HENDERSONVILLE – Mitchell couldn’t ask for anything more.
Everything is still very much up for grabs in the Western Highlands Conference. And now the Mountaineers get to control their own destiny next week at home against their biggest rival.
Let the hoopla begin in and around the Toe River Valley.
But first let Ben Young and his teammates enjoy this one.
Young ran for 168 yards, passed for 133 more and had a hand in three touchdowns Friday as Mitchell went on the road to beat Hendersonville at Dietz Field, 35-22.
The Bearcats (6-3, 3-1) turned the ball over on downs inside the Mitchell 1-yard line late in the third quarter. Not only did they not score what would have been a go-ahead touchdown at the time, they gave up 14 unanswered points after the goal-line stand.
The Mountaineers (8-0, 3-0) are the only team in the WHC without a loss ahead of their Oct. 21 date with Mountain Heritage (7-1, 2-1) in Ledger. The two shared the WHC championship with Hendersonville in 2015.
“You could see our kids looking around a lot tonight. They weren’t sure at times how it was going to go, but they kept fighting,” Mitchell coach Travise Pitman said.
“When you keep fighting, good things happen. Hendersonville is a really good squad. Their defense was great tonight. I really think (the goal-line stand) was the difference. Now we’ve got to get back to work and prepare for another team that is just as good as Hendersonville. The environment we’ve created at Mitchell County is something we’re proud of and (next week’s game) is going to be awesome for our community.”
Young, who is a junior, is a 1,000-yard passer for the second consecutive year. He completed eight of his 19 attempts Friday, including touchdowns to Alex McKinney (22 yards) and Brody Smith (62). Young held onto the ball for a 14-yard quarterback keeper with 54 seconds to go that essentially iced the ballgame.
Smith led the receiving corps with 73 yards and threw an 11-yard touchdown to Landon Miller on a reverse early in the second quarter. Ben Robinson rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown.
The Mountaineers led, 21-10, at halftime but could not muster a first down in the third quarter.
And the Bearcats were plenty busy making a comeback as Alex Williford passed for a game-high 204 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown. Leon Cooks and Tykel Landrum made touchdown catches, with the latter coming as time expired. On defense, Landrum made his state-best ninth and 10th interceptions of the season. Mitchell continually kicked the ball away from him with its special teams.
Drew Eudy showed off his kicking leg with a 25-yard field goal and touchbacks on every kickoff.
Hendersonville beat Mountain Heritage, 42-22, on Sept. 23 and now has to hope that Heritage can create a logjam atop the WHC similar to last year.
“This was a great game and it ought to get us ready for what’s down the road,” Bearcats coach Jim Sosebee said.
“What can you say? Mitchell made a great play (on the the goal-line stand). In a big game like this, it comes down to plays like that.”
Leading tacklers for Mitchell were McKinney (seven), Jacob Yelton (five), Preston Roe (four) and Robinson (four). Tyrese Cauley (eight) and Landrum (seven) combined to make 15 stops for Hendersonville.