POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Another first in a season full of them.
Point Pleasant senior Cody Mitchell added another major accolade to his already impressive resume Thursday after being named the 2015 West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year in football, as determined by a collaboration between the Gatorade Company and USA TODAY High School Sports.
Mitchell — a 6-foot-3, 230-pound running back — rushed for 2,321 yards and 43 touchdowns on 178 carries while leading the Big Blacks to a 12-1 overall mark and a Class AAA state semifinal appearance. Mitchell also amassed 101 tackles and 5.5 sacks for a defense that yielded just 11.7 points per game.
Mitchell — who was part of teams that went 41-6 during his four years of varsity football — owns several school records, including most touchdowns (101), rushing yards (5,197) and all-purpose yards (7,233) over a career. Mitchell also owns a state playoff record in Class AAA with seven rushing touchdowns in a game.
Mitchell — a verbal commit to Marshall University — was a major part of a 2015 campaign in which the Big Blacks set state records for rushing yards and points scored in a season. PPHS also has a 33-game regular season winning streak headed into next fall, which is currently best in the entire Mountain State.
Mitchell is the first student-athlete in Point Pleasant history to win the Gatorade Player of the Year award in any sport, and that accomplishment was quite overwhelming for him to digest when discussing the honor. The one thing he was definitively sure about, however, was noting that this award belonged to a lot more people than just himself.
“To be quite honest, I’m still a little speechless over everything that’s happened in the last few hours,” Mitchell said. “I’ve worked really hard throughout my football career and I know the work has paid off with what I’ve been able to accomplish on the field. It’s humbling and it’s truly amazing to receive this honor.”
“At the same time, this isn’t just an award for me. This award belongs to each of my teammates, my coaches and anyone else that has been a part of teaching me the right way to play this game over the years. There’s no way that I would have accomplished this by myself.”
Reaching a state championship game was about the only thing that Mitchell never accomplished in his prep football career, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Mitchell was part of four of the program’s eight playoff wins in school history, as well as half of the school’s six undefeated regular seasons.
PPHS coach Dave Darst would have liked the opportunity to be playing at Wheeling Island Stadium this weekend in the Class AAA final, but the ninth-year mentor was also quick to note that this wasn’t a bad consolation prize.
“We are just so proud of the fact that Cody was able to accomplish this and we’re honored that Gatorade felt he was deserving of such a prestigious award,” Darst said. “What an honor it is for Point Pleasant and the high school to be recognized with having the top football player in the entire state of West Virginia.
“We’ve never had this happen here before, so it’s just another first in a year full of firsts for our program. We didn’t win a state title, but something like this does make some things about the season a little sweeter. It’s also good to see that all of Cody’s hard work paid off in receiving something like this.”
Mitchell may not be done winning awards at Point Pleasant, as he is in consideration for the Kennedy Award — which goes to the state’s top football player. Mitchell will also very likely be earning his second straight Class AAA first team all-state honor in a few weeks.
When Mitchell looks back at his four years as a Big Black, he cannot help but grin while showing an immense amount of pride. And, as he stated, this latest honor won’t do anything but add to such a great moment in his life.
“I can’t complain, it’s been a great four years for me here at Point Pleasant,” Mitchell said. “I’ve played with some really great players every year, we’ve won a lot of games and we’ve set a lot of records on that football field. It’s been a lot of fun, it really has. This award at the end of it all doesn’t hurt that memory either.”
Darst admits that he may never have a player like Mitchell again in his coaching career. He was also quick to point out that it will not be easy to replace what No. 14 has meant to the program over the last four years, especially after setting the bar so high.
But, as Darst noted, if any of those soon-to-be Big Blacks can come close to any of Cody’s accomplishments — he’d be more than happy to have them in his program.
“He’s the best football player that has ever played at Point Pleasant High School. We may never see anyone in our halls again who was capable of doing what he did on Friday nights. He’s done it all,” Darst said. “His stats could have been even more ridiculous than they already are, but he was always more concerned with being part of the team. You are very fortunate in your lifetime if you ever get to coach someone with his caliber of talent and respect.
“The Cody Mitchell era is going to be greatly missed here at Point Pleasant, and he’s set some really high standards for the future classes coming through. If any of those future players at Point Pleasant can achieve even one of his records, then you’ve probably had one outstanding career.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track and field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.
The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Mitchell — who owns a 3.7 GPA in the classroom — joins former West Virginia preps such as Randy Moss of DuPont (1994-95), Josh Jenkins (2008) and Allan Wasonga (2010) of Parkersburg, Ryan Switzer of George Washington (2012-13), and Chazzy Thomas of Morgantown (2014) in receiving this prestigious award.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.