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Pasco Tribune

Now things get interesting for Mitchell

Special Correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 10:58 PM
NEW PORT RICHEY -

Let the debate begin.

Last Friday, Mitchell earned its third straight victory to open the season, defeating visiting Ridgewood, 33-0. The Mustangs gained 300 yards of offense, held Ridgewood to just 62 and were never seriously threatened.

On the surface, Mitchell appears to be a team ready to challenge Pasco County's elite.

It's confusing, quick-hitting Wing-T offense, spearheaded by the trio of tailback Freddie Jones, fullback Mordell Holley and wingback Dan Barber, has rushed for 823 yards – a whopping 274.3-yard average. Its defense has allowed a total of nine points during the past 10 quarters and it has won by a convincing average score of 27-9.

Ask any Mustang – from head coach Scott Schmitz to Holley to the last player on the sideline – and they'll all tell you they're for real.

So why are others not buying the Mustangs' legitimacy?

One reason: Their schedule.

"Lots of people are saying we haven't beaten anyone," Schmitz said following the victory over Ridgewood. "Well, a lot of other teams haven't beaten anyone. We're 3-0 and we've beaten the teams we're supposed to beat. That's all we can do so far."

Mitchell, on the cusp of the Pasco Tribune's Top 5, has made its mark against a trio of teams with many more questions than victories. The Mustangs defeated an Anclote team playing its third season of varsity football, a Gulf team that was playing a freshman quarterback making his high school debut and a Ridgewood team that's been decimated by losses to graduation, transfers and starts six sophomores without any previous varsity experience.

The combined record of Mitchell's opponents: 0-7.

Now the challenge begins. And during a brutal three-week stretch, all questions will be answered.

The Mustangs open Class 6A-District 6 play with Friday's game at The Pasco Tribune's No. 4 River Ridge, then play host to No. 2 Sunlake and No. 3 Land O' Lakes. The combined record of these opponents: 5-1, with Land O' Lakes' only loss coming against No. 1 Pasco.

Ask Schmitz and he will tell you his Mustangs are ready for the test, at least the game against the Royal Knights.

"We're looking forward to [playing River Ridge]," the coach said. "I feel really good about these kids and I told them, 'You're better than you think you are.' We'll be ready."

Ridgewood's Kent Reed isn't so sure. As the only head coach whose team has played both Mitchell and River Ridge [a 34-0 loss on September 9], Reed has a unique insight into the matchup. He predicts a Royal Knights' victory, more because of River Ridge's talent than any Mustangs' shortcomings.

"I think [Mitchell] is a good team, but they will have their hands full [this] week," Reed said. "Mitchell is definitely well coached and they run the ball well, but River Ridge is a bigger, stronger team.

"I just think (River Ridge) is the best team on the west side of the county."

If Mitchell aims to disprove Reed's comments, Schmitz knows the key may lie in an unlikely source. While the Mustangs have shredded three opponents on the ground, their passing attack has been almost non existent.

Senior quarterback Spencer Whittaker has managed games well, but has rarely been called upon to throw the ball, especially with the Mustangs needing important completions. This season, Whittaker is just 9 of 21 for 133 yards, including a 1-for-7 performance against Ridgewood in which his lone completion netted just six yards.

So far, the Mustangs have won in spite of an underperforming passing game. If future opponents follow Ridgewood's late-game tactics of placing 10 defenders near the line of scrimmage, Schmitz said his team's only course may be to win because of Whittaker's arm.

"If I'm [Mitchell's future opponents], I'm already drawing up 10 men there," Schmitz said. "We've got to be able to win a game through the air and I have confidence in our ability to throw the ball if we have to, because I know Spencer is capable of doing the things that we need to do to win games."

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