NEW PORT RICHEY — Mitchell is going for its eighth consecutive district title this year, a streak that senior quarterback Chris Ferrini says keeps him and his teammates plenty fired up.
“We talk about a standard here,” Ferrini said. “We hold everybody up to the standard, the high expectations. It’s been the same thing every year since I’ve been here. It’s a built-in thing to the culture. Everybody knows what to expect.”
Graduate a bunch of guys? No worries at Mitchell, where players work in the wings, lifting weights, studying film, getting ready and able.
And for many, like Ferrini, versatile.
Last year, he played quarterback, safety, linebacker and receiver, accumulating 378 passing yards, 595 rushing and 232 receiving, while averaging 4.4 tackles a game. This season, the plan is for him to play mainly quarterback and a limited amount at safety.
“Whatever they need me to do, I’m happy to do,” said Ferrini, who is still waiting for a college football scholarship offer but is expected to get one before the season ends. “I feel lucky to be a part of all this school, this community. I feel a responsibility to do my part to keep this going.”
Around Ferrini are a group of hard-working teammates, who also lack college offers but combine to form a formidable force.
Ferrini’s leading target is senior Drayk Simmons, who last week caught four passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-0 victory over Gulf. Setting up the passing game is the rushing attack, beginning with bulldozing Jack Sutherlin (71 rushes, 412 yards in 2021) and scat backs Jamarion Miller (73 carries, 407 yards) and Sean Brown, a sophomore who was promoted to varsity last year as a freshman.
Up front, the Mustangs again are rebuilding a bit, returning only right tackle Mo Anton a year after replacing their entire offensive line from the previous season.
“We have been blessed the past few years with a bunch of linemen who continue working hard and get prepared to step in,” said Andy Schmitz, in his ninth year as head coach. “Our linemen have been a great example of our culture.”
Defensively, Mitchell returns senior Tayshawn Sullivan and junior Cam Council on the line, linebackers Niko Ferrero and Javan Baggott, and defensive backs Carter Fields, Johnnie Jackson and Dashawn Currington.
Add it up, and it’s another disciplined and tough group of Mustangs who will be ready on Friday to take on East Lake (0-1 after falling 28-20 to Lake Gibson). Mitchell won last year’s cross-county clash, 25-20.
Unlike the past few seasons, East Lake is no longer a district opponent following FHSAA reclassification. Mitchell now joins Land O’ Lakes, Springstead, Sunlake and Wiregrass Ranch in Class 4S (Suburban), District 6.
“The game against East Lake has become a rivalry for us, and we didn’t want to stop it even though we’re no longer in the same district,” Schmitz said. “I think this should be another great game.”