TRINITY — Ezra Brennan broke his own school record with 339 yards passing, and undefeated Mitchell became the first team in school history to advance two rounds (counting the play-in game) in the state playoffs with its 44-7 defeat of Orlando East River.
Brennan’s previous mark was 290 yards, which he eclipsed during a prolific third quarter that saw the senior go 10-of-11 for 203 yards alone. He also threw three touchdowns. Mitchell (10-0) advances to the Class 7A semifinals next at Wekiva.
Brennan had lots of help. Elijah Hadley started the game with a tremendous one-handed catch and ended with six grabs for 125 yards. That seemed safe for the team lead until Jonathan Fairbank exploded in the third quarter, finishing with six catches, 144 yards and three scores himself.
“We love our receivers. They’re all capable of making plays,” coach Andy Schmitz said. “We’ve been doing that all year, being able to spread the ball around.”
After a shaky start Mitchell’s defense handled the visiting Falcons (5-3) with relative ease. And Brennan was rarely pressured thanks to a veteran offensive line anchored on the right side by 340-pound Evan Brennan, no relation.
East River came with plenty of enthusiasm, including from a large group of fans, but didn’t have the passing game to keep up once it fell behind. Mitchell led 24-7 at halftime and needed just three Brennan passes to open the third quarter up 31-7, Fairbank turning a short flip into a 49-yard touchdown.
Despite committing six penalties, all but one of the 15-yard variety, on its next two drives, the Mustangs still hit pay dirt. On third and 27 (at one point it was first and 35), Brennan spotted Fairbank down the field for a 47-yard score, making it 38-7. Junior Robbie Mirabile’s only catch of the night was an outstanding drive extender, diving to grab a ball thrown behind him.
Then Khamari Smith, who had blanket coverage out of the secondary, picked off Nick Miner and went for a 59-yard score only for two penalties to occur during the runback. The Mustangs’ bench was called for another after voicing displeasure.
Mitchell responded with a 16-play, 75-yard drive that featured good balance, a tremendous juggling catch by Maguire Anderson, and Andy Treto’s 3-yard touchdown on fourth down that triggered a running clock with about seven minutes left.
Treto finished with 78 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, giving him eight on the year.
Fairbank, all over the field on both sides of the ball, snuffed out a pass attempt to end the game’s first drive and Mitchell’s first play was Hadley’s wow-inducing snag for 25 yards. However East River stiffened up and forced Keaton Howard’s 26-yard field goal.
Then East River rode junior running back Graylann Holland to a 7-3 lead. He was stuffed in the backfield on third and short but broke out of it, added two more impressive gains on third down to set up East River’s first-ever playoff points, a 1-yard keeper by Miner. (East River lost 41-0 to Viera in 2016, and 43-0 to Plant a year later in its first two playoff openers).
Mitchell quickly shot ahead to stay, scoring a touchdown on each of its next three possessions. A 25-yard kick return by Smith and 16-yard pass to Fairbank followed by a late hit had Mitchell instantly inside the 20, and Treto’s 2-yard TD completed the 71-second drive.
Treto inflicted most of the damage on the next march, but Mitchell needed a play from Brennan on third and 7 and got it, a 12-yard scoring strike to Fairbank and it was 17-7 with 9:27 left in the half. Then came an 11-play, 80-yard drive featuring three catches for 57 yards by Hadley. His 33-yard pickup to the 3 set up Brennan’s seventh touchdown run of the year.
A combined tackle for loss by David Proper and Mehdi Boutazart set East River back for a drive that only lasted 40 seconds, giving Mitchell a chance for another late-half score. But for the only time all night, the Mustangs could not convert.
Mitchell gained 452 yards, Brennan adding 32 on the ground. Miner was just 6-of-19 passing for East River while Brennan converted 21 of his 35 attempts. Holland ran for 55 yards on 11 carries, but due to the deficit, only had one attempt in the second half.
With the preset nature of this year’s brackets, the Mustangs knew Friday would be their only home playoff game and they gave fans a historical performance on many levels.
“They’re the hardest-working kids,” Schmitz said of his group. “There’s a whole bunch of ‘em that are 4.0 students, kids that the teachers love. Just awesome kids that come from great families. Nothing has been handed to ‘em, we’re not the most athletic team in the world but they just work their butts off. And deserve everything they’re getting.”