RONDA – Mitchell sophomore Ben Bonner hadn’t made a field goal all year.
That can now be put in the past tense.
Bonner’s 23-yard, game-winning kick came with 2 minutes, 36 seconds to go Friday. He and the Mountaineers set a single-season school record for wins (13) in the third round of the NCHSAA 1-AA football playoffs by getting past previously-unbeaten East Wilkes, 17-14.
Ben Young rushed for 127 yards, passed for 115 more and was involved in both touchdowns.
Mitchell (13-1) overcame a 14-0 deficit, starting with Young’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Alex McKinney with just 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Mountaineers join their 2010 team as the only ones to make it this far in the state playoffs. And not only that, next week’s 1-AA Western Regional championship matchup with No. 10 Walkertown (9-5) will be the first-ever December football game played in Ledger.
“Oh, we’re pumped up about it. We get to play in front of our home crowd in December,” Mitchell coach Travise Pitman said.
“East Wilkes was an exceptionally-good team. We got down early, but we started to get a little momentum and we put it in our defense’s hands. They won this football game for us.”
Bonner hadn’t attempted a field goal this season until Friday. He has made 65 of his 77 extra-point attempts for the Co-Western Highlands Conference champions. He tied the game at 14-14 with 5:30 to go in the third quarter after Young scored on a 5-yard quarterback keeper.
East Wilkes (13-1) had 218 rushing yards as a team and got both its touchdowns on short second-quarter runs from Camon Bryan (5 and 6 yards). The Cardinals only had 70 yards of offense in the second half.
Leading tacklers this season for the Mitchell defense have been Dalton Beaver (10.2 per game), Will Atkins (7.8), Jacob Yelton (6.3), McKinney (4.6), Todd Self (4.0) and Solomon Duncan (4.0).
The previous school record for wins (12) belonged to the Mountaineers’ 2012 team. That squad lost in the third round of the state playoffs.
Mitchell has never won a regional or state championship in football and came into this year with a 10-16 postseason record all-time. Pitman is a 1995 Mountaineers graduate who was hired in 2014.