Mitchell ends regular season with 51-6 win over Avery
LEDGER – Mitchell High School’s varsity football team closed the regular season on a high note by thrashing visiting Avery County 51-6 Friday, Nov. 8, on senior night in Ledger.
The Class 1A No. 5-ranked Mountaineers (10-1, 4-1) won their third-straight game and have now outscored their past three opponents 156-6.
Mitchell got the home crowd ignited early on a cold night after senior quarterback Noah Pitman scampered 55 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Just more than a minute later, senior lineman Matthew Gilbert saw a Troy Hoilman pass wobble directly into his arms. The 5-foot 10-inch, 210-pound lineman grabbed the errant pass and rumbled 26 yards for a score that put the home team up 14-0 less than halfway through the opening quarter.
The Mountaineers added a safety after a snap to Avery punter Jesse Jones soared over his head and out of the back of the end zone and scored again later in the quarter on another Noah Pitman touchdown run, this time from 43 yards out.
Mitchell padded its already sizable lead midway through the second quarter when Noah Pitman scrambled 12 yards for his third rushing touchdown and then hit senior wide receiver Garrison Phillips in stride down the sideline for a 66-yard passing touchdown.
Hoilman connected with Lucas Andrews for a 65-yard passing touchdown late in the second quarter to get the visitors on the board. Still, Mitchell answered when Noah Pitman connected with senior receiver Tyler McKinney for a 4-yard score with one second left in the first half.
Mitchell led 44-6 at halftime.
Junior running back Tanner Duncan powered his way into the end zone from 5 yards out for Mitchell’s final score midway through the third quarter.
Mountaineers head coach Travise Pitman said seeing his seniors play well on senior night, including a touchdown from a two-way lineman, was good for the team’s confidence.
“It was good for them,” Travise Pitman said. “Especially for Gilbert to get a chance to score like that. That’s always a dream come true for a lineman. He played the screen well and did what he was supposed to do.”
Noah Pitman outdueled Hoilman by completing 11-of-16 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns compared to one interception. The Mitchell defense held Hoilman, Western North Carolina’s top quarterback, to 18-of-37 passing for 167 yards with one interception and one touchdown, which equated to a 59.2 quarterback rating.
Mitchell’s defense held Avery to just 60 yards on the ground while the Mountaineers racked up 263 rushing yards of their own.
Noah Pitman ran eight times for a team-high 138 yards and three touchdowns while Duncan carried nine times for 80 yards and a score.
Senior Logan Hudgins ran twice for 20 yards, and junior Ty Sparks registered three carries for 14 yards.
Phillips finished as the Mountaineers’ leading receiver with three catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. McKinney caught five passes for 34 yards and a touchdown, junior Ty Pitman caught two passes for 52 yards, and junior Caius Peterson tallied one reception for 14 yards.
Gilbert and sophomore Carter Hoyle registered six tackles each and combined for three tackles for a loss. Duncan, Peterson, junior Cole Sparks, Ty Sparks, Hudgins and McKinney each had five tackles.
The Mitchell defense didn’t sack Hoilman but hurried him 24 times. Hoyle was credited with a team-high six hurries, and Peterson was given credit for five.
Travise Pitman said his secondary did an excellent job of handling Avery’s receivers while the team’s various blitz packages forced Hoilman’s hand.
“We had a few breakdowns on a couple of plays, but you’re going to have those things,” he said. “I thought we covered well, and we put together some blitz packages that kept Avery on their toes and made them throw quickly. That was our game plan going in.”
The Mountaineers finish the regular season 5-0 at home and 5-1 on the road. Mitchell’s lone loss came Friday, Oct. 18, at rival Mountain Heritage by a 14-6 score.
Mitchell outscored its 11 opponents 473-61 and shut out the opposition four times. All of the team’s wins came by double digits.
The Mountaineers averaged 299 yards on the ground compared to 103 yards through the air.
Noah Pitman completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,136 yards and 18 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions and finished as the team’s leading rusher with 122 carries for 1,447 yards and 21 scores.
Duncan was the team’s second-leading rusher with 82 carries for 668 yards and six touchdowns.
McKinney was Mitchell’s top receiver with 36 catches for 603 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Peterson’s 85 total tackles and 12 tackles for a loss are both team-highs. Gilbert finished on his heels with 80 total tackles, including 11 for a loss.
Gilbert was Mitchell’s leading sack artist with six of the team’s 34 sacks. Senior Hunter Zheng and junior Mason Bullis registered five each.
Phillips grabbed five of Mitchell’s 15 interceptions. Hudgins, Peterson and junior Harrison Horney each finished with two interceptions.
The Mountaineers finish in second place in the Western Highlands Conference behind Heritage, which went 5-0 in conference play and finished 9-1 overall.
Owen (3-2) finishes in third and Polk (2-3) is in fourth place. Avery (1-4) and Madison (0-5) round out the conference standings.