Mitchell quarterback Ty Turbyfill lies awake at night thinking about his team's 28-7 loss to Tarboro in the NCHSAA 1A state championship game.
Turbyfill came home every day for weeks and rewatched it.
What could we have done differently?
He replayed it so many times he couldn't endure it anymore.
Turbyfill has been a lifelong Mitchell fan. He remembers standing alongside the road, cheering on the Mountaineers' buses leaving for the state championship game in 2015-2016.
He dreamed of being one of those players who led Mitchell to another state championship game and its first-ever title in football.
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As a senior, Turbyfill has one more chance to achieve his goal.
"A lot of people have goals of going to play Division I football and this and that," Turbyfill said. "My childhood goal was to always win a state championship."
Mitchell's loss to Tarboro has been the engine driving it this offseason.
Turbyfill believes one of the team's biggest pitfalls last season was that the offense relied too much on its running game.
"We didn't really need to throw it until we got to the state championship game," Turbyfill said. "Then when we got there, we just got hit in the face a little bit."
He said Mitchell has worked on incorporating more passing into its multiple wing-T offense.
Turbyfill will be crucial in determining if the Mountaineers will return to the state championship game. He was named Western Highlands 1A/2A Player of the Year after the 2,400 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns he scored last season.
He credited his offensive line for most of his success. He complimented how many holes they created for him along with their resilience and toughness.
Last season, Turbyfill completed 58% of his passes on 140 attempts. He also passed for 1,301 yards and threw for 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineers carried the rock 649 times for 4,785 yards and 67 scores.
Mitchell leaned on its running game in 2021 because it didn't return any receivers from 2020. This season, Turbyfill said the Mountaineers return some players to the unit.
Coach Travise Pitman said his offense has practiced throwing the ball more this offseason.
"We need to become a more efficient throwing team," Pitman said. "We've worked on that throughout the summer. But we can work on it as much as we want to, we got to be able to do it in a game."
Pitman added that his coaching staff tinkered with Turbyfill's throwing motion. He said Turbyfill likes to bring the ball low like a pitcher in baseball.
They must eliminate that part of his throwing motion so that he can get the ball to receivers on time.
Pitman also believes Mitchell has the personnel to throw the ball effectively. The Mountaineers return senior Dalton Hollifield and Gage Young. Together they caught 45 passes for 765 yards and nine touchdowns.
Young said he has played with most team members, including Turbyfill since second grade. He thinks that gives them an advantage on the field because they understand each other's tendencies.
Turbyfill thinks Mitchell could face Tarboro again in the state championship. The Vikings have won it four times in the last five seasons.
"They were good, and they're gonna be good again this year," he said. "They didn't lose hardly anybody. They are what we aspire to be."
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Mitchell believes throwing the ball can help it win first state title