By Terry Davis
At the start of the season, Mitchell High head football coach Nathan Cole had a message for his team. To go further than the first round of the playoffs. He knew his team didn’t lack talent; they were missing the intangibles, like chemistry and discipline.
After a playoff-clinching 36-7 win over neighborhood rival Hillcrest, it appears Cole’s team has bought into his message.
“This is what I have been looking forward to all year,” Cole said. “I know what I have in quarterback and receiver and they all are coming back next year. They finally played together tonight.”
Hillcrest put up a good fight early, with a 60-yard opening kickoff return, followed by a 15-yard TD run by Sammie Kuykendall to take the early lead. Things were looking even better when Mitchell mishandled the kickoff return, an error that put Hillcrest right back on the 30-yard line.
But that’s when the Mitchell defense took over.
Mitchell QB Haydem Sow got his team going offensively. Sow was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from WR Joseph Adams for 15-yards to cut into the Vikings lead (7-6). But more troublesome was that Hillcrest’s starting QB Cameron Wooduff was injured on the play.
Wooduff returned briefly, but he was withheld for the rest of the game. And in the second quarter, Kuykendall was hurt and did not return. Losing two key players on a small team was insurmountable, said Hillcrest head coach Carl Coleman.
“Tough competition on both sides,” Coleman said. “We had a couple of injuries that came up early that made us rely on young inexperienced players.”
From there, Mitchell began rolling. Sow connected with Adams for two touchdowns. Terridus Galloway added another two touchdowns and Damien Johnson added another score for the Tigers offense. Sow went 17-29 for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
After the first quarter, Mitchell’s defense held Hillcrest to just 19 yards of total offense, also notching two sacks while forcing six negative plays.
“They had a good week this week,” Cole said. “Our kids don’t know how good they can really be. Going into the playoffs we had to have a game like this.”
Cole said his team needs to clean up the sloppy play that leads to penalties.,
“Practice, Practice and Practice,” Cole said, describing how this team gets better from here. “We need to continue to condition ourselves. We have to clean up these penalties that we do.”
Hillcrest (3-5, 3-3) will have a bye week and are looking to get healthy.They face the district-leading Fairley Bulldogs on Friday Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at JP Freeman.
“We are going to go back and do what we do and try to be successful these last two ball games,” Coleman said.
Meanwhile, Mitchell (6-2, will look to continue to improve and gel as a team when they will host the Hamilton Wildcats (0-7,0-6).
This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender