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The word little's a big deal for Mustangs

Like a little bigger and stronger and faster, said their coach.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


Like a little bigger and stronger and faster, said their coach.

TRINITY -- Everything at Mitchell is little this season.

"A little bigger, a little stronger, a little faster," Mustangs coach Scott Schmitz said.

So Mitchell should be a little better -- okay, better than that -- as Schmitz begins the third year of his second campaign to build a county power from scratch.

The Mustangs went 1-9 in their inaugural year in 2001, edging Gulf 30-28. Schmitz, who opened River Ridge's program in 1991, expects more victories in 2002 with 24 seniors and 13 juniors.

The offensive backfield is deep, the defense is physically stronger and far more aggressive, and the team is stronger, more experienced and more confident.

That maturity will be on display in every facet, Schmitz said, just as immaturity was last season.

"I think a number of times last year, especially on the defensive side of the ball, we were in a position to make plays, but we just could never finish," he said. "I think a lot of that had to do with indecisiveness on their part. Football was still new to them, and some of them physically could not do it. They were playing against kids who were physically stronger than they were."

Schmitz's backfield is two-deep at every position: Ricky Moise at fullback, two-year starter Reggie Moise and James Campbell at halfback and Spencer Brown and Rob Metz at wingback.

The fullbacks have the power, the halfbacks the speed and the wingbacks the versatility Schmitz wants. Combine that with improved guard play -- Charlie Pitcock at strongside guard, Mike Despota at weakside -- and quarterback Donnie Josephik's strong offeseason, and the coach hopes to better last year's 11.5-points-per-game average.

"The kids we have, their strength matches that of the offense," Schmitz said. "It's potentially one of the best overall backfields I've ever had."

The 5-2 defense is anchored by Spiro Tsagaris at nose tackle but will miss Derek Shortz at linebacker, who suffered a broken right arm for the second consecutive season. Schmitz hopes to have him back by midseason.

"He'll pop you, and we really missed that," Schmitz said. "We did not have a lot of what I would call tough guys last year. We've gotten stronger."

Especially on the right side of the defensive line with Scott Frazier and Brandon Thomas. "I really think that Brandon is the type of player who could be one of the top defensive lineman in the area," Schmitz said.

Brown, who tore up his knee in the third game last year, returns at strong safety and Ed Garton lines up at free safety.

MUSTANGS PLAYBOOK

OFFENSE: Scott Schmitz's offense is the Wing-T. He wants favorable mismatches and the advantage of angle blocking. It is a timing offense, and the key is the guards -- Charlie Pitcock and Bryan Littlejohn, who must be athletic enough to pull and sweep outside -- and fullbacks Derek Shortz and Ricky Moise, who must pick the right hole and block. Wingback Spencer Brown must do it all: run, block and catch. Donnie Josephik is the caretaker quarterback; he'll move the backfield around until a two-on-one blocking mismatch is created and throw sparingly using play-action.

DEFENSE: The 5-2 is another high school favorite, with the linebackers and ends reading the fullback at the snap. The strongside 'backer, must lead the team in tackles for the scheme to succeed. The five linemen each fill a gap, and Schmitz always wants his nose tackle, Spiro Tsagaris, to create havoc inside. Mitchell plays Cover-2 in the secondary, with the safeties splitting the field, although his strong safety, Brown, plays like an extra linebacker. When the Mustangs play Cover-4, the strong safety moves up for run support to defend against short passes; the weakside corner covers a half, and the safety and strongside corner take quarters.

MITCHELL MUSTANGS

AT A GLANCE

COLORS: Black and gold.

CLASS: Class 4A, District 6.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: None.

HEAD COACH: Scott Schmitz (second season at school 1-9, 43-51 in 11th season overall).

ASSISTANTS: Scott Bisbe, Chris Murphy, Jeff Deremer, Dillard Caldwell, Mike Cuddy, Jim Michaels, Phil Bell, Dick Buckenroth, Ian Mooney, John Stanjeski.

Directions

MITCHELL STADIUM: From S.R. 52 or 54, turn south onto Little Road. The school is about half a mile on the right.

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