MIDDLEBURG - Middleburg High senior running back Mike Mitchell has been getting lots of press this summer with a commit to University of Utah after a superb junior year last year in Broncos’ …
MIDDLEBURG - Middleburg High senior running back Mike Mitchell has been getting lots of press this summer with a commit to University of Utah after a superb junior year last year in Broncos’ historic 5-5 finish under first year coach Ryan Wolfe.
In 2022, Mitchell is expected to rifle through enemy defenses as Wolfe’s offensive wizardry is sure to put the fast, agile back to work moving the ball for the Broncos.
Middleburg steps into the regular season with a season opener against a highly-touted Hawthorne High School team that comes in with back-to-back state runnerup finishes in Class 1A.
“When you get the state finals twice in two years, you got a pretty good thing going,” said Wolfe. “They lost to Madison County last year and Baker High the year before.”
Hawthorne, 10-1 last year with a 13-12 loss to Madison County in the Class 1A title game and 10-3 in 2020 with a 27-14 loss to Baker High in that title game after beating Madison County 18-14 in the state semifinal to advance, returns a huge number from last year’s state team but one missing piece is the quarterback, Tyler Jefferson, who transferred to Columbia High. Jefferson was a dual threat quarterback with 22 touchdowns, but Hawthorne still has senior running back Brian James with 1171 yards; six 100-plus games, and 13 scores.
“Plus they are huge up front,” said Wolfe. “Westside was originally on our schedule but that changed and we got lucky to get Hawthorne as a quality team. We will be challenged.”
Hawthorne had three games with 50-plus points last year.
“The team knows who is coming to town,” said Wolfe. “We circled that game on our schedule and have been preparing for it all summer.”
Surprise, surprise though for the Broncos in their 35-7 win; 28-7 at halftime, preseason classic against Episcopal as T.J. Lane, a Mandarin transfer in expected to be a key factor in Wolfe’s schematic, exploded on the Broncos’ opening offensive series with a huge hole behind guard Khoda Moses and downfield blocks from Toshombee Jenkins going for 45 yards to Episcopal’s 35 yard line. Mitchell would bull the ball to the 11 with less than one minute off the game clock.
“We wanted to come out firing from the opening whistle because last year, we gave up a lot of first half points and learned that it was tough to give away 20-30 points in a half and then have to fight back to lose by a few,” said Wolfe. “T.J. had a nice game for us; about 70 yards, and we saw good improvement on our line. We had been hampered by flags on offense but had just one tonight so we were not giving up yards with mental mistakes.”
A sack to quarterback Jaydan Jenkins slowed the Broncos early momentum, but Episcopal got pulled offsides by Jenkins to add the five yards back.
Lane would barrel to to the one yard line on the next snap before Jenkins set up with Mitchell behind him in the backfield for the score.
On the Broncos’ first defensive series, senior linebacker Austin Cruce smashed Episcopal’s first running play with a headlock takedown to exact a bit of his wrestling prowess.
Episcopal was forced to punt and was flagged for interfering with the punt catch to put Middleburg at midfield.
Boom, first handoff to Mitchell goes for 17 yards as the Jenkins-led offense was quick to strike against the Episcopal defense as Wolfe kept challenging his offensive line to keep the ball moving.
“We just wanted to see play physical, hit their assignments and keep the ball moving,” said Wolfe, noting his five linemen; Micah George, Moses, Dakota Gober, Landen Padgett and Jaylen Booker, all landing in over 250 pounds, showed good procedural awareness. “They were playing as a unit and we only had one penalty for the whole game. Those two guys; T.J. and Mike, don’t need much room.”
Jenkins took off on a quarterback draw on fourth and one to get a Bronco first down.
“I’ve always liked the quarterback that could run and Jaydan is very elusive,” said Wolfe. “We want to pass up a bit to keep the run game honest and Jaydan is a third guy out of the backfield.”
Lane would pound to the Episcopal 10 with three minutes left in the first quarter with Jenkins following Moses and H-back Wyatt Underwood to the three.
Lane rolled up the middle for the score to put Middleburg up 14-0.
On Episcopal’s next possession, a pass over top scored from 50 yards out to put the Eagles on the board.
“Their receiver is a big time player and made a good hitch and go move to get open downfield,” said Wolfe. “We limited them to just one first down for the game.”
Now on the scoreboard, Episcopal looked to gain some game momentum, but Mitchell had other thoughts as he rumbled 87 yards on the ensuing kickoff with half a dozen broken tackles to silence the Episcopal fans that ventured into the rain.
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