TRINITY — Friday night’s Class 6A, Region 2 quarterfinal could not have gotten off to a better start for Mitchell, with the typical shutdown defense you’d expect to see from the Mustangs.
Mitchell held Lake Weir quarterback Deiontae Simpkins, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards this season, to 0-for-4 on Lake Weir’s first two possessions. Mitchell, meanwhile, built a 14-0 lead thanks to touchdown runs from Kym-mani King and Tyler Willams.
That’s when momentum started to sway to Lake Weir. The Hurricanes quickly pieced together a way to move the ball against Mitchell’s defense. And that was by keeping the Mustangs guessing via a balanced offensive attack. It all started with a 15-play drive that drained seven minutes off the clock, capped by a Simpkins 4-yard touchdown run. Then came an interception and quick strike, with Simpkins connecting with USF commit Brian Dillard on a 20-yard pass to tie the score.
For most Mitchell fans, a 14-14 halftime score wouldn’t be cause for that much concern. The Mustangs, after all, have been in the playoffs for five consecutive seasons compared to Lake Weir, which was making its first playoff appearance since 2009.
But the defense gave up quick scores in the second half. Lake Weir took a 21-14 lead on a five-play drive to open the third quarter. Mitchell (8-3) then punted after a three-and-out, and Lake Weir was on the move again inside Mustang territory.
"We don’t fold. We’ve had bad possessions before. It’s all about the next play," Mitchell coach Andy Schmitz said. "Took us a second to get our legs back underneath us. One play can turn the game around."
That’s when the Mitchell defense came up big with an interception from Nic Fairbank inside the red zone.
What came next was the hardest running Willams has ever done. The Mustangs rode him on an eight-play, 56-yard drive that he capped with a 1-yard run to tie.
But Lake Weir (8-3) proceeded to drain all but four minutes off the clock and pulled ahead by three with 3:58 remaining. On the next drive, facing fourth and 12 with less two minutes remaining, Dillard intercepted the Mustangs. He finished with two picks as Lake Weir notched four overall. Three plays later the score was 30-21, also the final margin.
Willams ran for a game-high 166 yards and two TDs. King added to the rush total with 46 of his own and threw for 49, including a 28-yard score to Rob Graham.
In all, the Mustang defense surrounded 314 yards of offense, 176 through the air.