Kernels look past close losses in battle with unbeaten Brookings

Mitchell's Parker Phillips (41) breaks through the Sioux Falls Christian defense for a score during a game on Sept. 4 at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Mitchell High School coaching staff was optimistic despite last week’s overtime loss to Yankton.

It was the second consecutive game that was decided on the final play and the Class 11AA No. 4 Kernels came up short on both occasions. But Mitchell head coach Kent Van Overschelde feels his team is close to putting the pieces together to win those nail-biters.

The Kernels will have an opportunity to prove that prophecy when unbeaten Class 11AA No. 2 Brookings comes to Joe Quintal Field at 7 p.m. today.

The Bobcats have scored at least 32 points in every game this season and have surrendered 8.3 points per game in the last four after allowing 23 against Huron in the season opener.

“It’s having that optimism,” Van Overschelde said. “That’s the way we try to approach it because you get bogged down in a lot of things. You get bogged down in official calls or whatever. My thought process is that everything is eventually going to come back around. Something might happen early, but eventually it will come back around to your side.”


Watching for Wuri

Brookings has a new coach and a new offense, but the results have remained the same this season. Brady Clark, who came from Oldham-Ramona/Rutland, implemented a double-wing offense for a Bobcat team that has regrouped after a trip to the state finals last season.

While the offense is designed to involve a variety of different options, running back Josh Buri has been the go-to guy all season after transferring from Stewart, Minnesota.

Buri has racked up 684 yards on 12.2 yards per carry and has scored 12 rushing touchdowns, while adding another receiving score. Stopping the 5-foot-11, 201-pound senior is the top focus for a Mitchell defense that held Yankton to 95 rushing yards last week.

“Our defensive line is going to play a critical part in this game,” Van Overschelde said. “Being disciplined, using their hands, not getting too deep, because that could create some big gaps. (Wuri) has that ability to wear a defense down and we have to be ready every snap to make plays and put Brookings in spots where they’re uncomfortable.”

A bruising Bobcat defense

Regardless of the final score, no team has been able to slow down the Kernels on offense this season, particularly on the ground. They have posted 415.8 rushing yards per game this season and have only committed three turnovers, two of which were interceptions.

Despite Mitchell’s success, Brookings is looking to shut down the ground game, which has continued to become more diverse this season.

Parker Phillips remains on a torrid pace, accumulating 1,114 yards and 14 touchdowns, but quarterback Tucker Vilhauer has registered back-to-back 100-yard outings and Josh Grosdidier nearly broke the 100-yard barrier in a four-touchdown performance last week.

The Bobcats, however, boast an attacking defense that already has 50 tackles for a loss and 22.5 sacks. Defensive lineman Parker Theobald leads the group in tackles and the 6-2, 248-pounder has 12 tackles for a loss and six sacks.


“If we (stop the run), we’ll be in good shape,” Clark said. “It needs to be consistent and that’s where it gets a lot tougher. We just need to play sound, responsible defense, cause some turnovers for ourselves and we’ll be sitting OK.”

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