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Mitchell to guide Lions

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Travis Jenkins

RICHBURG – The Lewisville football family was introduced to Riley Mitchell on Tuesday.

They met her dad, too.

Will Mitchell, best known locally for his four-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Chester High School, was officially named the new head football coach of the Lewisville Lions. Mitchell’s introduction drew a big crowd of students, faculty, law enforcement, elected officials and former players and coaches from the school.

Rusty Pemberton, Lewisville’s athletic director, said the search for a coach was thorough.

“I made so many phone calls,” Pemberton said. “If (principal) Dr. (Jim) Knox had your kindergarden teacher’s phone number, I would have had to have called them.”

Pemberton said this was his first football coaching hire and he wanted it to be special. He believes that it will be.

Knox recounted the history of the Lewisville football program, noting that it started in 1953 and includes four state titles. He stressed the importance of athletics and particularly football.

“High school athletics makes a great difference in the spirit of a school and of the community,” Knox said.

Mitchell started his career coaching the offensive and defensive lines at Northwestern High School under former Lewisville coach Jimmy “Moose” Wallace. Knox said that was the equivalent of taking graduate level football classes.

From there,  Mitchell returned to his high school alma mater, Camden Military Academy, and spent two years coaching wrestling and track. After stints at Charleston Southern (where he played collegiately), Lakewood High School and Indian Land, he joined the staff of coach Victor Floyd at Chester High School. His four years there as defensive coordinator were among the best in school history. In 2007, the Cyclones advanced to the state title game for the first time in 44 years.

He went with Floyd to Brunswick High School in Georgia, but moved to Tega Kay when his wife, Amanda, got a job at the corporate headquarters of Belk’s. He coached at Ardrey Kell High in the Charlotte area for the past two years as defensive coordinator, helping the team to a 17-8 record. Lewisville is his first head coaching job. The position is one he has had his eye on for a long time.

“Everybody always says ‘this is the job I wanted.’ But this really is. This is one I’ve been waiting on,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s family was on hand, including his three-year old son Cooper, but it was one-year old daughter Riley who stole the show. As Mitchell began to address the crowd, Riley wandered away from her seat, toddled over next to her dad and smiled. He called her “a fore of nature.”

Mitchell said a lot of people have helped get him to where he is now, particularly his family and the coaches he has worked for and against.

“The thing that separates South Carolina as a whole is the quality of football coaches,” said Mitchell, who cited Floyd and Wallace as big influences. “I don’t know if they realized a young football coach was watching them.”

Mitchell said the most important thing he has learned is that building players into responsible young men is more important than building them into good football players. He said he will be proactive in terms of setting a firm foundation in academics for players as well with an eye to getting them in college, whether it be on a football scholarship or an academic one.

Mitchell called a Lewisville “a destination program” because it’s the kind of place coaches want to come to and stay. He said he can be comfortable in Lewisville knowing that his children can play behind the end zone during games and be safe. He said he prefers small schools like Lewisville because it allows a person to develop real relationships. He said the pride and tradition that come with a school that has multiple state titles and 19 region championships is also appealing.

Mitchell plans to start work on strengthening the program from the ground up.

“We want to develop players from middle school all the way to high school,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell told the crowd his team would play “fast, physical football” which drew a big round of applause. He will work with his assistants to develop his exact strategy, but figures he’ll use a run-first spread look on offense.

“But notice that I said fast AND physical,” Mitchell stressed.

Defensively, Mitchell said he wants to use his favored 3-3 look. He said Pemberton and Billy Keels would be rejoining the Lewisville football staff and that former Clemson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Wardell Rouse would come from Northwestern to join his staff as well. As for his own coaching style, Mitchell pointed to his balding head and said it was obvious that he coaches like his hair is on fire.

Bennie McMurray, who won three state titles at Lewisville, attended the announcement and reminded Mitchell how special a place he was coming to. He told Mitchell the community would always be there to help, but that he is the boss now.

“You’re the captain,” McMurray said. “If it floats, it on you. If it sinks, it’s on you.”

Mitchell said he is just starting to meet players and will have a summer schedule ready by the end of the week.

 Lewisville opens the season on Week 0 against county rival Great Falls.