TRINITY — Before Mitchell ran out to a dominant 4-0 start and outscored its first opponents by 146 points, coach Scott Schmitz raved about his team’s depth in the backfield. “We’ve got kids that can run the football,” Schmitz said. And kids who can block, pass and catch, helping the Mustangs (4-0, 1-0) become one of Tampa Bay’s biggest surprises in the first month of the season. Heading into Friday’s pivotal Class 6A, District 6 showdown at Sunlake (2-1, 0-1), Mitchell’s offensive balance has been unbeatable. “Teams don’t know who to look out for,” QB Trey Drury said. “We don’t have one superstar. We’ve got a whole bunch of playmakers.” Here are five of the biggest ones:
The biggest surprise involving Trey Drury isn’t his seven touchdown passes on 12 completions, or his 21 yards-per-attempt average, or the fact that a player in the wing-T system is one of Tampa Bay’s top passers.
It’s the fact that the 6-foot-1 senior is on the field at all.
“He was so deep in my doghouse in the spring and really up to almost the first two weeks of the fall. …” Schmitz said.
Drury didn’t do anything wrong, Schmitz said. He just didn’t do enough.
After playing every fall since fourth grade, Drury was burned out. He sat out his junior season to figure out his college plans.
“Coming back my senior year, they wanted to make sure my heart was really in it again,” Drury said.
So Drury worked hard, battling junior Taylor Schneider for the starting job. Drury emerged as a leader. His attitude began to match his accuracy and football knowledge.
He showed enough in the Mustangs’ preseason win over Wiregrass Ranch to become the starter, and neither Drury nor Mitchell has looked back.
Drury’s seven touchdown passes are tied for fourth in all of Tampa Bay and first in the North Suncoast, with Fivay’s Tyler Degen.
Drury has completed 12-of-18 passes (66.7 percent), putting him tied for seventh in Tampa Bay in accuracy. He fired a perfect 28-yard fade to Chris McCormick in last week’s 46-3 win over rival River Ridge.
“He’s making all his passes,” junior Nate Boler said.
And he’s making the most of his second chance in Schmitz’s good graces.
The little brother
As Drury tried to escape his coach’s doghouse, his teammate, junior RB/SS Christian Trinidad, was attempting to emerge from his older brother’s shadow.
The 5-foot-8 Ricky Trinidad rushed for 1,389 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior in 2009 and averaged 20 yards per carry as a senior before a torn ACL ended his season.
“If you saw Ricky’s back, you weren’t gonna catch him,” Schmitz said.
Christian runs harder and cuts just like his older brother, a sophomore at Nebraska-Kearney who rushed for 616 yards and five touchdowns last season. Christian also has the agility and speed to become dangerous when he gets outside.
“He’s quick,” Drury said. “He’s real quick.”
Christian impressed coaches early as a sophomore, recording 10 tackles in his first varsity game. He became an offensive threat later in the season, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on four carries in a loss to Land O’Lakes.
But the first four games have served as his breakout performance. He leads the North Suncoast with seven rushing touchdowns and trails only Nature Coast’s Matt Breida and Sunlake’s Eddie Burgos in rushing yards (354). Christian scored four rushing touchdowns and took a 95-yard kickoff return into the end zone in the first three quarters against Ridgewood.
“He’ll be running one way, not looking and cut back and fool people,” Ryan Marsh said.
Schmitz said Christian continues to work on developing an all-around game. The best play Schmitz has seen wasn’t the game-breaking 86-yard touchdown rush in the first quarter against Anclote. It was a block Christian threw in practice — one of the little things he needs to do to follow his older brother to college football.
The do-it-all grinder
When Schmitz talks about senior Dan Barber, the longtime coach pays Barber one of the biggest compliments he can. He calls him a football player’s football player.
As wingback, Barber has three jobs: He has to be able to rush, catch and block.
“I’ve had people that can do all three,” Schmitz said, “but I don’t think I’ve had people who can do all three as well.”
Barber’s importance to the Mustangs became clear when he wasn’t 100 percent. In the first three games last fall, he averaged 13.4 yards per carry, rushing for 255 yards in three wins.
After Barber sustained a high-ankle sprain, his average dipped to 5 yards per carry, and the Mustangs slumped to a 2-5 finish.
“He was never the same,” Schmitz said.
But a healthy Barber has starred in 2012. He’s averaging 9.9 yards per carry with 277 yards and three touchdowns.
“He can run people over and keep going,” Boler said.
Barber continues to show the toughness he exhibited playing with an injured ankle last season. He rattled off a 41-yard rush against River Ridge and has played with a dinged-up shoulder.
Despite a 5-foot-8, 170-pound frame, Barber slams into linebackers to block for his teammates and plows through linemen for extra yards.
“It’s not easy, especially in a place with such big people,” Marsh said. “Those are people close to double his weight, and he’s trucking through them.”
And helping the Mustangs keep trucking through district play.
With plenty of juniors and seniors in key roles, Mitchell got a glimpse of its future with Ryan Marsh.
The 5-foot-9 sophomore started early this season before coaches pointed out that his blocking needed to improve. Marsh moved down the depth chart, behind senior Max Gebler.
“Sometimes the bench is the best motivator,” Schmitz said.
It worked for Marsh, who saw an area to improve and became a spark off the bench. After rushing for only 24 yards in the first three weeks, Marsh exploded for 79 yards on six carries and ripped off a 43-yard touchdown run last week against River Ridge.
Not bad for the only sophomore to record an offensive statistic so far.
“It felt good, kinda knowing I was the youngest,” Marsh said. “It made me work harder, knowing I got to play up with everybody because they’re on a different level.”
Marsh is one of Mitchell’s quickest players, and he brings a necessary depth to the backfield. Gebler will miss this week’s game with a rib injury, so Marsh becomes the starter again, with something to prove — for 2012 and beyond.
“A team that sleeps on him,” Drury said, “he’ll take it to the house, too.”
The X factor
Nate Boler is the most unassuming of the bunch.
At 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, the junior is one of the Mustangs’ smallest players. His statistics (77 yards, one touchdown) aren’t gaudy.
“He’s a little guy,” Schmitz said, “but he plays so much bigger than he looks.”
One of Boler’s biggest strengths is his lack of size. It’s easy for the undersized speedster to slip through cracks in the line before opponents see him.
And when he gets past the line of scrimmage, he’s hard to bring down. Despite his small frame, he bench presses 255 pounds and squats 405.
“A lot of people underestimate my strength sometimes,” Boler said.
If Mitchell can avenge last season’s 35-7 loss to the Seahawks this year, Boler will likely be a key reason.
He could shoulder some of Gebler’s carries on offense, and with starting safety Jake Guzman out with a dislocated shoulder, Boler will have to play both ways.
“He’s definitely going to have to step up and show a little bit of leadership and make all the right calls,” Drury said.
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.