BAKERSVILLE – For the second consecutive week the McDowell Titans squared off against an opponent who makes its living playing a physical, ball-control style of football.
And unfortunately that style has again turned out to be the Titans’ own kryptonite.
The Mitchell High School Mountaineers ran all but four of their 50 plays on the ground Friday night and used that to springboard past the Titans 42-14 on the road in Ledger.
The outcome Friday night continues a trend of recent struggles for McDowell against the neighboring 1A program over the past decade. Mitchell with the victory improves to 3-1 on the season and has now won five in a row and eight of the past ten games in this series.
The last Titan victory actually in Mitchell County came back in 2012, a 56-0 thumping of the Mountaineers. Since that point McDowell has not been able to do much especially on the road at Mountaineer Stadium. The last three contests on their home turf have resulted in a combined deficit of 102-34.
The loss for the Titans also ends the non-conference portion of the 2018 schedule at 2-2 going into next week’s bye leading up to the start of Northwestern Conference play in just under two weeks.
After winning its first two contests of this season, 22-7 at home against R-S Central and 52-27 on the road at Avery two weeks ago, McDowell is entering the bye having lost two in a row.
And much like the Week 3 setback to Patton, a 35-13 score, a lack of controlling the run game combined with a strong presence on special teams put the Titans in a hole that was too much to overcome.
Mitchell scored twice in as many possessions during the first quarter and was on its third scoring drive that leaked over into the early moments of the second quarter, giving the Mountaineers a commanding 22-0 lead.
The first possession of the game for Mitchell spanned 73 yards on seven plays over a three-and-a-half minute stretch. Quarterback Noah Pitman and wing back Landon Miller exchanged carries during the sequence. Once they got into McDowell territory, Pitman took the read and sprinted up the middle 29 yards to go in front with 8:24 left in the first along with Kadan Elliot’s extra point to make it 7-0.
After a three-and-out by McDowell’s offense, the Mountaineers began their drive near midfield and continued to methodically work the ball on the ground and in seven plays Miller pushed in from 11 yards away at the 4:05 mark. After a successful conversion the Titans were suddenly down by 15 points.
There was a repeat on the next sequence as McDowell went three-and-out deep in its own territory and it put Mitchell in a position for a third chance to score in the first quarter-plus.
After starting in Titan territory and five plays later, Pitman wedged in a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 11:21 left in the half making it 22-0.
After having negative yardage in the first two possessions McDowell finally pieced together an 82-yard drive that spanned over 18 plays and 10 minutes of game time.
Tailback J.C. Olivo after having no gain on first down, came back with running plays of seven yards and five yards on a third-down conversion with 9:54 left in the half, giving the team its only first down of the game at that point.
Olivo’s conversion seemed to kick-start the offense on this drive. Quarterback Adam Randolph then added a 16-yard run and then a nine-yard pass to Dakota Effler to get McDowell past midfield for the first time.
Additional key plays on that drive included a five-yard run by Randolph on a third down and a 15-yard completed pass to Effler on third and long yardage. That completion prevented the drive from stalling outside of the red zone. Three plays later Adam connected with brother Andruw Randolph from 6 yards out with 1:10 left in the half, trimming the deficit to 22-7 and ending what was a rough first half only down by two touchdowns.
After forcing a McDowell punt early in the second half the Mountaineers had their own long, drawn-out scoring drive that took over seven minutes of the third quarter and put away any notion that the Titans could draw any closer in the second half.
This drive featured three running plays of more than 10 yards and one pass completion by Pitman, a 10-yard reception to Tyler McKinney that put Mitchell into the red zone again. Pitman capped off the drive with an 8-yard run with 57 seconds left in the third to pad the lead back up to a 29-7 margin.
In the fourth with the game pretty much in hand the Mountaineers got on the board one last time when Ethan LaPlante punched in a nine-yard run with 6:06 left.
The Titans were able to trim the final margin down a bit when Andruw Randolph took a jet sweep handoff, turned the corner and reached the outside making it 41-14 on a 61-yard run with 2:36 left.
Mitchell finished with 351 yards offensively with 329 of the total on the ground. Pitman (16 carries, 115 yards) and Miller (15 carries, 101 yards) both reached the 100-yard plateau in the game with reserve running back Jordan Cox running for 70 yards on five rush attempts. The Mountaineers as a unit averaged just over seven yards per run play.
Meanwhile the Titans finished with 216 yards offensively with the 61-yard run by Andruw Randolph leading all ballcarriers. Olivo tacked on 59 yards on 13 carries.
Adam Randolph finished 7-of-11 with 88 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. Effler caught four of those passes for 61 yards in the game.
McDowell will open Northwestern Conference play on the road Sept. 21 at Hickory (7:30 p.m. kickoff).