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Kernels set for stiffer test against Sioux Falls Lincoln

Kent VanOverschelde was eager to see how the Mitchell High School football team would approach practice ahead of one of the team's toughest opponents on the schedule.

Mitchell's Sam Michels (14) tries to shake off Spearfish's Jace Engesser (3) during a game on Friday night at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell's Sam Michels (14) tries to shake off Spearfish's Jace Engesser (3) during a game on Friday night at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Kent VanOverschelde was eager to see how the Mitchell High School football team would approach practice ahead of one of the team's toughest opponents on the schedule.

Riding a four-game winning streak and coming off back-to-back blowout wins over Sturgis and Spearfish, would the Kernels be a little timid or overly-focused for their next opponent?

VanOverschelde said the answer was no and added he's liked what he's seen from the Kernels this week ahead of the team's matchup against Class 11AAA opponent Sioux Falls Lincoln at 5 p.m. today at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.

"We're a football team that understands where we are at and we're excited for that next challenge," VanOverschelde said. "Sioux Falls Lincoln will provide that."

The No. 2 Kernels (4-1) enter today's contest with the offense playing at a high level. In the first half last week against Spearfish, the Kernels racked up 55 points, 41 in the second quarter alone. Mitchell is averaging 268 yards rushing and 45 yards passing per game.

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"We've developed some confidence in past four football games and developed an identity, now it's just a big challenge in front of us," VanOverschelde said. "It's going to be a great test for our football team in preparation and in competition."

Running back Spencer Neugebauer leads the offense with 15 touchdowns (13 rushing, two receiving) this season. The senior has 708 rushing yards on 75 carries for an average of 9.44 yards per carry.

Sioux Falls Lincoln head coach Brian Bechard said slowing down Neugebauer starts with tackling.

"We have to play well up front on the defensive line and we have to tackle," Bechard said. "We noticed on film that Neugebauer is good at finding space and getting through tackles. We have to fit space well and tackle well."

The Patriots (2-3) have dealt with plenty of adversity early in the season. The team has already suffered a plethora of injuries, especially on offense as starting quarterback Preston Eisenbraun was hurt in the team's first game of the season. Cole DeBerg filled in as the team's starting quarterback for the next three games but missed last week's loss at Aberdeen Central. The Patriots have turned to Eric Looby, a wide receiver as the team's starter for Mitchell.

Bechard said Lincoln hopes to get starting running back Corey Fichter back but isn't sure how much the 5-foot-8, 210 pound back will play.

"We have to take advantage of what the defense gives us," Bechard said. "If they are loading the box we have to be able to throw the ball and if they're playing off we have be able to run the ball."

Mitchell's starting defensive unit has only allowed 21 points in the past four games combined. The starting unit didn't play in the second half against Spearfish when the Spartans scored 20 points. On the season as a whole, the Kernels are allowing 13.6 points per game.

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"We really click," Mitchell defensive back Reed Overweg about the defense. "We get along and we know each player has the other player's back."

Against the Patriots, Mitchell will look to win the turnover battle once again. The Kernels have nine interceptions and four fumble recoveries on the season for an average of 2.5 turnovers per game. Overweg, Neugebauer and Jed Schmidt each have two interceptions on the season, while Cody Reichelt leads the team with 40 tackles on the season. Mitchell has also recorded 12 sacks this season and will look to put pressure on Lincoln's quarterback.

"We are going to have to be ready to play from kickoff to the end," VanOverschelde said. "We're continuously building and preparing, but it comes down to execution."

No. 2 Mitchell Kernels (4-1) vs. Sioux Falls Lincoln (2-3)

When/Where: 5 p.m. today at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls

Last meeting: Mitchell defeated Lincoln 42-35 on Oct. 2, 2015 in Mitchell.

Coaches: Mitchell's Kent VanOverschelde, 10th year; Lincoln's Brian Bechard, first year.

Forecast: 64 degrees and sunny at kickoff with east winds at 6 mph.

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Notes: Mitchell enters today's game on a four-game winning streak. ... The Kernels are ranked No. 2 in Class 11AA in the South Dakota Sportswriters Association poll, while Lincoln is receiving votes in the Class 11AAA poll. ... The Kernels are averaging 268 yards on the ground per game and 45 yards per game through the air. Mitchell's offense is averaging 37 points per game and the defense is allowing 13.6 points per game. ... Lincoln's former head coach Aaron Beavers resigned from his position as the Patriots head coach on Sept. 22. Today's game is the annual homecoming game for the Patriots.

Mitchell's 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: Spencer Morgan, 12, 6-2, 290

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

DE: Kyle Foote, 11, 5-9, 170

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

Lincoln's projected starters

(Position, name, year, height, weight)

Offense

QB: Eric Looby, 12, 5-11, 160

RB: Jesse Nelson, 11, 5-8, 205

RB: Payton Sudenga, 12, 5-11, 210

WR: Zach Hanson, 10, 6-3, 195

WR: Cole DeBerg, 12, 5-11, 175

OL: Grant Trieber, 10, 6-7, 265

OL: Noah Brown, 10, 6-3, 235

OL: Ben Schilling, 12, 6-1, 270

OL: Joe Sudbeck, 12, 6-3, 230

OL: Tucker Hall, 12, 6-1, 215

TE: Trent Naasz, 12, 6-2, 200

Defense

DL: Jack VanVeldhueizen, 12, 5-7, 220

DL: Devon Lovro, 12, 5-11, 170

DL: Ben Boehrns, 12, 5-10, 220

DL: Trent Naasz, 12, 6-2, 200

LB: Xavier Kolb, 11, 6-1, 225

LB: Jayden Julius, 11, 5-9, 160

LB: Payton Sudenga, 12, 5-11, 210

DB: Malik Redd, 11, 5-11, 160

DB: Stan Larson, 12, 5-10, 185

DB: Collin Brison, 11, 6-3, 180

DB: Jack Meyers​​, 11, 6-0, 160

Special teams

P: Trent Naasz, 12, 6-2, 200

K: Eric Looby, 12, 5-11, 160

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