PALM HARBOR – The Mitchell Mustangs made their way 20 minutes south across the Pasco-Pinellas line and came out with a convincing 36-22 victory over the Palm Harbor University Hurricanes in preseason action on Thursday night. Mitchell QB Larry Dalla Betta led the Mustangs on offense completing nine of his fifteen passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns and an interception on a fantastic individual play by PHU’s Tyler MacMillan.
Mitchell’s Michael Hamilton got the party started just three plays into the game when he took the handoff from Dalla Betta and made the house call 53 yards later for a score just one minute and eight seconds into the contest. Following the two-point conversion the score was 8-0 Mitchell. Mitchell started their third drive from their own 25 following a failed fake punt attempt on the previous drive and this time it was Spencer Conard’s turn to breakout as the sophomore RB blasted down the PHU sideline for a 75 yard touchdown and following the extra point it was 15-0.
A Tyler MacMillan interception of Larry Della Betta eventually setup Jamaine Derogene’s one yard score to pull the ‘Canes back into the game at 15-6. On the ensuing drive, Dalla Betta found JJ Lewis in the end zone to cap off a 7-play scoring drive to put the score at 22-6. The Mustangs were able to push it in from a yard away as the clock expired for the half on a fourth-and-goal situation and with the extra point their lead at the half was 29-6 thanks to another Spencer Conard touchdown. Dalla Betta capped off his night when he hit Dominic Fiumara on a screen pass to which Fiumara ran 75 yards after the catch for the touchdown to put the game out of reach at 36-13 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter.
The ‘Canes showed quite a bit of resiliency and tried to make a game of it in the second half, but could never pull closer than the final margin of victory of fourteen points during the course. Palm Harbor’s Nick Gust led the ‘Canes with two touchdowns on the ground for the evening.
So here are the three points that we came away with last evening from the Mitchell-Palm Harbor University preseason classic:
Mitchell, welcome to the microscope…
This comes with the territory. Take it as a sign you’ve certainly made another step in the right direction as a program. Ordinarily a two-touchdown victory would be reason to pump fists and give each other a high-five, but if the Mustangs are looking to get past Sunlake and Pasco in their district this season, there’s a little meat left on the bone to finish before penciling them into the equation. Before the black and gold faithful start burning things at the stake, let’s say there were plenty of REALLY GOOD things that happened, but all-in-all this was the quintessential preseason game that gave the coaching staff plenty to dissect as the Mustangs prepare for River Ridge week one.
Devontay Taylor: preseason game–postseason form…
Well, well, well. What do we have HERE? The 6-foot-4, 265-pound DE was an absolute menace on the field for Mitchell last evening. In the first five defensive series’ of the game, the young man had already racked up two sacks, three hurries, a pass deflection and was involved in double-digit tackles. If the Mustangs are going to get to the top of the district, they need this young man to reek the kind of havoc he was against PHU’s blockers. The Mustangs have quick-strike capability, but a sudden change in possession and a short field allows them to be all the more effective in their ball control and clock management. Taylor has the ability to be a one-man wrecking crew and looks to have gained the strength to shed double-teams as well so the sky is indeed the limit for this young man in 2015.
We haven’t forgot about you, PHU…
Ahhhh Tsiouk-y Tsiouk-y now. The ‘Canes have a bona fide prospect on the field when DE/T/TE specialist George Tsiouklas steps out. This 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is smooth and if not for some unfortunate injuries to his teammates that add some serious beef in the trenches for Palm Harbor he would be a part of an entire unit of prospects for the ‘Canes. Although Cameron Mouton was the starter, he was chased all around the park by the Mitchell Defense and really had very little time to get the ball downfield like he wanted to. The junior made some nice plays, but his backup Zach Johnson who is just a sophomore came out and was zipping the ball all over the field. Could there be a switch in the making? Mouton certainly provides a dimension with his feet and Johnson provides a dimension with his arm; so why not put them both out there?