Mountaineers’ season ends
LEDGER – Mitchell High School’s varsity football team’s season ended this past Friday after a 42-28 home loss to Cherokee in the state semifinals.
Cherokee avenges its two losses to the Mountaineers in 2016. The Braves were blanked 21-0 at home in Week 2 that season and fell again to Mitchell 45-14 on the road in the third round of the state playoffs.
The Mountaineers close the season with a 12-2 record. The team’s only other loss came in early October at Mountain Heritage.
Mitchell’s dominant regular season paved the way to a No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. The team outscored its first two playoff opponents – Community School of Davidson and Robbinsville – 112-46 before falling to Cherokee.
After an interception on Cherokee’s first drive by senior Western Highlands All-Conference receiver Brody Smith, the Mountaineers struck first in the semifinal game and took a 7-0 lead when senior quarterback and Western Highlands Conference Offensive Player of the Year Ben Young connected with Smith for a 16-yard touchdown.
The Braves poured on 27 unanswered points to take a commanding 27-7 lead midway through the third quarter. The Mountaineers stopped the bleeding with a 29-yard run by Young later in the third but Cherokee scored two more touchdowns to push its lead to 42-14.
The Mountaineers scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns on passes from Young to sophomore and Western Highlands All-Conference running back Noah Pitman and senior and Western Highlands All-Conference receiver Jesse Pitman but ran out of time to complete the comeback.
The Mountaineers finish with double-digit wins for a third-straight season. The team has lost just six games during that stretch.
In his four seasons at the helm, head coach Travise Pitman has guided Mitchell to 47-11 record, including a 10-4 mark in the playoffs.
The Mountaineers have won at least one playoff game in each of Travise Pitman’s seasons with the team and advanced to the state title game in 2015 before losing to Wallace-Rose Hill.
Mitchell graduates 16 seniors, including Young, Smith, Jesse Pitman and running back Ben Robinson.
Young started every game at quarterback for Mitchell, completing 117-of-199 passes for 1,996 yards and 29 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions.
Young did just as much damage on the ground, where he racked up a team-high 989 yards and 12 touchdowns on 150 carries.
Robinson finished on Young’s heels for the rushing lead. He ran 108 times for 943 yards and 11 touchdowns. He led the team with four 100-yard rushing games.
Robinson also anchored the Mountaineers defense. As a linebacker, he racked up a team-best 119 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss.
Smith and Jesse Pitman combined to account for 1,348 of the team’s receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Smith led the team with 40 catches for 856 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Mitchell graduates its starting center Trevor Self and loses defensive linemen Jesse Pressley, Adam Gilpin and Garrett Buchanan who combined for four sacks.
The Mountaineers are poised to return Noah Pitman as a junior next season. Noah Pitman ran 71 times for 782 yards and added nine receptions for 127 yards and a score.
Noah Pitman led the team with six interceptions and nine passes defensed.
Hudson Boone will also return as a senior next season. The 6-1, 265-pound lineman had two sacks and seven tackles for a loss and was also a key cog in the team’s offensive line.