Mitchell almost didn’t make the playoffs this year. Almost. A couple of close calls here and there kept the fans on the edge for their seats for the majority of the year. If it wasn’t for an upset win against Sunlake, they would’ve been on the outside looking in. It would’ve been weird to not see them partake in the playoffs with Andy Schmitz as the head coach.
However, the Mustangs are in the playoffs, as Schmitz gets away with his third straight playoff appearance in his third year at Mitchell, but it was certainly, a close, close call.
Mitchell’s Adam Rogers watched from afar as Sunlake played Springstead to see who would face his Mustangs in the final round of the Class 6A-District 6 tiebreaker. It was eerily familiar for Rogers, who had seen the same thing play out two years prior at Sunlake High.
“When I was a freshman on JV, we had the same exact thing play out, but at Sunlake. Same three teams. But to actually be on the field, playing in that game, it was breathtaking,” Rogers said. “We kinda figured we were going to play Springstead, Sunlake was without a couple guys, and we knew they were a tough team from our loss against them.”
The Mustangs’ Kickoff Classic certainly wasn’t one to remember, as they were picked apart by Palm Harbor University on both sides of the ball. The final score was 51-11. A majority of fans were starting to freak out, but Mitchell’s win against River Ridge the following week started to calm some nerves. Hurricane Hermine came and went. Springstead came next. Final score, 33-7, in favor of the Eagles.
Pasco came, easy win. Dunedin came. The Mustangs shut them out. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Until they travelled to Wiregrass Ranch. It may have been a 45-6 loss, but more importantly, and a lot more glaring, Larry Dalla Betta was out with an ankle injury. With Sunlake looming, the Mustangs were at a must win situation in order to even have a shot at the playoffs.
“The Tampa Bay Times had us at like as a 21-point underdog or something like that. Nobody believed in us until that night,” Rogers said. Mitchell would take the win with backup quarterback Justin Locklear taking the charge.
“I had to move to strong safety because our starting guy just wasn’t getting the job done. Justin came in at the free safety spot and we worked pretty well together. It was a bit of a change, but I had to do what I had to do to help this team win.” And win they have done, as the Mustangs are currently on a four game win streak going into their tangle with Ocala Forest in the first round of the 6A bracket. It’s at Mitchell, where the Mustangs have not lost a game this season.
But let’s break away from the grand scheme of things and focus on Rogers for a second. Here’s the basics. He stands at 6’, weighs 176 lbs., and he plays both free safety and strong safety with success. The junior has 46 tackles (27 solo) on the season, with five TFL. He has no interceptions, but he has recovered four fumbles on the season. Those are the vitals. Here’s the real story underneath the helmet.
When Rogers was younger, he was diagnosed with Perthes Disease, which is a degenerative hip disease in which the blood supply to the head of the femur in the leg is inadequate. It typically occurs in children, like when Rogers as diagnosed. “I was in a wheelchair for a year, and doctors told me that I would be lucky to ever play any contact sport. But to now be considered one of the better defensive backs in the area has been a huge blessing,” Rogers said.
“Having a concerned mom has been an interesting experience over the past couple of years. She’s an O.R. nurse at the V.A. I didn’t start playing football until about seventh grade, and when I did, I started out as a defensive end and fullback playing with the ‘mighty-mites.’”
He’s not a stranger to the BCP camp circuit over the past year, participating in several camps, and he’s still deciding about attending the Ignite Showcase in January. He’s got more to think about at the moment.
“After the playoffs, I’m focusing on getting my GPA as high as possible. I just took my ACT, and I want to retake that and get a better score. I currently have a 3.8 GPA and I’ve been on the honor roll at school all three years so far. I’m going to wrestle in the winter and then run track and field in the spring,” Rogers said.
As a whole, the Mustangs have really had to fight a good amount of adversity, especially with the injury to Dalla Betta. “Just having a nine game schedule has been difficult. One game was cancelled because of a hurricane, then the other hurricane moved it to a Saturday, then Larry got hurt, and Justin came in, so we’ve constantly had to overcome things this year. That PHU game ended up being a rallying point for our season, we’ve kept that loss in the back of our minds all year.”
“My feelings are that even if you don’t like what you’re doing, but you love the game of football, that’s ultimately what matters,” Rogers said.
His recruiting hasn’t taken off yet, but the junior has interest from several Division One schools including: FIU, Iowa State, UCF, USF, Toledo, and Utah State. “I’m going to Purdue this weekend on a game-day visit. I’m really hoping to get my first offer over the offseason.”