Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CAMILLA -- Take three quarterbacks, the fastest kid in Georgia, throw in a star who came back home to coach in his hometown, add a three-year plan, a group of kids who simply worked harder than ever before and a blue dress with some white heels -- and you just start to get an idea of what kind of season it has been at Mitchell County.

"I've been enjoying it and I don't want to see it end,'' said Mitchell coach Dondrial Pinkins, who was the quarterback for the last Mitchell County team to play a home game in the playoffs.

That was in 1999. Pinkins, who starred at South Carolina, came back home to coach at his old school, and in just three years he has the Eagles sailing into the playoffs.

They'll be at home Friday night against Savannah Christian in the first round of the Class A playoffs with a team that few thought would win the Region 1-A title.

"It's because of our lack of size, no one thought we would do much,'' said Mitchell receiver and UGA commit Justin Scott-Wesley, who ran the fifth fastest 100 meters in the nation last spring while breaking the Class AA record in Georgia. He's considered the fastest football player in the state, and there's speed all over the field at Mitchell.

"We're small but we've got speed -- lots of speed,'' said Jesse Atkins, one of Mitchell's three quarterbacks.

Atkins is the burner. He can fly. Still, Pinkins has used Cedrick Spooner and Derrick Davis, a junior, all season, shifting quarterbacks and gears as easily as driving a Ferrari.

"It has just worked,'' Davis said. "It's like a baseball pitcher, throwing a curveball and then a changeup. It's a change of pace.''

Atkins is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and Davis is huge at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and Spooner has the best arm. It's a three-headed quarterback system that has worked all season.

Davis has completed 51-of-76 (67 percent) for 590 yards and six TDs and Spooner has completed 35-of-58 (60 percent) for 539 yards and eight TDs, while Atkins has thrown only 25 passes. He's completed 11 for 147 yards and two TDs. That's 1,276 yards and 16 touchdowns from the QBs. Atkins leads the team in rushing, gaining 576 yards on just 45 carries for a 12.80 yards per-carry average.

All three quarterbacks have played down the stretch and Pinkins might play all three against Savannah Christian.

"You never know what you're going to get,'' Pinkins said Wednesday at practice. "It keeps defenses on their toes, keeps them guessing. It's like when you are playing cards. You don't want anyone to look at your hand.''

Pinkins can't believe the hand he was dealt in the playoffs. Mitchell (9-1) went unbeaten to win the Region 1-A title and get the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But instead of getting a 6-4 or 5-5 team that finished fourth in a region, the Eagles drew Savannah Christian, which played for the state title last year and went 9-1 this season.

"I've looked at that region (3-A) over and over and I don't know how that happened,'' Pinkins said. "We won the region and we're thinking we're playing a No. 4 team and now we get Savannah Christian, a 9-1 team? If we can win this game it will be a big confidence booster for us.''

The kids at Mitchell already feel pretty good about landing in the playoffs.

"It feels great,'' said Anthony Brown, a senior who starts on both sides of the line. "It feels like a dream, but I keep pinching myself and it hurts. Everything is true.''

The Eagles started talking about making a run to the playoffs the minute the school was dropped from Class AA, where Mitchell was one of the smallest schools in the state, down to Class A this season.

Scott-Wesley and others talked about it in August, saying: "The playing field has finally been leveled.''

Then Mitchell went out and ripped through its schedule.

"It started from Day 1,'' said Scott-Wesley, who draws double and triple teams every week. "We were motivated coming to a new region. We wanted to send a message that Mitchell County is for real. Our motto for the season has been we are never satisfied. We bought into that motto and everything fell into place. It feels a whole lot better than being 3-7 (like we were last year).

"But we can't be satisfied (with 9-1). We want to make a deep run into the playoffs and win a championship.''

The Eagles started fast, beating two Class AAA teams (Westover and Dougherty) to begin the season, then they lost to AA power Thomasville. After that, however, they tore off seven in a row, including a forfeit against Seminole County. In six region games, Mitchell outscored opponents, 232-73.

The Eagles are swarming on defense, and the running game has been solid with Modzelle Atkins, a junior, leading the way with 554 yards on 68 carries -- an 8.15 yards per-carry average.

This year's success story is a result of three years of growing for Pinkins' team, which went 4-6 his first year at Mitchell and 3-7 last year. He joked in August that if the trend slipped to 2-8 this season that he would retire, then amended the bet, saying: "If we go 2-8, I'll wear a blue and red dress with white heels right down Broad Street (in Camilla).''

Pinkins took a lot of ribbing, but by Week 4, his team had already won three games, and now that the Eagles are in the playoffs, Pinkins now has to face the second part of that bet, which was Scott-Wesley's idea back in August.

"How about a counter bet,'' Scott-Wesley said. "How about if we win state, you wear the blue and red dress with the white heels down Broad Street?''

Pinkins agreed. But he's worried more about taking the first step Friday against Savannah Christian than his wardrobe. Still, his program has soared in three seasons.

"It started to change when coach got here three years ago,'' Brown said. "That's when we started working harder and getting motivated.''

Modzelle Atkins said the biggest change came this summer.

"We got here with hard work and dedication,'' he said. "It started in the summer. You could see it in everybody working harder and taking everything more seriously.''

Pinkins said he preached E and E all season.

"That's effort and energy,'' he said. "They've given me both.''

And they've given Mitchell County a season to remember and a home playoff berth -- and more.

"We're ready,'' said Dayia Gilbert, a senior who plays on both sides of the line. "We've been waiting for this to happen since we our freshmen year. We're ready for the playoffs."