Austin Mitchell has a nose for the end zone.
The Plaquemine junior scored 20 touchdowns and tallied 1,220 all-purpose yards this season.
And every 5.5 times he touches the ball he scores.
Mitchell’s teammates D’Morea Wicks and Preston Russ have rushed for more than 1,000 yards, but for the No. 1-seeded team in the Class 4A playoffs, coach Paul Distefano said Mitchell is his home run hitter.
“His touchdown-to-carry ratio is so high it’s ridiculous,” Distefano said. “He’s our breakaway guy out of the backfield with the highest yards per carry. I probably need to get him more touches.”
Mitchell is 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds, but he doesn’t play like it.
As a sophomore and first-year starter last season, he was an all-district wide receiver and return specialist.
Now he’s a running back who also plays on defense, and Distefano said Mitchell will more than likely start next season as Plaquemine’s quarterback.
“If you look at him walking in a room, he’s not going to scare anybody,” Distefano said. “He’s a little bitty thing, but he’s fast, he’s a really, really good football player and a great kid.”
Mitchell started playing football at six with the Plaquemine Renegades. Back then he was nervous and afraid of contact.
Distefano first coached Mitchell in recreational baseball where Mitchell was the leadoff hitter, center fielder and pitcher. That’s when Distefano saw Mitchell’s athletic potential.
“I told his mom when he was 9 years old, ‘When this kid gets to high school, get ready because there will be college coaches looking at him,’ ” Distefano said.
He’s already sparked interest from teams who want to actively recruit him next season.
Plaquemine is in the semifinals of the playoffs, which is the deepest the Green Devils have gone since Distefano and Mitchell arrived at Plaquemine in 2012.
The team’s 2014 goal was to make it past the third round, and Distefano’s consistent advice to the 16-year-old helped him become a major contributor.
“Coach always tells me, ‘Big- time players always make big-time plays, never play scared and take every opponent the same way,’ ” Mitchell said.
Another influential figure is his uncle, Brian Mitchell, who graduated from Plaquemine in 1986. Brian played quarterback at Louisiana-Lafayette and had a 13-year NFL career after being drafted in the fifth round of the 1990 draft by the Washington Redskins.
“(When I was younger) Everybody kept saying ‘You’re going to be just like you’re uncle, but I always used to tell them I wanted to be better than my uncle,’ ” Mitchell said. “I like the comparisons, and I want to be like him, just a little better.”
Mitchell will start college at 17, but despite his age and size, Distefano said he will be a steal for whatever program picks him up.
“I still don’t think he’s matured physically all the way, and by the time he’s 19 years old he’ll be a grown man,” Distefano said. “Some kids have it, some kids don’t. But he’s got it.”