Commentary

Future Gamecocks QB all about Wakefield High for now

Mitch, Wolverines face big test at Leesville Road

ctudor@newsobserver.comSeptember 28, 2012 

— A high school football game Friday night at Leesville Road will serve as a perfect example of why Wakefield star quarterback Connor Mitch decided to accept a scholarship offer from South Carolina more than four months ago.

“High school football is the most fun you’ll ever have in your life. I didn’t want any recruiting distractions for my last season here,” Mitch said. “Every game is so important when it’s your last go around.”

There hasn’t been a more important game than Friday’s on either team’s schedule. There haven’t been many more important games throughout the state in 2012.

Even with the Mitch-led offense and an undefeated record (6-0, 2-0 Cap 8 4-A), first-year Wakefield head coach Rod Sink thinks his team is probably seen as the underdog against the equally talented Pride (5-0, 2-0).

“They’ve got a great program and as many big-play guys as anyone at this level,” Sink said. “It’s going to be tough for anyone to go over there and win, but we’ll see. We’re looking forward to it. These kind of games are why you play.”

A year ago at Wakefield, Leesville won by an astonishing 68-57 score even though the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Mitch threw for seven touchdowns.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that game,” Mitch said. “It was the wildest game I’ve ever seen. But the outcome definitely was a disappointment.”

It was one of the performances that led some of the most powerful college programs in the nation to flock in with scholarship offers.

“He decided almost as soon as the season ended that he wanted to settle on a college choice fairly fast,” said Mitch’s father Rob, a former quarterback at Syracuse under legendary coach Ben Schwartzwalder.

“Until all of the things happened at UNC, that would have been it. Conner really wanted to play for Butch Davis and (offensive coordinator) John Shoop, but of course that all changed and he went in another direction.”

Although Mitch was impressed by N.C. State’s Tom O’Brien and Wolfpack quarterbacks coach Dana Bible, he eventually focused on the SEC – Alabama, LSU, Florida and South Carolina. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, a former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, prevailed.

“They hit it off from the start,” Rob Mitch said. “Conner said something interesting – that if he went to Alabama or LSU and happened to lead them to a national championship it could be old hat for the program. But if he could do something like that at South Carolina with Spurrier, it would be ground breaking.”

The Gamecocks won the ACC championship with a 6-0 record (7-4 overall) in 1969 but have not won an SEC title since joining the league in 1992.

Spurrier’s team last season won the SEC East and is the chase for another spot in the league title game. But for all of his offensive intellect, Spurrier hasn’t really produced exceptional quarterbacks in Columbia.

When Mitch graduates from Wakefield in December and enrolls at South Carolina for the start of spring drills, he’ll arrive with the size and skills to eventually become Spurrier’s best yet at the school. At the outset, he’ll have to compete with more experienced Conner Shaw and Dylan Thompson among others.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Mitch said. “But that’s all for later. It’s all about this next game at Wakefield for now.”

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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