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Mitchell wins second Sun/Rotary Offensive POY
Cibola running back Jordan Mitchell stood in the opposing locker room at Mountain Pointe with tearful red eyes.
It was a result of either fighting back emotion or evidence that he was recovering from the tears he already shed. In the first quarter of the opening round of the Division I state tournament two hours previous, Mitchell bruised the bone and sprained a ligament in his right knee. His night — and his career at Cibola — was over after 12 minutes.
Still, Mitchell finished his third straight successful season for the Raiders and for the second time was named the 2012 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Offensive Player of the Year.
Mitchell believed he could have potentially led the No. 16 Raiders over No. 1 Mountain Pointe, but Mitchell spent the second half with a bag of ice tied to his knee — fighting a mixture of sadness and anger as Cibola lost 49-0. Instead of being the subject of an underdog sports movie, he became the character in a Shakespearean tragedy. But it is in his tearful red eyes that he showed what the Raiders truly meant to him. Mitchell would have done anything to be on the field to help his team.
“It hurt. A lot. It was my last game and I wanted to go out and do the best I could for my team,” Mitchell said. “I did what I did to help the team win and get as far as we could as a Raider. I wanted to leave this school with the note that the team we had this year was good enough to do the things that we did.”
There is a humbleness when Mitchell speaks that doesn't match the accomplishments he's had in his three years as Cibola's running back. He mentions the great linemen and teammates he's had, not the 5,443 yards and 68 touchdowns he's accumulated. He says no game was special for him, that there “really isn't much to say about them.” But that dismisses the 11 games he had with more than 200 yards rushing, including a career-best 339 against Gila Ridge this season — just one of four games with more than 300 yards in his three seasons.
“If I could describe Jordan, he has a knack for caring for people,” Cibola coach Lucky Arvizo said. “He's always smiling and saying hello and he's had a lot of success — but you wouldn't know it seeing him around people.”
It was during his sophomore season — at the end of which he won his first Sun/Rotary award — that Mitchell led the state in rushing, gaining 2,192 yards on 300 bruising carries with 29 touchdowns. In the fifth game of the season, the Raiders faced previously-unbeaten Basha and its stingy defense. The sophomore responded with 321 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries in a 20-14 win for Cibola.
That game created a message throughout the entire state — Jordan Mitchell has arrived.
“The things he's done, as far as the state level, has recognized Cibola in the sense of Cibola football,” Arvizo said. “When you talk to the coaches they realize hey, Cibola has some good players. Obviously, Jordan Mitchell is known up there. Just the impact he's given us here down in Yuma has been tremendous.”
But with that performance and his entire sophomore season came added pressure and attention. Mitchell was no longer a secret and teams crammed the box, knowing what he could do.
“I knew that teams were going to come out looking for the run because of what we did my sophomore year with the line that we had,” Mitchell said. “I felt a little bit of pressure, but I just went out and tried to do my best.”
Mitchell responded by rushing for more than 1,600 yards in both his junior and senior year. He fulfilled the potential Arvizo saw in him before the start of his sophomore seasons.
“Sophomore year, going through practice, you could tell he was something special just with his ability to have people miss and his vision,” Arvizo said.
Now Mitchell's career is over — ended in the cruelest of fates. After three years of racking up yards and touchdowns for the Raiders, his days of strapping on a golden Cibola helmet are through. Arvizo said that it hasn't hit him quite yet that Mitchell is gone from his team, that it probably will when spring drills roll around. But the physical, shifty back certainly left Cibola with quite the legacy. Fittingly, Arvizo said it's not just because of the impressive numbers or that Mitchell is arguably the best running back in school history.
“With our program, his character and his maturity and his humbleness in how he's handled success gives our younger players that being modest is something we'd like to model.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.