By Noah Dalton
MITCHELL – Eastern Greene beat Mitchell High School 41-14 on Friday behind a dominant performance from senior running back James Lewis IV, who scored four touchdowns on the evening, rushing for 184 yards on 13 carries.
All of Lewis’ TDs came in the first half, where the Thunderbirds were able to score 41 to force an early running clock. Though Mitchell was able to get on the board with a couple of touchdowns late, the early deficit was too much for them to overcome in the end.
“We came out a little shell-shocked, but it’s not anything we can’t fix,” said Bluejackets’ head coach Kevin Kling. “We knew what we were getting into with that running back. He’s a special player, he really is, so we’ll figure out some things and I think we’re getting better. Our urgency showed up in the second half and that’s what I like to see is the urgency. So, we’re going to get things fixed. We’re starting to head in the right direction. We’ve just got to retool and keep trying to piece things back together.”
Eastern Greene started early, with Lewis finding the endzone on a 51-yard carry for the first play of the game. They scored three more touchdowns in the first quarter, a 1-yard goal-line carry from quarterback Jonas Hawk, another 1-yard rushing TD, this time from Lewis, which he followed a few minutes later with a 23-yard carry to the endzone.
Lewis got one more in the second quarter on a 54-yard rush just 30 seconds into the period. Before the final whistle of the half, Thunderbirds’ tight-end Payton Lewis was able to score on a seven-yard carry for their fifth and final TD of the game.
After a slow first half for Mitchell, who were able to reach the Thunderbird’s five-yard line during a drive in the first half but left unable to score after a blocked field goal attempt, the Bluejackets offense turned it on in the second, with quarterback Kale England connecting with Gavin Robinson for two touchdowns.
The first, was a 32-yard throw in the third quarter, with the second being a 50-yard effort in the fourth.
Those two touchdowns were Mitchell’s first in 10 quarters, after being shutout in the first half, as well as the last two weeks against Springs Valley and West Washington.
The Bluejackets, who were already a young team and are now forced to play without their senior starting quarterback Ethan Turner, who went down in week two with a torn meniscus, have struggled to find their identity due to ever-changing lineups and personnel. Kling feels Friday’s game was a step in the right direction towards his team finding it.
“We got guys in different positions and young guys all over the field. I mean, tonight on offense, we started three freshmen and a sophomore running back that played JV last year and a guy that rotated in at the F and as a sophomore. We’ve got a lot of young pieces and a lot of young guys and it shows. We make young guys mistakes, but that’s our job, to coach them and fix them,” he said.
Next week, Mitchell will end their three-game homestand and travel to Crawford County, where both teams will be looking to get their first win of the season after 0-4 starts.
Last season, the Bluejackets dominated the Wolfpack, beating them 56-0, in what wound up being their only win of the year, finishing 1-9.
Ahead of this year’s matchup, Kling said Mitchell will continue taking their season one day at a time, focusing on what lies directly ahead.
“We don’t look down the road. It’s week to week, day by day. Like I told them in the locker room, we’ve got to win play-by-play, so I don’t pencil anybody in. I don’t look ahead to anybody at all,” said Kling.
“We have got to win every play and that means win every play in practice, whenever we play. When we come out here on the field, and eventually when we put that together, we’re going to start winning football games.”