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'Plan is in place' as Mitchell's offense continues to grow

The Kernels have shown they can move the football, now the focus is on finishing drives with points

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Mitchell quarterback Treyson Schulz attempts to outrun an Aberdeen Central defender along the Kernels' sideline during a game on Sept. 11, 2021, at Joe Quintal Field. (Landon Dierks / Republic)

It’s been a close-but-not-quite sort of start for the Mitchell football team on the offensive side of the ball.

But there’s growing optimism within the program that a breakthrough is coming. Simply looking at the Kernels’ scoring output through three games doesn’t paint the picture of a particularly potent offensive unit, but the box scores of those contests point to a much more positive trend.

Across their three games, which most recently featured back-to-back matchups with top-three ranked teams in Class 11AA, the Kernels are averaging more than 380 yards of total offense per game and better than 6.2 yards per play, hardly the numbers of a weak offense.

Mitchell has displayed an ability to move the football, which has coach Kent VanOverschelde optimistic about his team’s direction, it just hasn’t translated to points at the rate the coach would like to see. Mitchell has 62 total points in three games, with nearly half that total (28) coming against Spearfish in the season opener.

“We just have to execute more often,” said Mitchell quarterback Treyson Schulz. “We’re not done yet. We’re going to keep going and push through this.”

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Schulz posted 112 yards on 12-for-19 passing, 114 yards rushing and scored both Mitchell touchdowns in Saturday’s 33-14 loss to Aberdeen Central . The junior signal-caller was a major contributor to Mitchell’s third-quarter push to get back in the game. With Schulz making plays in the run game as well as through the air, the Kernels flashed their offensive potential against the Golden Eagles.

“We put ourselves in situations where we had to go for some fourth downs and we executed,” VanOverschelde said. “The plan is in place, we just have to continue to find a way to make plays and then turn those first downs into points. We’ll keep improving and take every opportunity we can to play this game, there’s no doubt.”

On the opening drive of the second half, Schulz raced for a 55-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-2, and had the Kernels moving toward more points on their next drive before the Aberdeen Central defense stopped Mitchell a half-yard short on another fourth-down play.

It’s such sequences combined with playmakers like Josh Grosdidier, Tucker Vilhauer, AJ Siemsen and Jace Larson, among others, that have VanOverschelde looking forward to Schulz and the offense's continued growth.

“Treyson just continues to do a really good job leading and directing our offense,” VanOverschelde said. “When he gets involved, that’s just another dynamic that is going to help us going forward.”

This week, the Mitchell offense will look to take another step against Class 11AA No. 1 Tea Area, hosting the defending Class 11A state champions and newcomer to 11AA. The Titans have posted back-to-back shutouts, scoring 88 points in the process.

“We’re going to have to play our best football,” VanOverschelde said. “That’s what we’re striving toward, we just have yet to find that night where we’re at our absolute best.”

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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