LEDGER – The 1AA state playoff run rolls on for Mitchell High School’s varsity football team.
The No. 2-seeded Mountaineers (12-1) won 38-6 over visiting No. 6-seeded Swain County (11-3) Friday, Nov. 29, in their second playoff game.
Mitchell earned a first-round bye and has now won its two playoff games by a combined score of 66-6. The team blanked Polk County 28-0 in the second round.
The Mountaineers will now hit the road to Pilot Mountain for their toughest playoff test yet – a Regional Championship round duel at top-seeded East Surry, which is 13-0 and has outscored its two playoff opponents 78-14.
Mitchell's win over Swain is the team's fifth straight since its lone loss of the season Friday, Oct. 18, at Mountain Heritage.
After 11 minutes of hard-hitting, stalemate football in the opening quarter, the Mountaineers broke through in the final minute of the opening frame, taking a 7-0 lead after a 3-yard touchdown plunge from junior running back Tanner Duncan.
Mitchell’s stingy defense kept the one-score lead intact throughout the second quarter and the Mitchell offense poured on 17 points in the final four minutes of the first half after a 1-yard touchdown dive from senior quarterback Noah Pitman, a 26-yard passing connection between Noah Pitman and senior receiver Garrison Phillips and a 33-yard field goal from senior kicker Elliot Kadans in the final seconds of the half.
Mitchell led 24-0 at halftime.
Mountaineers head coach Travise Pitman said he told his team at halftime to keep the pedal down, conjuring up memories of last year’s home playoff game against Murphy, in which the Mountaineers led 16-13 at halftime but were outscored 20-13 in the second half and subsequently eliminated.
"I talked to the kids at half about being in a similar situation as we were in against Murphy, where we played well in the first half and didn't finish the game," Travise Pitman said. “I said we had to come out in the second half with the same energy and finish the game the right way.”
Swain got on the board with a rushing touchdown late in the third quarter, but Duncan answered with another rushing touchdown, this time from 7 yards out, just minutes later.
Senior Logan Hudgins scampered into the end zone for a 19-yard rushing touchdown midway through the final quarter to register the home team’s final points.
Travise Pitman said his team came up with timely stops to keep Swain from gaining any momentum throughout the night.
“We had a lot of energy,” he said. “It was a great game and a great atmosphere.”
Noah Pitman finished with an efficient passing night in which he completed 9-of-14 passes for 167 yards and one touchdown. He ran just four times for 12 yards and a score.
Noah Pitman completed five of his passes to senior Tyler McKinney, who finished with 77 receiving yards. Junior Ty Pitman caught a pair of passes for 29 yards, and Phillips and junior Ty Sparks each registered a reception.
Duncan carried 13 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 10.4 yards per carry.
The Mitchell defense was led by senior Matthew Gilbert, who was credited with a team-high 17 tackles, including one for a loss. Junior Cole Sparks was credited for 14 tackles, including one for a loss and a forced fumble.