Mitchell’s Copiah Colonels finish strong

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007

GALLMAN — The 2006 football season was not an easy one forCopiah Academy head football coach Mitch Mitchell and his Colonels.Despite some early season losses and mid-season injuries to keyplayers, Mitchell and his Colonels prevailed to capture the MPSAClass AA State football championship.

On a chilly Thursday night (Nov. 30), Copiah held off a latesurge by Grenada Kirk Academy for a 24-21 win in Robinson-HaleStadium on the campus of Mississippi College in Clinton. It was thefourth straight playoff win on the road for the Colonels.

It was the third state football championship for theGallman-based Colonels in the school’s history. They wonback-to-back state titles in 1980 and 1981. Copiah finished theyear with a 10-4 record.

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For his accomplishments, Mitchell has been named The DAILYLEADER’S 2006 Area Co-Coach of the Year. Mitchell shares the honorswith Franklin County head coach Grady McCluskey whose Bulldogscaptured the MHSAA Class 3A State Football title.

Last year, Mitchell was also Co-Coach of the Year with formerHazlehurst head coach Willie Brown who had won the Class 3A statefootball title in 2005.

“It’s a great honor,” said Mitchell. “They are really teamhonors. I’m real proud of those guys and my assistant coaches.”

“It is a great feeling,” said Mitchell of winning the statetitle. “I’m happy for the guys. Especially for the seniors tofinish their year like that.

“Last year, we had 11 seniors to graduate,” continued Mitchell.”We had some holes to fill. Our junior class was pretty strong andthat helped.”

Copiah came into the playoffs as runner-up to Brookhaven Academy(11-2), the District 6-AA champ. Copiah put away Riverfield (La.)21-7 in the first round, Bowling Green (La.) 3-0 in thequarterfinals and Vicksburg Porters Chapel 35-22 in thesemifinals.

During regular season play, Copiah fell to defending state AAchamp Simpson 42-24 in its season opener, lost to Trinity Episcopal42-7, clipped Oak Forest (La.) 14-7, whipped Prentiss Christian34-12, fell to Brookhaven 30-23, held off Presbyterian Christian33-26, lost to Hillcrest Christian 15-13, knocked off Amite SchoolCenter 35-8, shut out Columbia Academy 32-0 and clipped BowlingGreen (La.)16-13.

In 2005, Copiah had a great season but fell to three-time statechamp Simpson County by a score of 14-7 in the AA championshipgame.

In three years as head football coach at Copiah, Mitchell hascompiled a 29-9 record. The Colonels have enjoyed winning seasonsunder Mitchell, beginning in 2004 at 8-3 and 2005 at 11-2.

This has been an extra busy year for Mitchell. Besides servingas head football coach, he also is high school principal andathletic director. He has been the girls basketball coach for manyyears. When Copiah’s boys basketball coach left just before thebeginning of the basketball season, Mitchell inherited the task ofcoaching the boys team.

While football season was going on, Mitchell worked overtime,taking care of his administrative duties, coaching football, pluspracticing the girls and boys basketball teams.

When Mitchell took over three years ago as head coach for thestruggling Colonel football team, he knew what needed to be done toraise the program to a higher level.

The Colonels placed their emphasis in the weight room and begantraining harder during the off season, especially during the hotsummer months. Their effort began to show last year but really cameto light during the Colonels’ state championship run this year.

“Hard work will take you a long way,” explained Mitchell. “Ourwork ethic is a lot better. For the guys to buy into something whenit was tough, made me proud of them.”

Working with Mitchell on the sideline this year were assistantcoaches Scott Cline (defense) and Jamie Madison (offensive anddefensive lines).

Mitchell credited the offseason program with turning his teamaround.

“You have to do things the right way,” stated Mitchell. “Weexpect a lot out of our football players. We had a good group ofyoung men.”

Mitchell and his coaching staff received other honors. “I got tocoach the South All-Stars,” added Mitchell. “Our staff was coachingstaff of the year.”

Mitchell also excels as basketball coach at Copiah. Twice, hehas been named The DAILY LEADER Area Coach of the Year. Mitchellwas named All-Area girls basketball coach in 2002 and boys coach in1999.

Mitchell, the son of Mac and Karen Mitchell, is a native ofLawrence Country. He grew up in Jayess and graduated fromTopeka-Tilton High School in 1982 before consolidation createdLawrence County High School.

Mitchell was an all-around athlete and participated in allsports at Topeka-Tilton. He played football, basketball andbaseball for the Lions. He attended Co-Lin for two years where heplayed football under James Sloan and baseball under AltonGreenlee.

Following graduation from Co-Lin in 1984, Mitchell went toMillsaps College where he played football and baseball. He earnedhis BS degree in physical education and later obtained a master’sdegree in administration.

His first coaching job was at Simpson County Academy in 1987where he worked for eight years. The last 12 years have been atCopiah Academy.

Mitchell and his wife, Diane, have two daughters, Alexis, age17, and Camryn,14.

He and his family are members of the Harmony Baptist Church,located just outside Crystal Springs.

Mitchell added, “It’s been a great year. I am especially proudof of our guys.”