“It’s the eyes.”
So says Jimbo Davis, crediting the apparent ease with which he and his fellow Mount Si receivers snag Nick Mitchell’s sure-shot passes out of the autumn night air.
Hand-eye coordination, and practice, practice, practice, have everything to do with it.
“It’s getting out here on those Saturday mornings in December,” Davis adds. “Getting the ball machine out, slinging them 70 miles an hour.”
Rain, shine, night, day, it doesn’t matter. Last week, the Wildcats could be seen working and practicing in the rain long after dark.
“We’ve been playing in this weather since fifth grade,” said fellow receiver Tyler Button. “It’s Wildcat weather. You’ve got to deal with conditions.”
“There’s no excuse to drop the ball,” says Davis.
“Bird Dog”—the team’s nickname for Mitchell— “always stresses the finish,” said Button. “You’ve got to do it for him.”
For the Bird Dog himself, it all starts in practice. Hard work throughout the week builds a connection between the Wildcats.
“When we come out here on Fridays, we’re clicking and completing,” Mitchell, a junior, says.
That was definitely the case on Friday, as Mitchell and the rest of the offensive corps built momentum into state with a 52-7 win over Auburn Mountainview, the third seed from the South Puget Sound League (Mount Si is no. 2 in KingCo).
Mount Si’s aerial attack continues to fly forward. Senior wide receiver Trent Riley broke a new school record for touchdowns in a season with 19, while Mitchell picked up records for passing touchdowns in a game and a season with, respectively, five and 24.
Riley has earned 1,078 yards for the Wildcats this season, 580 from caught passes.
On Friday, Mount Si’s specialty players, led by Riley, hammered the Grizzlies.
Kicker Cameron Van Winkle had a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter, and made seven kicks.
In the second quarter, Riley scored twice on on a 13-yard pass from Mitchell. Griffin McLain grabbed a 10-yard pass from Mitchell, and Jimbo Davis also caught a 12-yard pass.
In the third, Mitchell made a quick four-yard run into the end zone.
“The offensive line made a crease for me to sneak in there,” he said.
Senior Hank Van Liew ended the Auburn possession shortly thereafter with a potent pick.
“I got into my zone and made a play,” Van Liew said of the interception.
That set things up for another Mitchell-Riley connection. Riley juked and dodged for 12 yards to score his third touchdown of the night.
Auburn made its sole touchdown in the third, with a quick 95-yard touchdown return. Junior Bailey Takacs made a three-yard run for the final touchdown in the fourth quarter.
On the line
Mount Si’s line continues to hold up the air wing.
“I’ve got to give credit to the offensive line for giving me time to get these guys the ball,” Mitchell says.
Lineman Stephen Nnabue said the Auburn line looked physically larger Friday night.
“But we’re coached really well. We know what to do when they pinch, twist… we execute.”
“We all know the system,” added center Mitch Rorem. “We are a very balanced team.”
“We’ve got a good thing going for us,” Rorem said. “People really respect us as a team.”
Mount Si next faces Glacier Peak High School, the top seed of the Northwest District, in what looks to be a rematch of a playoff win by the Wildcats in 2010. The Grizzlies are expected to want revenge.
Nnabue expects more significant competition.
“They’re going to want to come out and punch us in the mouth. We know they’re good. We’re going to practice just like we did this week. We should be good… I think people have finally learned that we don’t mess around.”
“It’s one game at a time,” Mitchell said. “Everybody knows we got knocked out of this round the past four years. So we’re going to bring it this week. Every single day, every rep. We want this one. One week at a time for us.”
• The Mount Si vs. Glacier Peak playoff game is at Snohomish this Friday, Nov. 10.
The Mount Si offensive line wards off Auburn, allowing no. 3, Nick Mitchell, far left, to sneak in for a touchdown during the third quarter. Mount Si won Friday, 52-7, setting up a state playoff rematch with Glacier Peak.