Mitchell County first-year head coach not only earned his first career victory as the leader of the Eagles, but it came against Mitchell's biggest rival Pelham on Friday.
PELHAM --- Mitchell County had just 11 yards of total offense in the second half of Friday’s county rivalry game against Pelham.
Turns out, the Eagles didn’t even need that much.
Their defense was just that good.
Mitchell County forced four turnovers and held Pelhem to 99 yards of offense and won the annual “Backyard Brawl,” 13-0.
“(The defense) played with passion,” said Larry Cornelius, who got his first win as head coach of the Eagles — against Mitchell’s biggest rival, no less. “The defense was chomping to get back on the field. We like to hit hard. Even if we give up a 5- or 6-yard gain, some of those hits pay dividends in the fourth quarter.”
And Mitchell County hit hardest when it counted the most.
Pelham got within the 5-yard line three times and within a yard of the end zone twice, but each time Mitchell’s defense stood strong.
The Eagles’ first goal-line stand came on the opening drive when Pelham marched all the way to the 1-yard line before a false start and a delay of game moved the Hornets back to the 11. On the next play, Mitchell’s Anthony Murray picked up a Brandon Smith fumble to set the tone for the game.
“When you get the ball inside the 5, you have to get it in if you want to win. It’s that simple,” Pelham coach Frankie Carroll said. “We killed ourselves. They have a good team, and you can’t give good teams opportunities. You’ll get beat every time.”
A personal foul on Pelham’s Thomas Garcia took the Hornets outside of the red zone in the third quarter, Mitchell’s Jocquil Chester recovered a fumble and got an interception in the second half and Murray recovered a second fumble from Smith in the fourth quarter on a 4th-and-goal from the 1.
“We couldn’t let them score,” Murray said. “We had to get the ball by any means and not let them score. Inside the 5-yard line, it gets tougher. And you have to get tougher.”
Pelham’s defense was tough as well, forcing three turnovers and holding Mitchell to just one first down in the second half.
But the Eagles’ offense did just enough in the first half, scoring in the first quarter on a 55-yard run from Jaquan Williams and in the second quarter on a 2-yard run from Troy Chester. Williams, who had a game-high 77 rushing yards, broke free on the outside and scored his TD as time expired in the first quarter.
“I was tired and out of breath, but I just had to keep pushing,” Williams said. “I was just thinking I had to get to the end zone.”
Williams got into the end zone, and the Eagles got a much-needed win — one that Cornelius said his squad needed.
“We still have a long way to go, but you need to get wins like this,” Cornelius said.
Mitchell (1-1) plays again Friday at home against Albany, while Pelham (1-1) is at home Friday against Miller County.