HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Mitchem's big night helps Bears bury Panthers
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 25, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
NEWBERRY — Dixie County took a giant step toward the District 7-1A title Thursday night, and as much as it might not like to, will be big Chiefland supporters tonight.
But just tonight.
The No. 2 Bears dismantled Newberry at Panther Stadium, 52-11, getting an outstanding performance from senior Shaquille Mitchem who accounted for five touchdowns, which included an 85-yard kickoff return to open the second half.
This game was close for one quarter, but then Dixie County (6-0 overall, 3-0 in district) scored 38 points in the second to build a commanding 46-3 lead at the half before a stunned home crowd.
Mitchem caught touchdown passes of 28 and 36 yards from sophomore quarterback Aaron Thomas to make it 24-0. After a 60-yard TD run by Kyle Lamar made it 31-0, Mitchem took over at QB and tossed scoring passes of 39 yards to Brandon Land and 10 yards to Thomas, who caught it off the fingers of Lamar in the end zone for a 43-point lead at the half.
“The first half we played extremely well,” said longtime Dixie County coach Brent Wilkerson. “I think offensively and defensively we controlled the whole first half.
“Shaquille came out and played really well. We thought the way they were playing off, we could get the ball to him. Aaron is getting a lot better at throwing in practice. He made some good throws, and you get it to Shaquille and he can make some good things happen.”
By the half, Dixie had 14 first downs and 338 yards of offense (215 rush, 123 pass). Its only score in the second half came with the opening kickoff when Mitchem went the distance.
“On that kick return, he stuck it up there and that was a great return,” Wilkerson said. “We are getting better. I don't think we are as good as we can be yet. I think our defense is pretty good, our offense is getting there. I think we are getting better. I told these guys I don't want to peak until the end.”
The Bears never let the Panthers' standout Monte Seabrook break off any long runs. In fact, the senior was hard pressed to pick up positive yardage, often hit in the backfield for negative yards. He finished with 16 carries for negative 1 yard.
Akeem Sholtz opened the scoring for Dixie, breaking away on a 45-yard TD run with 3:35 left in the first. James Bowers then scored the first of his three 2-point conversion runs.
With the win, the Bears will clinch a state playoff berth with a Chiefland (6-1 overall, 2-0 in district) victory over Union County tonight. If that happens, the Bears and Indians will play for the District 7 title in Cross City next Friday.
But if the Tigers (6-1, 1-1) win tonight in Chiefland, it will force the the Indians to have to win next week at Dixie County just to make the playoffs. Union County hosts Williston next Friday in its final league game.
It was the second straight lopsided loss for Newberry, which dropped to 4-4 and 1-3. The Panthers lost last week at Union County, 49-14.
“They (Dixie) did a good job,” said Newberry first-year coach Kepa Sarduy. “I don't like to make excuses. We got out physicaled two games in a row. We have to clean that up.
“We are both 1A teams and they just outmuscled us on the line.”
The Bears were a perfect 7-of-7 in the air and had no turnovers in the game. They also only punted twice. Newberry, meanwhile, had six fumbles, losing two. The first came on the Panthers' first possession as they were driving successfully into Dixie territory, but lost the ball at the Bear 26.
Wilkerson admits rooting for the Indians tonight won't be easy, considering they are district rivals.
“We want to beat Chiefland next week and win the district championship," Wilkerson said. “If we do that, the first couple of playoff games will be at Dixie County, and we are hard to beat in Dixie. I like the direction we are heading.”