When Trey Robinson graduated from Mountain Heritage this past summer and Ben Young finished his studies at Mitchell, the pair of old Little League teammates and buddies took with them a host of records as the two most prolific quarterbacks in the history of WNC football.
And what they left behind was even more important.
Under the guidance of the four-year starters, the Cougars and Mountaineers developed into football powers, the two best programs in the Western Highlands 2A Conference.
Robinson (12,913 yards) and Young (11,235 yards) finished 1-2 all-time in total offense in the mountains, but they also finished as winners.
Mitchell won shares of two conference championships and posted a 47-11 record with Young as the starting QB.
Under Robinson, the Cougars shared two of those league titles with Mitchell and won the crown outright last season to highlight his 41-13 record at Burnsville.
Now they are off to college - Robinson at East Tennessee State, Young at Appalachian State - but what remains is the lasting legacy of what they built.
The Cougars (4-1) play at Mitchell (5-1) Friday night in the WHC opener for both schools - and based on their non-conference play and the fact that the other four teams in the conference are struggling - there is little doubt that the winner in the border clash of Mitchell and Yancey counties will be the overwhelming favorite to finish league play undefeated and add another crown to the trophy case.
Both teams are ranked in the WNC/WLOS.com Top 10 poll; Heritage is 7th, Mitchell 8th. Their only loss came to the same opponent - No. 5 Erwin.
Each is winning with solid defense and pounding ground games.
The Mountaineers have outscored opponents 189-65 in a five-game winning streak behind new quarterback Noah Pitman (657 yards rushing, 6 scores, 505 yards passing, 6 TDs) and running back Landon Miller (561 yards rushing, 8 TDs), who also leads the team in tackles with 47.
Mitchell averages 295 yards rushing per game.
The Cougars are spreading the wealth in the backfield while averaging 346 yards per game on the ground, paced by Jake Autry (450 yards, 3 TDs) and Jacob Mashburn (383 yards, 5 TDs). Quarterback Callin Randolph (356 yards passing, 239 yards rushing, 8 combined scores) has been effective as Robinson's replacement. Kason Hall leads (48 tackles) leads the Heritage defense.
Both teams enter the clash with impressive streaks - the Cougars have won 10 straight conference games over the previous two years, while Mitchell is 27-3 at home in the past four seasons.
Mitchell leads the all-time series 29-18, but the Cougars have dominated play recently, winning three straight and eight of the last 10 meetings.
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