kiel Nelson, younger brother of former MHS quarterback and current South Dakota State University Jackrabbit Kanin Nelson. Nelson will take over as the Kernels' signal caller after Mitchell started senior Chris Wahlen in the loss against Harrisburg.

"We're a lot more diverse football team than we were a week ago," MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "He can help us with some things in the passing game and can add an element in the running game. It's crucial to have that dual threat."

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Wahlen completed 6-of-17 passes for 28 yards and one interception and didn't have a rushing attempt in the loss to the Tigers. With Nelson adding the extra threat as a running quarterback, VanOverschelde hopes the Kernel offense, which averaged more than 30 points per game last year, can find the end zone more against the Bucks.

"Kiel brings different elements to our offense and we hope to increase our productivity on that side of the ball," said VanOverschelde, who added Wahlen is still a senior captain on the football team and will still be in the mix as a possible quarterback. "It's a competition and we want to give each player an equal opportunity."

Along with the change at quarterback, Mitchell hopes to find more success with its rushing attack. Beside one 82-yard touchdown run by Spencer Neugebauer, the Kernels struggled to pick up yards on the ground against Harrisburg. Finding ways to move the ball all the ground will be a high priority for the Kernel offense. On the flip side, Yankton head coach Arlin Likness said the Bucks are hoping to stop Mitchell's attack.

"We know Mitchell has a lot of kids coming back, a lot of experience, a lot of talent and they've be ready to go," Likness said. "We know our hands will be full and we need to play a lot better defense than we did in the first week. We have to be on our toes."

Mitchell finished with 166 yards on the ground, with Neugebauer leading the team with 101 yards, while Sam Michels, Drew Kitchens and Carson Max each carried the ball at least three times.

VanOverschelde said Mitchell knows what to expect from the Bucks defense.

"They are going to play a really strong zone, they're going to give us a little bit, but they won't give us the big play," VanOverschelde said. "We'll take what they've give us. We hope to establish a little more authority on the offensive line so we can run the football."

In the win over Brookings, the Yankton offense was pass-heavy. Quarterback Nate Stephenson - one of the few returning starters for the Buck offense - completed 23-of-34 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. After shutting Harrisburg out in the first half, Mitchell's defense allowed 27 unanswered points and 197 yards in the air.

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"The first half against Harrisburg, we took away the big plays. We made them work for all their yards and then in the second half, we started having broken coverages," MHS safety Jed Schmidt said. "After watching film on Yankton, they had a lot of short, dump-off passes so rallying to the football and tackling will be important."

Likness said his team "can't live" on its passing attack against the Kernels.

"We have to be able to do a little running," said Likness, who added Yankton only rushed for 60 yards in the first week. "We are going to have to improve in a lot of areas to have a chance against Mitchell."

Along with the offensive struggles and the defensive struggles in the second half against Harrisburg, Mitchell suffered multiple injuries in the Kernel Bowl. Many starters on defense and offense missed much of the second half due to leg cramps.

"As far as the cramping, hopefully we've addressed that," said VanOverschelde, who added no players were officially ruled out before today's game. "We've looked at everything and evaluating everything from our preparation and our warmup. We've done everything to try and avoid that from happening in the future."

After a full week of practice, Mitchell's players and coaches feel like the team has something to prove against the Bucks.

"We know we're better than we showed," Schmidt said. "Yankton is the two-time defending state champs. We'll have to show we can compete with them."

For VanOverschelde, the 10-year head coach liked how his team responded to the first loss of the season in practice and hopes it carries over against Yankton.

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"It's never as bad as it seems," VanOverschelde said. "There is some resolve to this football team. Humility is a heck of a motivator and I think we're better prepared to handle the struggles and challenges ahead of us. We can be a stronger football team."

No. 3 Mitchell Kernels (0-1) vs. No. 1 Yankton Bucks

When/Where: 7 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.

Last meeting: Yankton defeated Mitchell 21-14 on Sept. 4, 2015 at Crane-Youngworth Field in Yankton.

Coaches: Mitchell's Kent VanOverschelde, 10th year; Yankton's Arlin Likness, 17th year.

Forecast: 78 degrees and partly cloudy at kickoff with southeast winds at 20 mph.

Notes: Mitchell enters today's game against Yankton after losing its first game of the season 27-10 to Harrisburg in the inaugural Kernel Bowl. ... The Kernels are ranked No. 3 in Class 11AA by the South Dakota Sportswriters Association preseason poll, while Yankton is tabbed No. 1. ... In its first game of the season, Yankton edged Brookings 29-28 in Yankton. ... The Bucks are the two-time Class 11AA state champions.

Mitchell projected starters

(Position, name, year, height, weight)

Offense

QB: Kiel Nelson, 10, 6-2, 180
RB: Spencer Neugebauer, 12, 6-1, 185
RB: Sam Michels, 12, 6-0, 175

RB: Carson Max, 10, 6-0, 190

WR: Reed Overweg, 12, 6-2, 180

TE: Cody Reichelt, 12, 6-2, 205

RT: Spencer Mohr, 12, 6-4, 245

RG: Zeb Parsons, 12, 5-11, 230

C: Alex Klingaman, 12, 6-1, 210

LG: Bryce Geraets, 12, 6-2, 240

LT: Chris Corbett, 12, 6-3, 299

Defense

DT: Michael Loudner, 12, 5-6, 185

DT: Michael Horton, 12, 6-0, 235

DE: Bryce Geraets, 12, 6-2, 240

DE: Damian Krogman, 11, 5-10, 170

LB: Carson Max, 10, 6-0, 190

LB: Cody Reichelt, 12, 6-2, 205

LB: Spencer Neugebauer, 12, 6-1, 185

LB: Briggs Havlik, 11, 5-9, 165

DB: Sam Michels, 12, 6-0, 175

DB: Reed Overweg, 12, 6-2, 180

S: Jed Schmidt, 12, 5-11 175

Special Teams:

P/K: Seth Paulson, 12, 6-0, 160

LS: Bryce Geraets, 12, 6-2, 240

Yankton projected starters

(Position, name, year, height, weight)

Offense

QB: Nate Stephenson, 12, 5-11, 155

RB: Ray Wermers, 11, 6-0, 190

RB: Nick Rokusek, 12, 5-9, 170

FB: Dylan Ishmael Lynde, 12, 6-0, 200

TE: Michael Heine, 12, 6-1, 210

WR: Rex Ryken, 10, 6-1, 190

RT: Matthew LaFave, 12, 5-10, 240

RG: Reese Anderson, 11, 6-0, 240

C: Mason Townsend, 12, 5-9, 220

LG: Jordan Payer, 12, 6-3, 250

LT: Cole Diedrichsen, 11, 6-0, 245

Defense

DT: Jordan Payer, 12, 6-3, 250

DT: Shawn Pinkelman, 12, 5-11, 260

DT: Michael Heine, 12, 6-1, 206

LB: Devon Mines-Alver, 10, 5-11, 185

LB: Nick Rokusek, 12, 5-9, 170

LB: Ray Wermers, 11, 6-0, 190

LB: Dylan Ishmael Lynde, 12, 6-0, 200

CB: Oakley Palmer, 11, 6-0, 160

CB: Carmeron Krejci, 11, 5-11, 170

FS: Nate Stephenson, 12, 5-11, 155

SS: Rex Ryken, 10, 6-1, 190

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