CLEARWATER — Pressure was both a hindrance and a powerful weapon for Mitchell.
Early in Friday's Class 6A tilt at Clearwater, the Mustangs struggled, suffering a turnover on their first possession and failing to score after recovering a fumble at the Tornadoes' 11-yard-line. Mitchell trailed 7-3 until the late stages of the first half.
But the lid of the pressure cooker popped off after halftime and the Mustangs were a new, relaxed team. Kick-started by the aerial connection of quarterback Jakob Mattos and wideout Stephaun "Tank" Peters, the visitors erupted for 35 second-half points to take the battle of unbeatens going away.
Key plays: After Clearwater running back Jarius Williams bulled his way out of a shirt-tail tackle and sprinted 40 yards to give the hosts a 28-24 lead 3 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter, Mitchell made the fifth and final lead change of the night count on its next drive. Mattos hooked up with Chris Thomas for a dazzling 35-yard connection down the left sideline, then tossed a fade to Peters in the back right corner of the end zone for a 20-yard TD. And after the Tornadoes gave up the ball on a first-play fumble, Mattos found Peters on a jump ball for an 11-yard TD and an insurmountable 38-28 lead with 5:50 left to play.
Key drives: In the late stages of the third quarter, Mattos and Peters' first fade pattern connected for an 11-yard TD, then Mitchell got the ball right back on a fumble of the kickoff. The next play saw Mychael Hamilton take a lateral from a harried Mattos and ramble 29 yards down the left sideline to the end zone. Fourteen points in 19 seconds gave the Mustangs (4-0) a 24-14 lead at the time.
Stars of the game: Mattos completed 9-of-12 passes in the second half for 95 yards and three TDs, all to Peters. He finished 14-of-28 for 143 yards overall. … Hamilton had 25 carries for 114 yards and two scores. … J.P. Watt drilled a 27-yard field goal to open Mitchell's scoring and was a perfect 6-for-6 on PATs. … For Clearwater (2-1), QB Colin Wray hit on 12-of-28 throws for 178 yards including a 54-yard, third-quarter TD strike to Brannan Demeter. … Workhorse running back Williams rolled up 123 yards and three TDs for the Tornadoes on 20 carries.
Stats of the game: Clearwater outgained Mitchell 300 yards to 282 but suffered five costly turnovers. The Mustangs converted those miscues into 21 points.
Final word I: "I wasn't settling down in the first half; I kept rushing things and I was struggling. But I went in the locker room (at halftime), calmed myself down and just played the game like I know how." — Mattos on his second-half resurgence
Final word II: "That made history right there. I love throwing the ball in the corner." — Mattos on his successful connection with Peters
Final word III: "This was a big win, but we're no closer to a district championship than we were (Thursday). Winning at Pasco (next week's opponent) is always difficult, and we have to go there and win a big game." — Mitchell coach Andy Schmitz