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Mitchell repeats strong start; now the challenge is maintaining it

The first true test comes Friday against new district rival Pinellas Park with motivation to prove Pasco County ball isn’t inferior.
Mitchell senior Tyler Williams celebrates while crossing the goal line for a score earlier this season against River Ridge. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Sep. 11

NEW PORT RICHEY — Three games into the season, Mitchell finds itself in a familiar position. In 2018, the Mustangs started the year 3-0 and outscored opponents 77-7. Then came Clearwater, and the result was a humbling 34-7 loss.

After three games this season, Mitchell is once again 3-0 with three lopsided wins. And now comes another Pinellas County team, this time district foe Pinellas Park. If last season has taught the Mustangs anything, it’s that things get serious in Week 4.

“We’ve talked about this the past few days, but the season really starts today,” Mitchell coach Andy Schmitz said after Monday’s practice. “We feel really good about our group. We have a lot of returners. They are working their butts off and they are smart kids. But the season doesn’t really start until districts start.”

So far, the Mustangs have been clicking on offense. Schmitz thought there was a chance that could happen with several players back on that side of the ball. One big change was at quarterback. Kym-mani King graduated after throwing for 813 yards and rushing for 785.

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Ezra Brennan transferred from Alonso after throwing for 1,247 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore. He has been efficient thus far. Brennan has completed 20 of 34 passes for 502 yards and six touchdowns.

“I thought we had a chance to be pretty explosive on offense,” Schmitz said. “With Ezra, we really didn’t know what we had because he was a baseball player and didn’t really practice in the spring. Going into the spring game he only knew about four plays.

“But I’m about as pleased with our passing game as I’ve been in a long time.”

One constant on offense from last season is senior running back Tyler Williams. Williams gained 1,636 yards and scored a team-high 24 touchdowns in 2018. He’s back at it again this season. He already has 451 yards and six touchdowns. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he learned early on that he had to be a little different to survive at the position.

“It’s pure effort,” Williams said. “I’m not the biggest, I’m not the strongest, but I’ll keep going until I die, basically. I will fight for every single yard.”

When Williams isn’t running the ball, Mitchell has a slew of receivers to turn to. Eight players have already caught at least one pass. Junior Ronnie Fiumara has been the most productive with five catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

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The offense has scored 135 points and allowed 34. That’s about the same differential as last season.

“The big difference is that last year most of our returners were on defense and this year they are on offense,” Schmitz said. “We feel just as good about the overall team, but one side is definitely ahead of the other side and that is flipped from last year.”

The defense is sure to be challenged by Pinellas Park. The wing-T offense is not something the Mustangs see every week, so the emphasis is on stopping the run game. Of course, the Patriots’ run game features Florida State commit Lawrance Toafili, who ran for more than 200 yards in a win against Largo last week.

The Mitchell defense is young. Junior free safety Nic Fairbank, who started last season, said the defense may be a little less experienced, but they make very few mistakes.

“Everyone on the defense is really smart,” Fairbank said. “We lost a lot of guys but it’s next man up. For us it’s three things: alignment, pursuit and communication. Everyone does it.”

And all of that means Mitchell has a chance on the road against the Patriots. Not only are district standings at stake, but so is Pasco pride.

“We want to represent Pasco,” Fairbank said. “We see the talk on Twitter, that Pasco schools are no good. There is a little motivation there. And it’s a district game.”

Football, Week 4

Mitchell at Pinellas Park, 7:30

Admiral Farragut at Cambridge Christian, 7:30 (at Skyway Park)

Lecanto at Central, 7:30

Nature Coast at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

Tampa Catholic at Land O’Lakes, 7:30

Zephyrhills at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

Clearwater at Largo, 7:30

East Bay at Gaither, 7:30

Middleton at Jefferson, 7:30

Lennard at Newsome, 7:30

Tampa Bay Tech at Plant, 7:30

Lakeland at Plant City, 7:30

Bloomingdale at Durant, 7:30

Alonso at Steinbrenner, 7:30

Lakewood at Boca Ciega, 7:30

Sunlake at East Lake, 7:30

Dunedin at Seminole, 7:30

St. Petersburg Catholic at Clearwater Central Catholic, 7:30

Hernando at Crystal River, 7

Citrus at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Anclote at Gulf, 7:30

Cypress Creek at Pasco, 7:30

Chiefland at Hudson, 7:30

River Ridge at Tarpon Springs, 7:30

Florida A&M at Zephyrhills Christian, 7:30

Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic at Bayshore Christian, 7

Blake at Hillsborough, 7:30

King at Brandon, 7:30

Seffner Christian at Carrollwood Day, 7

Chamberlain at Bradenton Bayshore, 7:30

Spoto at Freedom, 7:30

Sarasota Booker at Jesuit, 7:30

Leto at Sickles, 7:30

American Collegiate at Tampa Bay Christian, 7

Riverview at Haines City, 7:30

Gibbs at Robinson, 7:30

Lakeland Kathleen at Strawberry Crest, 7:30

Wharton at Palm Harbor University, 7:30

Elder (Ohio) at Clearwater Academy, 7

Countryside at Osceola, 7:30

Indian Rocks Christian at Keswick Christian, 7

Northside Christian at Foundation Academy, 7

Contact Rodney Page at rpage@tampabay.com. Follow @RodneyHomeTeam

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