June 14, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Running back Aaron Mitchell has a career night leading Foothill past Troy

Foothill running back Aaron Mitchell stretches to maximize a gain as a contingent of five Troy players finalize the tackle during the second quarter Friday night. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

Foothill High School running back Aaron Mitchell scored a career-high five touchdowns to lead the Knights to a convincing 44-18 non-league victory over Troy Friday night at Tustin.

Both teams entered the contest averaging over 30 points per game, but it was too much Mitchell and Foothill’s second-half defensive play that shut the Warriors down, Foothill is 3-1, Troy 1-3.

“Our conditioning is paying off and it shows in the second-half; this is the second week in a row we’ve shut our opponent down in the second-half,” said Foothill Coach Doug Case.  

On the third-play of the game, Mitchell blasted up the middle, broke several tackles en route to a 55-yard TD run, giving Foothill a 7-0 lead. Two plays later, the Warriors quarterback Rudy Alcala completed a 78-yard TD pass to Declan Kai Healey, but Troy missed the first of three extra points and trailed 7-6.

On the last play of the first-quarter, Mitchell capped a 14-play, 90-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run to increase the Knights lead to 14-6.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Early in the second quarter, in the shadow of its goal line, Alcala completed a 85-yard TD pass to wide receiver Vander Ploog to cut the score to 14-12 at the 9:45 mark.

Mitchell added his third TD of the game on a 9-yard run midway through the second-quarter as the Knights moved ahead 21-12. Caleb Huss promptly returned the kickoff into Knights territory and Kai Healy raced in for a touchdown from 36 yards on the Warriors first-play from scrimmage to trim the lead 21-18. But Troy wouldn’t score the rest of the way.  

With just over five minutes to play in the half, Mitchell added his fourth TD run as he darted into the end zone from 10 yards to give the Knights a 27-18 halftime lead. The Warriors outgained Foothill 279-276 yards in the opening half.

“It was fun out there tonight; we all came together,” said Mitchell, who rushed for 161 yards on 23 carries.

Bode Jellerson, Porter Elms, Brady Holcomb  and C.J. Sims led the Foothill defense that shut down the Troy offense in the second-half and their efforts turned the tide of the game.

“The captains talked at halftime and we made adjustments,” said Holcomb, a junior linebacker.

Reese Neuer added a field goal in the third-quarter for Foothill and Mitchell scored his fifth touchdown of the game later in the quarter (he had a 61-yard TD run later in the game nullified by a penalty) and reserve quarterback Gino Marchetti sealed the Knights scoring with a 19-yard touchdown run in the final quarter as Foothill dominated the second-half.

“Aaron (Mitchell) is our leader on the field, he’s our spiritual leader and the players love him,” said Case. “Tonight we stopped the run but not the pass and we got big games from our quarterback Nick Miali and wide receiver Jack Zerkel. We have a bye week and then we have to come back and get ready for tough games.”

Miali completed 11 passes for 163 yards and rushed for 63 yards on four carries and Zerkel caught seven passes for 134 yards for the Knights. Alcala, who leads Orange County with 15 TD passes, completed 13 passes for 268 yards and two TDs for Troy.

Vander Ploog caught six passes for 160 yards and a touchdown and Kai Healey caught four passes for 100 yards and a TD for the Warriors.

“We have to dig deep and keep grinding; we have a lot of football still to play,” said Troy Coach Michael Echaves. “We feel we can score against the best of them. But we have to learn how to finish games. Our defense has to do a better job at stopping their offense.”

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—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone