Mitchell looks to make Spearfish simmer early
Mitchell High School is looking to keep its foot on the gas pedal this week.
The Class 11AA No. 4 Kernels are 2-0 for the first time since 2017 as Spearfish pays a visit at 6 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in the fifth annual Kernel Bowl. Not only is Mitchell looking to grab an early lead, but to keep the momentum going to avoid needing a second-half spurt to pull away like the first two weeks.
Since the two teams began playing yearly in 2013, the Kernels have won all eight matchups by scoring an average of 42.6 points per game.
But last year’s contest against the Spartans was a one possession game before Parker Phillips reeled off a 98-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal a 17-3 win on the road.
“Through the first two weeks, I’ve seen times they’ve been challenged and how they’ve reacted to it,” MHS head coach Kent Van Overschelde said. “I think there have been some lessons learned over the years. We’re lucky that we had some guys get valuable experience a year ago and it’s important to keep our pedal throughout.”
No looking back
Spearfish is still seeking its first win under the direction of first-year head coach Dalton Wademan, who was hired from his post as an assistant in Grand Island, Nebraska.
The Spartans dropped a 58-10 contest at home to Yankton to begin the season and then fell 40-0 to Milbank on the road a week ago. They have lost 15 consecutive games, but last year’s 14-point loss to Mitchell during Week 3 proved to be the high point of the season.
Wademan, however, cares little about what happened prior to his arrival at Spearfish and has not mentioned last season’s game nor has he watched the film from that game.
“As soon as I came in, I told the guys everything is brand new,” Wademan said. “Any job is open because this is the first time that I’ve seen them. We really don’t talk about last year.”
Pursuing quarterback pressure
Mitchell has scored 41 points in the first half through two games, but has also surrendered 26 points to its opponents.
If the Kernels can continue to put points on the board early on offense and limit early miscues on defense, it could provide an opportunity to spread the ball around and take some responsibility off Phillips in the second half.
The senior running back has racked up 404 yards and six touchdowns in the first two contests, but he has also carried the ball 41 times. It could be a prime situation to work in a few more quarterback runs, as well as more carries for backups Josh Grosdidier and Jagger Tyler.
One way to build a lead will be to pressure the quarterback, which proved to be a problem for Spearfish against Milbank. The Kernels have produced four sacks thus far and will look to pressure quarterback Derek Webster often.
“The plays that we’ve made on our defensive line have been the product of guys carrying out their assignments, which is allowing their teammates to make plays,” Van Overschelde said. “In the Sioux Falls Christian game, when we were able to set the edge and not go underneath things, it just improved. Once you set that edge, it gives interior linemen a chance to make plays.”