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With experience and opportunity, Mitchell Kernels football looks to climb in 2022

Off three-win 2021, MHS ready for new football season

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The Mitchell High School football team practices on Monday, August 8, 2022 at Joe Quintal Field.
Mitchell Republic file photo
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MITCHELL — A late surge to end the 2021 season and a strong core of returning talent has the Mitchell High School football team aiming high in 2022.

Mitchell, ranked No. 5 in the Class 11AA preseason media poll, opens its season on August 26 looking to improve from last season’s 3-7 record and continue building off what was a strong finish to the regular season that saw the Kernels rise from outside the playoff picture to a place firmly within the field.

Now featuring a slightly different cast of characters but returning many with starting experience, the 2022 Kernels have already demonstrated that they’re trending in the right direction through preseason camp, according to head coach Kent Van Overschelde.

“Our guys have really shown they understand that camp is a process, and over the course of our camp, there’s certainly been a natural progression of a team that’s coming together,” said Van Overschelde, who’s entering his 16th year leading MHS football. “... If that continues, I definitely think we can move up from where people anticipate where we’re at, but it’s about putting in the work to make that a reality for us.”

If Mitchell is to make good on the potential Van Overschelde sees, it’s no secret where that’s likely to start, with the coach putting it simply: “Obviously, we’re counting on a core group.”

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Treyson Schulz, who accounted for more than 1,250 yards (834 passing and 418 rushing) and 12 touchdowns, is set to reprise his role as the starting quarterback for his senior season. He’ll have plenty of options to distribute the ball to, with a pair of 200-yard receivers in A.J. Siemsen and Lukas Bennett on the outside and Jagger Tyler likely to contribute in both the running and passing game. Additionally, center Camen Max, guard Carson Podhradsky and tackle August Anderson — each with starting experience from last season — make for a formidable right side of the offensive line.

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Mitchell offensive tackle August Anderson reaches to make a block during the 2021 season-opening game against Spearfish on Friday, August 27, 2021, at Joe Quintal Field.
Mitchell Republic file photo

That group, along with an up-and-coming set of promising playmakers, is tasked with filling in the void left by the graduation of several regular starters on both sides of the football — chief among them leading tackler Joe Van Overschelde, top rusher Josh Grosididier and two-way linemen Adam Fahey and Kendall Fick.

Defensively, Tyler, an honorable mention all-state defensive back last season, headlines a group a little light on experience but high on upside, according to Van Overschelde.

“There are some question marks,” Van Overschelde said, pointing at the left side of the offensive line as one of the larger examples. “But on the defensive side, we’re pretty much set. With the work we were able to do over the summer, we think that we’re in a good position to have a much-improved effort on the defensive side.”

In 2021, the Kernels were outgained by a relatively modest 60 yards per contest but surrendered 33.9 points per game, which ranked better than only winless Douglas (38.2) at the bottom of Class 11AA. Reversing this trend starts with two key areas: limiting big plays and getting off the field on third down.

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Mitchell linebacker Drake Jerke wraps up a Yankton ballcarrier during an Eastern South Dakota Conference game on Friday, Oct. 1, 202, at Joe Quintal Field.
Mitchell Republic file photo

The defense will face a big test to start the season, as Mitchell welcomes Eastern South Dakota Conference rival Yankton — ranked third in the preseason poll — to Joe Quintal Field for the season opener. In two meetings last season, the Bucks eclipsed 40 points both times and had 10 combined touchdowns through the air.

Following its season opener at home, the Kernels will return Saturday, Sept. 3 for a matchup with Sturgis in the Kernel Bowl game. Other home dates include Sioux Falls Jefferson (Mitchell’s lone Class 11AAA opponent) on Sept. 23, Watertown on Oct. 7 and another conference rivalry against Huron to bookend the home slate on Oct. 14.

Mitchell kicks off its away schedule with Pierre on Sept. 10, with other road contests at Aberdeen Central on Sept. 16, Spearfish on Sept. 30 and Brookings on Oct. 20.

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“It’s what we have in front of us, and that’s what we have to prepare for,“ Van Overschelde said of the schedule. “We want to be playing our best at the end of the year and put ourselves in the best possible position for the playoffs. We know that Class 11AA is going to be very competitive, especially on the top end.”

A preseason No. 5 ranking, which matches the Kernels’ position in the final regular-season standings from a season ago, is a nod to a team that was playing its best football late in 2021. However, Van Overschelde prefers the Kernels to focus on internal goals, not external projections.

“We don’t have to listen to what everybody else says; that’s the biggest message,” Van Overschelde said. “We start letting someone else set out expectations, that’ll become somewhat self-fulfilling. We have to set our own expectations and not conform to what others may say.

“On any given Friday night, good things can happen,” he continued. “Our guys will definitely be ready to play football.”

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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