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Mitchell faces first test vs. Harrisburg

The wait is over for the Mitchell High School football team. After falling in last year's Class 11AA semifinals to eventual runner-up Pierre, the Kernels have been anxious to get back on the gridiron and today Mitchell will open the 2016 season i...

The wait is over for the Mitchell High School football team.

After falling in last year's Class 11AA semifinals to eventual runner-up Pierre, the Kernels have been anxious to get back on the gridiron and today Mitchell will open the 2016 season in style.

No. 2-ranked Mitchell hosts No. 3 Harrisburg in an Eastern South Dakota conference battle, a game that will highlight the inaugural Kernel Bowl, a day-long event, with kickoff at 7 p.m. at Joe Quintal Field.

There was no shortage of excitement throughout the offseason, summer and first weeks of practice and that excitement expects to carry over for the Kernels today.

"The significance of winning the first game is not only good for your football team, but I think it's good for your school climate and the culture of the school," Mitchell head coach Kent VanOverschelde said. "You're always playing for that first win."

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Mitchell will tout a starting lineup on offense that features nine returning starters-including the entire offensive line and all-state running back Spencer Neugebauer. The two newcomers are senior quarterback Chris Wahlen and sophomore running back Carson Max.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Mitchell offensive lineman Bryce Geraets said. "It will be nice to have the home-field advantage, I think we'll be ready to go."

Harrisburg is a familiar foe for the Kernels and in recent years, the Tigers haven't been kind to the Kernels. Last year, Harrisburg handed Mitchell a 30-7 loss in the first game on the season and in 2014 the Tigers got Kernels' number twice-52-7 and 33-6 in the playoffs. All three games were played in Harrisburg and Mitchell is looking forward to hosting the Tigers for a change.

"It makes a difference for us," VanOverschelde said. "They have a fast and exciting football team that they're going to bring in here. We're hoping to play our style and our way, but we know we're in for a competitive football game."

Harrisburg enters the 2016 season as hungry as the Kernels, having lost in the 11AA semifinals the past two season. Head coach Brandon White, who is entering his seventh year coaching the Tigers, said his team has had a good offseason.

"We're looking forward to Saturday," White said. "We want to get the ball to our playmakers as fast as possible and allow them to make someone miss and hopefully go the distance. We want to utilize our speed."

One of those playmakers will by junior running back Jack Anderson. Anderson won the Class AA boys long jump and placed in both the 100-meter and 200 dashes. Junior Hunter Headlee operates the offense as the team's quarterback.

Finding a way to keep Harrisburg's offense off the scoreboard and off the field is a high priority for the Kernels this week. Mitchell returns eight starters on defense and welcomes Jed Schmidt as a safety and Briggs Havlik and Max as linebackers.

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"We need to be aligned correctly, we need to communicate and we need to tackle," VanOverschelde said. "We just have to play good, tough defense."

One way Mitchell plans to control the tempo of the game will be in the trenches. Mitchell's returning offensive line and defensive lines will look to control the battle up-front.

"We need to penetrate the line both offensively and defensively," Geraets said. "We need to be smart, keep our heads and execute."

Offensively, Mitchell had its most successful season in program history running the ball, racking up 2,994 rushing yards in 11 games last year. Expect much of the same this year with Neugebauer, Sam Michels and Max mixing the carries in the Kernel backfield.

"It's going to be a tough task, they're very, very talented and they have a good O-line," White said. "You never know how the first game is going to go, you just have to make less mistakes."

No. 2 Mitchell Kernels (0-0) vs. No. 3 Harrisburg Tigers (0-0)

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

Last meeting: Harrisburg defeated Mitchell 30-7 on Aug. 29, 2015 in Harrisburg.

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Coaches: Mitchell's Kent VanOverschelde, 10th year; Harrisburg's Brandon White, seventh year.

Forecast: 78 degrees and sunny at kickoff with southeast wind at 6 mph.

Notes: Mitchell enters today's game against Harrisburg having lost to the Tigers twice in 2014 and once in 2015 with all games being played in Harrisburg. ... The Kernels are ranked No. 2 in Class 11AA by the South Dakota Sportswriters Association preseason poll, while Harrisburg in tabbed No. 3. ... Both teams lost in the Class 11AA semifinals last year. ... Today's game is the final event of the inaugural Kernel Bowl, which is a fundraiser for the Mitchell Athletic Booster Club. Other events before the football game include: 8 a.m.: Kernel Bowl 5K race, which will start and finish at the Joe Quintal Field track; 9 a.m.: a 3-on-3 youth basketball tournament will begin at the stadium; 10 a.m.: MHS cross country invite at Mitchell Middle School; 11 a.m.: a youth football mini-camp; 4 p.m.: Tailgate to the football game will begin outside the stadium and will include games, inflatables and food. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and cover both the tailgate meal and admission into the stadium for the football game. ... Skydivers will parachute in with the game ball prior to the game and a postgame fireworks show is planned, as well.

Mitchell projected starters

(Position, name, year, height, weight)

Offense

QB: Chris Wahlen, 12, 6-1, 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: Myles Horton, 12, 6-0, 245 DT: Michael Horton, 12, 6-0, 235 DE: Bryce Geraets, 12, 6-2, 240 DE: Spencer Mohr, 12, 6-4, 245 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: Spencer Mohr, 12, 6-4, 245

Harrisburg projected starters

(Position, name, year, height, weight)

Offense

QB: Hunter Headlee, 11, 6-0, 185 RB: Jack Anderson, 11, 5-10, 175 FB: Curstin Conway, 12, 5-11, 175 WR: Justis Clayton, 12, 6-3, 175 WR: Elliot Cain, 12, 6-2, 190 TE: Jonah Rasmussen, 12, 6-2, 205 LT: Gage Anderson, 12, 6-0, 230 LG: Tanner Kippes, 11, 5-11, 240 C: Connor McAllister, 12, 5-11, 280 RG: Tanner Johnson, 12, 6-0, 230 RT: Adam Grady, 12, 6-2, 275

Defense

DE: Tanner Johnson, 12, 6-0, 230 NT: Gage Anderson, 12, 6-0, 230 DT: Tanner Kippes, 11, 5-11, 240 DE: Sam Loos, 11, 6-1, 200 LB: Logan Warzecha, 11, 6-3, 200 LB: Curstin Conway, 12, 5-11, 175 LB: Michael Curry, 11, 6-2, 180 DB: Peyton Voss, 11, 5-9, 145 DB: Jackson Garnes, 11, 5-9, 150 DB: Lucas Koolstra, 12, 5-8, 155 DB: Brock Harris, 12, 6-1, 205

Special Teams:

K: Mallek Nour

P: Gage Anderson, 12, 6-0, 230

LS: Tanner Johnson, 12, 6-0, 230

Related Topics: KERNELSFOOTBALL
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