Side view: Playoffs will be tougher this year
Mountaineer football continues to roll along. The winning ways of both the varsity and junior varsity teams continued this past week with wins over Avery. For those who haven’t heard, the JV team has lost only once this season, that being a two-point loss to Elizabethton, Tennessee. The JV team this year has been a pleasant group to be around. They bought into the football program early and have worked hard to be in the position they currently enjoy. With a win Thursday against Owen, the JV team will lock up the conference championship in the Western Highlands Conference.
The Mountaineer varsity team this past Friday took the field against rival Avery. The Mountaineers came out of the gate in a hurry. They put up three scores in the first quarter and added four more before halftime. This year’s team has 15 seniors and they played their last regular-season game at home at a high level. Their intention was to set the tone early and keep working to improve in every part of the game; they probably achieved that goal. To date, this group of seniors has lost one home game in their varsity careers.
The offensive production Friday came on the ground, in the air and by the special teams. Four Mountaineer running backs scored, ranging from 5 yards to 44 yards. Brody Smith scored twice via Ben Young passes from 43 and 36 yards. Young continues to get more comfortable in the passing game as he connected with five different receivers. As the 2017 season has developed, the Mountaineer offense has become quite diverse by being moving the ball effectively in the air and on the ground.
Not to be outdone, the defense has come along as well. The secondary has turned in two excellent performances the past two games. They held a good Polk team to zero yards passing and limited Avery to 46 yards passing. To the credit of the team, the front seven have played well of late. The defense has come together this year and turned in several solid performances.
This week the Mountaineers travel to Owen. The Warhorses have played their traditional rugged schedule and have had a difficult finding an identity in 2017.
During weekend film study, the Mountaineer coaches saw a team that, at times, has played very competitively. They have two good running backs that run the ball very effectively. Although their quarterback isn’t a particularly big player, he is a good one who runs and throws the ball well. From a defensive standpoint, this is a typical Owen team. They play aggressively and fly around to the football. They aren’t afraid to stunt any player to the football in any situation. A few plays here and there and this could be the kind of team we are used to seeing from Owen.
For the Mountaineers, their continued No. 1 goal is improving each day in practice and be the best prepared at their position on game day. There is a lot of work left to be done in the next couple of weeks leading up to the playoffs.
This past year, Mountaineer fans saw at least two teams in the playoffs that weren’t very competitive. That will not be the case this year. This year, the high school athletic association has lowered the number of 1-A teams that will qualify for the playoffs. With that, by the second round this year, the games will get more competitive immediately. There will be no more “cannon fodder” games for the first two or more rounds. So, this year there is a lot of work to be done to get ready for those tough games.
For sure, the coaches and young men on the 2017 team have a clear understanding of what lies ahead. They realize the future is now and after this week, there is no “tomorrow.” So, they need a huge turnout at Owen Friday. The fans’ support this year has been phenomenal. But, like the team, they want it to get better. They are hoping to see the visitors stands filled this week. Make plans now to attend this all-important game, wear your purple and make lots of noise in support of the Mountaineers.
Chris Pitman gains his views from nearly 40 years of involvement in Mitchell High School athletics.