TRINITY — Shane McEwen would not break stride as his final touchdown broke Mitchell's back.
Wharton's junior running back rushed for 113 yards and scored twice in the second half to secure a 37-19 win over Mitchell in a key Class 5A, District 5 game.
The victory vaulted Wharton (6-2, 2-0) into the playoffs while knocking out Mitchell (4-3, 0-2).
Wildcats coach David Mitchell asked his players to form a large circle around him while he detailed the magnitude of the road ahead.
Wharton faces Gaither for the district title in two weeks.
"Gaither's a good ball club and they have Jarvis Giles," Mitchell said. "…It's going to be a very tough ball game."
Wharton leaned on its rushing attack to gain the edge. McEwen and senior Jairus Jones (64 yards, one touchdown) battered the Mitchell defense throughout the night.
Even Wharton quarterback Andrew Clifford did his part, punching in a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in the first half. Wharton appeared in control after an unfortunate series of events for Mitchell to end the first half.
Mitchell attempted a punt from its end zone when Cody Folesome slipped for a Wharton safety and a 16-13 lead. The ensuing kickoff gave Wharton the ball on Mitchell's 35 and four plays later, Clifford's second score put the Wildcats ahead 23-13.
Mitchell sophomore Ricky Trinidad tried to spark a comeback, opening the third quarter with an 85-yard kickoff to Wharton's 5. That set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Ryan Gallagher, who finished with 43 yards and two touchdowns.
That's when McEwen broke out with a 5-yard touchdown run to go up 30-19, then took a pass from Clifford 69 yards for the final score.
"We have not played a complete four quarters," Mitchell said. "I know this team has it in them to do so. We'll be okay."
Once it was over, Mitchell players began to walk one-by-one out of the locker room and into the parking lot.
Mustangs quarterback Cody Van De Boe said the team will turn its focus to trying to finish the season 7-3 instead of dwelling on being knocked from the playoffs.
"It's tough on the seniors," Van De Boe said. "I love them all. …With only three games left in their high school careers, it's hard to look at that."