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Mitchell retains Helmet trophy in rollicking 47-40 win over Wasson
Sometimes you find the most drama in the least likely places.
Aaron Wright ran for 399 yards and six touchdowns on 45 carries as Mitchell held off a spirited comeback attempt to beat Wasson 47-40 Saturday at Garry Berry Stadium. With the win, Mitchell regains The Helmet, the 8-year-old trophy that symbolizes the 47-year rivalry between the schools.
The teams came into their respective season finales with a combined 3-15 record, a mark that lends itself to playing out the string. For these teams, there will be no playoffs.
But there was pride. And with The Helmet on the line, there was also tradition.
Pride and tradition can be powerful things.
“It was a typical Mitchell-Wasson rivalry game,” Mitchell coach Archie Malloy said. “I've been on the other side of that too.”
Trailing by seven with 1:30 remaining, Wasson took the ball on its 25 and moved to the Mitchell 49 in four plays. Wasson quarterback Richie Perea, who was 20-32 for 387 yards, found Nate Gessing on a crossing route at the 31 with only one Marauder between him and a tie game. Mitchell's Dante Russell threw himself at Gessing's feet, wrapping up both ankles to make the stop. Had he missed, there was nobody left to prevent the score.
“I couldn't let that happen,” said Russell, who also had two interceptions. “We needed The Helmet. I leaped for the tackle and got him.”
Three plays later, Wright picked off Perea at the 5-yard line. The Helmet was headed to Mitchell.
When Wright scored his final TD, the game was a virtual blowout at 47-19 with just over a quarter remaining. Wasson came back with touchdown passes from Perea to D.J. Hanes and Chase Bess, and a 95-yard TD run by Theron Brandt, who finished with 215 yards rushing.
“We preach all the time to win every play, win every series, win every quarter and never give up,” Wasson coach Jeff Palmer said. “We didn't give up.”
But Wright and six turnovers proved too much to overcome.
“We dug ourselves a huge hole and shot ourselves in the foot over and over with turnovers,” Palmer said. “You can't win a game like this with that many turnovers.”
Mitchell finishes its season at 3-7, 1-4 in the 3A South Central League. Wasson ends at 1-9, 1-4.
Wright's huge game put him at 2,029 yards and 21 touchdowns for the season.
“We were able to put Aaron Wright over 2,000 yards rushing, which is a great milestone for that young man,” Malloy said. “Obviously, that's a tribute to our offensive line getting it done.”
While rivals, few schools are closer than Mitchell and Wasson. Many of the students attend classes at both campuses. They even share a band and compete as one school in golf.
Mitchell has a huge Air Force Junior ROTC wing with about 25 percent of the student body involved. They joined a large contingent of Wasson Navy JROTC cadets in a stirring, patriotic pregame ceremony.
After that, the game threatened to be anticlimactic. The players on both sides ensured that didn't happen.