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Road back to Dome begins for Kernels

Two wins are all that stand in the way for the Mitchell High School football team to make a return trip to the DakotaDome. Up first for the No. 2-seed Kernels is No. 7-seed Sturgis, who the Kernels beat 79-22 in last year's opening round of the C...

Mitchell's Briggs Havlik (15) looks to the sideline for the defensive call during a game against Douglas on Sept. 22 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell's Briggs Havlik (15) looks to the sideline for the defensive call during a game against Douglas on Sept. 22 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Two wins are all that stand in the way for the Mitchell High School football team to make a return trip to the DakotaDome.

Up first for the No. 2-seed Kernels is No. 7-seed Sturgis, who the Kernels beat 79-22 in last year's opening round of the Class 11AA playoffs. Mitchell will be hoping for a similar result when the playoffs officially get underway for the defending state champions at 6 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field.

"We'll be ready," Mitchell defensive back Logan Sparks said. "Last year was fun for everyone and we're trying to repeat what we did last year."

After snapping a two-game losing streak in convincing fashion with a 41-0 win over Spearfish last week, MHS head coach Kent VanOverschelde said he's looking for another complete performance from his team.

"There's a sense of urgency that comes with the playoffs and there's no place we'd rather be," VanOverschelde said. "Nothing happens unless you win."

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Against Spearfish, Mitchell's defense and special teams led the way and as VanOverschelde noted "created the big plays." The Kernel defense posted its first shutout of the season and held the Spartans to six yards of total offense. In its last three games, Mitchell has only allowed 21 points.

"Offense is going to have to do their part and on defense, we'll have to do our job," said Sparks, who has 22 tackles, two pass deflections and two fumble recoveries. "We're not as good if we don't play as a team. When we come together, we do our job really well."

Mitchell's defense will be going up against a Sturgis offense that is averaging 208 rushing yards per game. The Scoopers' ground game is led by Noah Wamsher and Joel Carpenter. Wamsher has 68 carries for 464 yards and three touchdowns, while Carpenter has 80 carries for 452 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Gavin West has completed 35 of 80 passes for 369 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

With cold and windy weather in the forecast for the game, controlling the run game will be a high priority for both teams.

Mitchell has featured a run-heavy offense throughout the season, but in recent weeks the team has added more and more to its passing attack. The Kernels are averaging 209 rushing yards per game and 71 passing yards per game.

Drew Kitchens leads the rushing attack with 183 carries for 744 yards and 10 touchdowns, while quarterback Kiel Nelson has 107 carries for 478 yards and four touchdowns and Carson Max adds 58 carries for 429 yards and six touchdowns. Nelson is 38-of-107 passing for 598 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.

"Offensively, we have to continue to develop more balance between the pass and the run," VanOverschelde said. "We want to keep eliminating the turnover."

Last week was the first game the Kernels didn't commit a turnover and as the postseason begins, VanOverschelde said the offense will stress ball security. He also added the Kernels should benefit from homefield advantage.

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"It's one game at a time, but playing at home is significant for our football team," VanOverschelde said. "There's been great fan support coming out. We are going to try and take full advantage of home field."

No. 2 Mitchell Kernels (6-3) vs. No. 7 Sturgis Scoopers (3-6)

When/Where: 6 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field.

Last meeting: Mitchell defeated Sturgis 79-22 on Oct. 27, 2016.

Coaches: Mitchell's Kent VanOverschelde, 11th year; Sturgis' Chris Koletzky, third year.

Forecast: 42 degrees and cloudy with a north to northwest wind at 32 mph.

Notes: The Kernels are tied with Pierre for the No. 1 spot in the last South Dakota Prep Media football poll. Pierre is the No. 1 seed in the Class 11AA playoffs, while Mitchell is No. 2. If the Kernels win, they will face either No. 3 Harrisburg or sixth-seeded Huron on Nov. 3 in Mitchell. ... This is the second year in a row Sturgis and Mitchell have met in the first round of the playoffs. Mitchell is averaging 21 points per game and allowing an average 14 points per game this season. Sturgis is averaging 15 points per game and allowing 31 points per game, not counting a forfeited game to Pine Ridge on Oct. 13.

Mitchell projected starters

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(Position, name, year, height, weight)

Offense

QB: Kiel Nelson, 11, 6-3, 195
FB: Carson Max, 11, 6-0, 195

RB: Drew Kitchens, 11, 5-6, 155

WR: Tate Larson, 12, 6-1, 180

WR: Miles Rolle, 12, 5-7, 155

TE: Zach Mohr, 11, 6-0, 205

T: Tegan Alm, 11, 6-7, 220

G: Lane Jorgensen, 12, 5-11, 225

C: Carter Max, 11, 5-11, 205

G: Reese Sievert, 11, 6-2, 220

T: Mitch Schladweiler, 11, 6-4, 280

Defense

DE: D.J. Krogman, 12, 6-0, 175

DT: Levi Winne, 11, 6-0, 195

DT: Gregory Guthrie, 12, 5-10, 230

DE: Dylan Krogman, 11, 6-1, 175

LB: Briggs Havlik, 12, 5-10, 165

LB: Carson Max, 11, 6-0, 195

LB: Max Schoenfelder, 11, 5-11, 195

LB: Logan Sparks, 11, 5-8, 150

DB: Jarod Uher, 12, 5-11, 155

DB: Jordan Dirkes, 12, 5-8, 145

DB: Austin Kerr, 10, 5-9, 160

Special teams:

K: Trevor Lambert, 10, 5-9, 175

P: Kiel Nelson, 11, 6-3, 195

LS: Reese Sievert, 11, 6-2, 220

Related Topics: KERNELSFOOTBALL
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