The 15th annual Whitehaven Classic – a three-game affair that kicked off the high school football season – was an early proving ground with Douglass, Mitchell and Whitehaven emerging as winners.
Douglass defeated Westwood 12-6; Mitchell stopped Hamilton 20-6 and Whitehaven overwhelmed Overton 48-0. The games were played at Whitehaven.
Mitchell vs Hamilton
It seemed as though there were more flags and stoppages than actual plays run in this one.
Mitchell (1-0) only has two seniors and at one point during training camp only had 18 players. The roster since has filled out to 45 players, with head coach Nathan Cole and staff husting to get them in sync.
The Tigers did show some flash on offense, with running back Gordon Guy scoring on a short touchdown run. The defense looked very solid, especially the defensive line and first-year defensive back Devonte Yarbor. The Tigers stopped Hamilton’s Wildcats on several possessions in the red zone.
The lone Wildcats’ touchdown was Kevonte Rodgers’ 61-yard run, which made 12-6 in the first quarter. Hamilton had a touchdown wiped out by a penalty.
“Penalties really killed us today,” said Wildcats head coach Jerel Blanchard. “It is the first game of the season and it is just growing pains. We are going to fix it.”
“We are going to fix it at practice,” said Blanchard. “It is just the little things. It was just jitters. We are not laying down this season.”
While Mitchell’s players are young, Cole said he was able to call plays “like I had a veteran team.”
On reducing the penalties, Cole said, “We have to work on them every day. We have to get some repetition. We have to prepare them better and get in better condition.”
Mitchell did not have pre-season scrimmages.
Whitehaven vs Overton
Among this year’s goals for Whitehaven was putting more speed on the field to complement powerful offensive and defensive lines. That mission appeared accomplished as the Tigers dominated Overton’s Wolverines.
The Tigers scored three touchdowns on their first six plays of the first quarter. Running back Ahmad Miller ran one in from the six-yard line. Then quarterback Zerius Short connected with Tyshaun Tate. Short soon struck again, hitting Kedarius Jones for a 43-yard score.
Meanwhile, the Whitehaven defense smothered the Wolverines’ offense, with pre-snap penalties keeping Overton behind the chains.
Whitehaven senior returner Ryan Weston had a 41-yard punt return for a touchdown. A penalty wiped out a second Weston punt return for a score.
The Tigers also scored on an 89-yard pass from wide receiver William Carver to Taylor Burton. Their final touchdown was Short hooking up with Jones for 55 yards.
“It is good to get started. It’s great for our guys to get on a good foot and perform. We are excited to give these guys an opportunity to play this game,” said Whitehaven head coach Rodney Saulsberry.
“It is all about consistency, press repeat,” said Saulsberry of the Tigers’ strong showing in the first quarter. “It is something that is hard to have as young people. We are asking them to be consistent on a daily basis.”
Still, three touchdowns on six plays?
“We can’t expect that every time, but it was exciting to get started on that foot. The kids put in the work to get it started,” said Saulsberry.
“If we continue to play together, we can accomplish our goal to win the state championship. It takes us playing together for us to give up a little bit to get it for the whole team. We have to have some guys to sacrifice and move around to play different positions and we just expect them to (do) their best.”
On Saturday (Aug. 27), Overton will look to get its first win of the season when they take on Tipton Rosemark Academy in Millington.
Whitehaven will stay home and host the Ridgeway Roadrunners on Friday (Aug. 26).
Hamilton will travel to play the Wooddale Cardinals.
Mitchell will be on the road against the Melrose Golden Wildcats.