Tyler Mitchell wasn't about to give up the sport he loves.

The senior on the Bexley High School football team suffered high-ankle sprains in both legs and torn ligaments in his left foot during a 38-7 loss to Columbus Academy on Sept. 28.

Despite being told by doctors that he had played his final prep game, Mitchell had other ideas and worked his way back. He returned Oct. 20 against London and will compete one last time Thursday, Oct. 26, against Ready at Fortress Obetz.

"First they said I was done for the season because I had torn ligaments in my foot and a high-ankle sprain and they thought that I might have torn my Achilles (tendon), but that wasn't the case," Mitchell said. "I wasn't able to walk on it for the first couple of days so they put me in a boot and I just got out of that (Oct. 13). Now I'm in a brace and I'm sprinting and I feel pretty good.

"I was so frustrated when they told me that I wasn't going to play anymore. I told them that I had to (play) and that was not an option. I wore the boot and took it easy, trying not to put weight on it, and I did a lot of rehab. I have been working for this my whole life, even when I was a little kid."

The Lions were 0-9 overall and finished 0-5 in the MSL-Ohio Division after losing to London 38-0. Mitchell had two receptions for 15 yards.

First-year coach Nathan Castorena said Mitchell's absence was felt on both sides of the ball.

"Tyler has been a really important part of our offense and it has really hurt us since he has been injured," Castorena said. "We lose that really good blocking back. He's a wing but in our hybrid system we expect him to block on power (formations) and we expect him to run routes and be all over the field.

"He was playing linebacker and was really a strong part of our defense. We have had to put in a freshman at this point in Grant Sheridan. Grant's going to be a great football player for us, but right now he's not where Tyler was. Tyler was pulling double-, triple-duty for us. ... He was also punting. That was another place that really hurt us when he was injured."

Mitchell started the season at quarterback but left a 37-6 loss to Buckeye Valley on Sept. 1 with a neck injury. When he returned the following week, he was slotted in at wingback.

"I hurt my neck in the start of the second half against Buckeye Valley and had to go to the hospital and (junior) Anthony (Welsh) went in at QB, so then that next week I was trying to recover and get back," Mitchell said. "They said they wanted to put Anthony at quarterback.

"Personally I was shocked and I was a little bit mad, but they told me they needed (a wingback) because Hunter (Hilgeman) got hurt. I was mad and frustrated, but I came to the realization that this could really help the team. In the first couple of practices, I started to really enjoy the spot and that next game I did pretty well and fell in love with it."

In that next game, a 44-28 loss to Hamilton Township on Sept. 8, Mitchell caught two passes for 67 yards, both for touchdowns. He also had two receptions for 57 yards in a 41-7 loss to Liberty Union on Sept. 15 and caught a 7-yard scoring pass from Welsh before being injured against Academy.

"Tyler started off the season at quarterback and we knew that he was still a valuable part of our offense so we shifted him to (wingback), and it was perfect," Castorena said. "Anthony hooked up with Tyler for a touchdown against Hamilton Township in our second offensive series and a few more times after that. It was a good match.

"His touchdowns have come on really strong routes, running posts and post corners and things you would expect a 'true' wide receiver to be running. He can do that, and he can get in there and block."

Despite their record, Mitchell said the Lions have shown determination throughout the season. He doesn't expect that to change in the final game.

"Things didn't go the way it was planned for everybody," Mitchell said. "We're a young team and very inexperienced, and even our (senior) class didn't get much playing time, only a few of us did.

"We are a young group of guys and we are also one of the hardest-working groups. We have never lost focus or stopped working, even though the season hasn't gone the way we would have wanted. But we still have another game left and we want to prove something."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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