SIDE VIEW: Mitchell moves on to Round 3

  • Mitchell defeated Polk 20-0 in the second round of the state football playoffs.
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Chris Pitman

What? Are you kidding me? Did you go to the Mitchell-Polk game Friday night? The Mountaineers shut out Polk for the second time this season. So, what does that tell us coming out of the game Friday night with the Mountaineers winning 28-0? All are great questions. I am made to believe this is a special group of young men that have worked hard to get to this point. They have given up only 61 points through 12 games, an average of five points per game. That is a school record.

As this season has unfolded, there have been numerous young men that have grown up in a hurry and turned themselves into good football players.

It has been said defense wins championships, and the Mountaineer defense has turned in several championship performances this year. Of all of the accomplishments of this Mountaineer defense, the fact several young men have contributed to the overall success of the entire unit is the top accomplishment. Depending on the challenges of the opposition from week to week, each part of the defense has risen to the occasion when needed. The defensive line, linebackers and secondary have all played well through the first 12 games in 2019. For the second time this year, the defense stepped up to the challenges presented by Polk County and came away with shutouts in each game. Polk was a very formidable opponent that had defeated several quality teams this year.

In the first game against Polk, the Mitchell offense moved the ball well on the ground with Noah Pitman leading the way with 206 yards rushing. Entering the game Friday, conventional wisdom would lead football strategists to know Polk would concentrate their efforts to take Noah’s running skills away. In the first game against Polk, Pitman completed 3-of-7 passes for 27 yards. This past Friday, he completed 10-of-14 passes for 207 yards. He connected with Tyler McKinney, Garrison Phillips and Ty Pitman for multiple receptions with each accumulating 50 yards or more. In all, he completed passes to five different receivers. Although Polk worked to take Pitman’s running ability away, he still gained 82 yards on eight carries.

None of the offensive or defensive success would have been possible had it not been for the play of the offensive and defensive lines. This group has made great strides as the year has moved along. This may be the largest group of linemen to come through Mitchell in a long time, if not the biggest physically in the school’s history. In addition to being big, they are strong and agile – not a common combination with big ol’ linemen. Coach Travise Pitman has done a great job grooming the offensive linemen for the last two-plus years, getting them ready for this year. Defensively, coach Pitman and coach Chris Pitman have worked developing them there as well. Most games are won or lost in the trenches, and for the Mountaineers to advance, that will be the case with their next opponent.

Swain County is a familiar opponent for Mitchell. Going back to the Heath Shuler days, the Mountaineers have faced off several times against Swain. In almost every game, it has been a brutal slugfest. For those Mountaineer faithful fans that witnessed those games in the late 1980s and on into the ‘90s and beyond, they are still the same type of team today they were then. Their offense and defense have changed very little. Their offense, plays and schemes are almost identical to what they have run for years. Defensively, the same story there as well. The unique thing is they have had a total of four head coaches since those early days of the Mitchell-Swain matchups. The system there has been in place and successful, and none of the new coaches have changed the system. On and by the way, they are an extremely physical team. The strength of Swain is its offensive and defensive lines and their physical play. Statistically, their offense is led by junior quarterback Damian Lossiah. Lossiah has completed 43-of-85 passes for 835 yards, eight touchdown passes and six interceptions. Lossiah also leads the team in rushing with more than 900 yards, followed by Bryce Sain with more than 800. Sain was the leading rusher until a late-season hamstring injury. 

In the games since Lossiah has shouldered much of the workload and surpassed Sain as the rushing leader. Two other runners, Carson Taylor and Ian Brooks, have picked up the slack since Sain’s injury with both gaining around 500 yards. The Swain defense is as solid as they come in high school football. Statistically, they are very similar to the Mountaineers. Senior inside linebacker Jacob Langston leads the way for the Swain defense with 104 tackles. Following him is senior Cody Long with 85 tackles. Six other Swain defenders have 50 or more tackles

each. Additionally, as a team, they have 27 takeaways for the year. So, it is apparent this is a top-quality opponent for the Mountaineers this week.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Mountaineers are playing after Thanksgiving. Any team that is still playing is a top-notch, quality team. Certainly, that can be said about Mitchell and Swain. This past Friday night, this was the question by some of the young men on the team, “Where are our fans? Where is our support?” So, with that being said, they need the support of every available Mountaineer fan this week. Yes, this is unquestionably the biggest game of the year. No doubt about it. Yes, it is the day after Thanksgiving and “Black Friday.” This game is huge. Make plans to be at Memorial Stadium Friday night and support the Mountaineers in their third-round playoff game. Dress warm, wear your purple, bring those cowbells and noisemakers and cheer the Mountaineers on to victory.

Go, Mountaineers!

Chris Pitman gains his views from 40 years of involvement with Mitchell High School Athletics.