LEDGER – Mitchell High School’s football team opened its season with a 21-14 win this past Friday at 3-A Clyde A. Erwin High School in Asheville.
The Mountaineers have won their season opener the past four seasons.
Mitchell (1-0, 0-0) comes home for back-to-back home games against Cannon (1-0) this Friday and Friday, Sept. 1, versus Trinity Academy (0-1).
Here are three observations from Mitchell’s Week 1 win over Erwin:
Time of possession
The Mountaineers set the tone early with a 94-yard scoring drive that featured 17 plays and melted more than seven minutes off the clock.
Mitchell committed itself to a physical brand of football from the opening play. The team relied heavily on its running game for short chunks of yardage during the first drive and sophomore running back Noah Pitman eventually gashed the Erwin defense for a 15-yard touchdown that put the visitors up 7-0.
After an Erwin turnover on the ensuing kickoff, Mitchell had the ball again and took another 6:28 off the clock on a 12-play, 47-yard scoring drive.
When the Warriors finally ran their first offensive play in the second quarter, they already found themselves down 14.
Mitchell’s defense suffocated the Erwin attack in the second quarter and took a 21-0 lead into the half.
Mitchell’s dominant start was enough cushion to resist a furious second-half comeback bid by Erwin after the team changed quarterbacks to start the third quarter.
The Warriors scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to cut the lead to 21-14, but Mitchell ensured the home team would run out of time with stingy defense in the fourth.
Mountaineers won the time of possession battle 30:42 to 17:18. They ran 68 offensive plays compared to Erwin’s 41.
Mitchell’s offensive line created big holes in the running game and kept senior quarterback Ben Young off his back.
The big boys up front paved the way for 259 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 53 attempts, while Erwin rushed for just 92 yards on 24 attempts.
Pitman led the way with 102 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Junior running back Landon Miller and Young ran for 61 yards each and senior Ben Robinson rounded out the balanced rushing attack with 48 yards on 13 carries.
Young completed 8-of-15 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown and was never sacked.
Senior wide receiver Brody Smith should garner a lot of attention from opposing defensive backs this season.
After snagging a trio of passes in a strong scrimmage showing against Enka, Smith made his presence felt against Erwin by leading the team with four receptions for 66 yards, including a 32-yard leaping grab that ignited the Mitchell sideline.
Smith racked up a team-high 1,171 receiving yards with nine touchdowns in 2016 and he looks primed to lead the team’s receiving corps again in his final season.
Smith’s combination of quickness and ability to leap to grab high passes created a mismatch against the Warriors’ smaller cornerbacks.
If Smith’s numbers seem ordinary, consider it was a run-heavy day for Mitchell’s offense. Even still, he had half of Mitchell’s receptions.
On the road, the Mountaineers seemed focused on a heavy dose of running to keep the clock moving, but once the team’s offense opens up a bit, watch out for Smith.