Learn from your past or repeat it?
It’s not that simple, according to Mitchell football coach Travise Pitman.
Yeah, the Mountaineers are 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the Western Highlands Conference just as they were at this time last year.
But it’s a completely different group than the one that suffered its first loss at Mountain Heritage, and then carried Mitchell to its first-ever regional football championship (in NCHSAA 1-AA).
For better or worse, of course.
Seventeen juniors are the heart and soul of a Mountaineers team and that head of that class is Ben Young (1,316 passing yards, 603 rushing yards and 24 combined touchdowns). He and Mitchell are home for Friday’s titanic Toe River Valley showdown with Mountain Heritage (7-1, 2-1). Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Ledger.
“You into a game like this very cautious,” Pitman said.
“(Mountain Heritage) is a tremendous team and they’ve had an extra week to prepare coming off their bye week. That gives them a head-start. We can’t dig ourselves a hole and expect to climb out like we did last year (Mitchell lost, 41-27, in Burnsville). The one thing I’m stressing all week is I want our kids to enjoy the environment. I’m not sure if the pressure has built up with this group like it did last year. They’re a different group of kids. They’re just relentless and they look forward to each new game, each new challengge.”
Young is front and center at that list of strong 11th graders for Mitchell.
He has completed 70 of his 112 attempts for 1,316 yards and 14 touchdowns with three interceptions to go along with 90 carries for 603 yards and 10 touchdowns. Young leads the Mountaineers in passing and rushing with ground support from Ben Robinson (587 yards, six touchdowns), Landon Miller (297 yards, seven touchdowns) and Noah Pitman (259 yards, three touchdowns).
Brody Smith (30 receptions for 714 yards and eight touchdowns) also competed an 11-yard touchdown throw on a reverse in last Friday’s 35-22 win at Hendersonville. Alex McKinney (16 receptions for 234 yards and five touchdowns) and Pitman (13 receptions for 176 yards and one touchdown) are other trusty hands.
Robinson has secured a team-high 60 tackles for the defense, followed by Jacob Yelton (53), Trevor Self (50), McKinney (46) and Miller (43).