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Kernels make final adjustments ahead of Saturday’s season-opener

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Mitchell quarterback Austin Kerr (12) slips by a Harrisburg would-be tackler during an Oct. 12, 2018 game at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

It is officially game week for the Mitchell High School football team.

The Kernels are set to begin the 2019 campaign against Douglas at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Joe Quintal Field, but there are still preparations to be made before running out of the tunnel on gameday.

Mitchell is hoping finalizing its starters at certain positions by today, while working to improve in a variety of aspects of the game. Although the Kernels are preparing for a game this week, they aren’t approaching it in the same fashion they would later in the year.

“Having a Saturday game allows a little more flexibility to continue building and teaching,” MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “And the end of the week will be more similar to a normal game week. We’d still like to start off the beginning of the week with some live action and then tone that down toward Saturday.”

One of the biggest differences between this week and future games is a lack of current game film of Douglas. Given it is opening week and there was no exchange of practice films between the two teams, Mitchell must rely on tape from a year ago, including a 55-20 win over the Patriots in Box Elder.

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As a result, this is the lone game on the schedule that Mitchell focuses on schematics more internally than externally. VanOverschelde believes the first game is “an unknown” and the true steps forward come afterwards, when there is tape on the Kernels and their opponents.

“As you go through the week, you set that plan of things you may want to accomplish,” VanOverschelde said. “But you get to a point and you go with what you’ve got. We put our trust and belief in our guys. … I know we have work to do and they know they have work to do. It’ll be fun to watch them compete on Saturday night.”

Two of the positions that Mitchell is monitoring intently are quarterback on offense and the two inside linebacker spots on defense. Both are considered the leadership positions on both sides of the ball and the Kernels are not only implementing a new system on offense with a new quarterback, but a new defense with two new linebackers.

Austin Kerr is set to line up under center after being completely cleared medically from shoulder surgery during the summer. The senior was limited during the first week of fall practices, but will be ready to play Saturday.

There is a little more uncertainty as to who will play linebacker, two of the most crucial positions in Mitchell’s 4-4 defense. The coaching staff has narrowed the competition to four, with sophomores Joe VanOverschelde and Jake Helleloid and seniors Maxwell Bennett and Carter Jacobsen in the mix for the job.

Not only is linebacker important to the scheme, but whoever gets the nod must replace Carson Max and Max Schoenfelder, who combined for 431 tackles the last three seasons.

“From what we’ve seen, we’ve got some quality guys,” VanOverschelde said. “Those are positions we want to shore up as we continue through the week. I haven’t made any decisions as to who will start (at linebacker) on Saturday.

“Austin Kerr, he’s good playmaker and some of his preparation may have been stalled,” VanOverschelde continued. “But by game time, there’s no doubt he’ll be ready to roll.”

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A full preview of Mitchell’s game against Douglas is scheduled to appear in Saturday’s edition of The Daily Republic.

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