Timberline’s Wetzel, Mitchell switch positions and become impact players


By: Gail Wood

Until last year, Brandon Wetzel was a quarterback in the making.

And until this summer, James Segura-Mitchell, nicknamed “Sigi” by his coaches and teammates, was a wide receiver.

Now, Wetzel is an all-league linebacker, delivering the hits and not taking them. And Mitchell is the quarterback, tossing TDs and not catching them.

Those two transitions are two big reasons why Timberline is again a playoff contender in the 3A Narrows League.

Last year as a sophomore, Wetzel went from backup QB behind all-leaguer Kevin Russell to all-league linebacker, leading a stingy defense that helped lift the Blazers to the playoffs.

“The mentality is totally different,” Wetzel said. “But I’m the guy who definitely likes delivering the hit.”

Wetzel was only supposed to be a temporary fix at linebacker, a remedy for an injured starter, Dale Garcia. But Wetzel had found a new position and the Blazers had found a new middle linebacker.

“Brandon wants to punish you,” Blazers coach Nick Mullen said. “He’s an old school, throwback kind of guy.”

Wetzel doesn’t wear gloves, like most players do today. And he doesn’t tape up his hands.

“He just straps it up and plays ball,” Mullen said.

Mullen and his staff have a knack for shifting players, matching talent with position.

“My dad always used to say you’ve got to play with what you’ve got,” said Mullen, the son of a football coach. “You want to move a guy into a position where he’s going to be successful.”

Mullen is convinced he’s done that with Mitchell, a lifelong receiver until two months ago. Mitchell, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior, is lightning in a bottle.

“He’s an athlete. He’s perfect for this offense,” Mullen said. “He’s going to put a lot of pressure on the defense.”

In Mullen’s pistol offense, where most every snap is in the shotgun, every play is an option. It’s either a run or a pass, depending on what the defense is doing. Mitchell, with his legs and with his arm, is that double threat to make that Blazer offense go.

“Sigi is dangerous in the open field,” Mullen said. “And he wants the ball in his hands. I think it’s really a good move we made.”

Mitchell doesn’t have the experience Mullen wants at quarterback. But he’s got the wheels and the leadership.

“He’s a leader,” Mullen said. “The kids rally around him.”

Last year, Mitchell started at cornerback all season and played some wide receiver. Now, as a quarterback, he’s got to know what everyone is doing on every play, not just what pass route he’s supposed to run.

“It can be kind of complicated at times trying to figure out what the running back is going to do and where the line is going to block,” Mitchell said. “Before, when I was a receiver I was just worried about me and trying to get my timing down with the quarterback.”

Mitchell is definitely going to be a running threat every time he takes a snap and looks downfield. If his receivers are covered, Mitchell can quickly go into the flight mode.

“We have run option on almost every play,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s why my coach wanted me to switch to QB. I think we’ll be able to run the ball more than we have the last couple of years.”

While Timberline is inexperienced at quarterback, it’s loaded with veterans in the offensive line, where four starters return. Leading that group is Elliott Orcutt, a senior and a first-team all-league lineman.

Besides Orcutt, also returning in the o-line are Daniel Bowman, Zach Porche and Ethan Metzger. Also back is sophomore Cole Steven, who started a couple games of center last year as a freshman.

“We all know the offense and we all know what’s going on,” Orcutt said. “We communicated all the time. If a linebacker is coming up or a cornerback is coming up, we make the call.”

Their blocking assignments are decided on the line of scrimmage and not predetermined in the huddle. It all depends on what defense an opponent lines up in.

“We’re talking all the time,” Orcutt said. “We’ve been through it.”

But Orcutt, at 6-1, is the second tallest Blazer starter in the o-line. Bowman is 5-8, Porche is 5-10 and Metzger is 6-foot. Steven is listed at 6-2. But since the Blazers are rarely in straight ahead blocking, quickness is more important than size.

“Quickness is probably the biggest thing,” Orcutt said. “We’ve got lots of quickness.”

That quickness coupled with the Blazers’ experience in the offensive line will allow the Blazers do what they do best – run the football.

“In high school football, you’ve got to be able to run the ball,” Mullen said. “The last couple of years we’ve been okay doing that. But it’s been on the perimeter. Now, we can get inside and move the ball. We’ve added a couple of tweaks to it. These guys are smart. They can do it.”

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