NEWBURGH — Mike Reiter recalls a traveling basketball tournament eight years ago.
The Castle boys’ football coach was there with his son, Brady. He walked past a courthouse and noticed his child was about 10 meters behind him. He was watching an individual during a game. His father wondered what was holding his attention, so he stopped to watch.
It was Jackson Mitchell, only a fourth grader at the time. But Reiter could then see his potential. instability on the ground. An athlete ready to take on anyone, no matter the challenge.
A true sign of what was to come.
The Castle High School senior was one of Indiana’s best football players. The owner of a special competition training that can only be seen in the best. A person who has helped raise the expectations of this program, whether they want credit or not.
Mitchell is the Courier & Press Metro Player of the Year for the second straight season.
“What I will always remember is that he won’t lose,” Reiter said, repeating it again emphatically. “He won’t lose. When we’re close (to losing) there’s a different look in his eyes that I enjoyed watching because I knew something special was going to happen.”
Let’s start in the field. Numbers alone haven’t made Mitchell one of the best players in program history. That’s how he did it, especially this fall.
There have been no assists this year after setting the school record for single-season goals as a junior. Mitchell was man-marked every minute of every game. When he touched the ball, a swarm of extra defenders turned towards him.
He was on yet another level. Mitchell scored 27 goals and provided 12 assists for the regional champions. Both ranked first in the team. He was on the first team in every conference, every district, and every state.
Mitchell has continuously delivered.
“I think it’s been a great year, not only for me but also for my teammates,” Mitchell said. “They are the ones who allow me to do everything on the pitch and put me in the right position. If teams mark me, I know there will be others open. I’m just there to give them the ball and they can do the rest.
The ability to handle pressure impressed Reiter as much as anything else. Mitchell would attract several defenders but hold his head high. The Knights averaged more than four goals per game. Mitchell was the catalyst.
In critical times, everyone knew who was receiving the ball. Example: the section championship. The elder scored all four goals in a 4-3 win over Memorial. He found the back of the net 11 times in the playoffs.
“A lot of guys come into this moment and want to do it,” Reiter said. “He’s the only guy I’ve ever seen who’s been able to do that. The first guy can get his foot on the ball, but Jackson will use his strength and determination to pass. He always got the job done. »
How about something that really made this season special? Mitchell nearly missed the pinfall.
Castle attended a team camp at the University of Indianapolis in July. In the last two minutes of a game, Mitchell went for the ball. The goalie slipped up and took it out. This resulted in an ankle injury that never really recovered.
He took time off and couldn’t always go 100% to training, and sometimes he didn’t think he would make it through the season because of the pain. Surgery has always been the best option. When doctors told him the expected recovery time was 8 to 12 weeks, Mitchell refused.
“The pain at times was still high,” he said. “I wanted to finish my football career.
Nonetheless, Mitchell produced an All-State season with a broken bone while serving as a placekicker every Friday night on the football field.
He will finally undergo the operation on November 29 and hopes to recover in time for the trip football. Mitchell would also like to return to the basketball court by the end of the season.
The individual moments stand out, but those are overshadowed by the impact Mitchell has had on this program. The Knights have won 37 games over the past two seasons. They qualified for the Final Four this fall after a state championship appearance.
This program is no stranger to success (Castle won the state in 2000). But the mentality has changed. Instead of hoping to flee, the Knights expect it. Much credit must be shared for this. Reiter, the Courier & Press Metro Coach of the Year, instilled in the Knights the belief that they belong in the same conversation as other Indiana premieres.
Reiter continues to point fingers at athletes like Mitchell. His determination to succeed lifted others around him.
“He helped raise the bar and expectations of this program,” Reiter said. “Changing that mentality has been great. We’ve hit different post-season levels over the past few years and the guys are expecting that (now). He has a huge hand in there.
It’s probably eating away at Mitchell that he can’t win the final prize. Castle lost the state championship his junior year and fell in overtime to Carmel in the half-state this fall. But he ultimately has no regrets.
Why? He pushed himself to the limit to help his school succeed.
“We pushed ourselves every day to be the best we could,” Mitchell said. “We gave it our all. It’s all that matters.”
Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on Twitter @kylesokeland.
Mail and Press All-Metro Men’s Soccer Team
Name, school, year, position
Alex Fisher, Memorial, Junior, Forward
Camden Marx, Mater Dei, Freshman, Forward
Jackson Mitchell, Castle, Senior, Forward
Carson Powers, North, Senior, Forward
Randall Pruitt, castle, sophomore, forward
Roman Bastidas, Harrison, senior, midfielder
Evan Hudak, Memorial, Senior, Midfielder
Christian Kocher, North, Senior, Midfielder
Jax McCullough, Reitz, senior, midfielder
Miles Reshetar, Castle, Senior, Midfielder
Cory Will, North, Senior, Midfielder
Brady Wynn, Memorial, Junior, Midfielder
Jim McMurray, North, Senior, Defender
Brady Quinn, Castle, Senior, Defender
Nicholas Watkins, Harrison, Senior, Defender
Evan Wilson, Harrison, Senior, Defender
Colin Nugent, Castle, Senior, Goalkeeper
Brady Seaton, North, sophomore, goalie
Player of the Year: Jackson Mitchell, Castle
Coach of the year: Mike Reiter, Castle
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: High School Football: Castle Senior Named All-Metro Player of the Year