There was plenty of good news for the Panther Valley football team on Friday night.
Not only did the Panthers beat Jim Thorpe for their first victory of the season, but they also saw Brock Mitchell return to the field.
Mitchell, a second-team All-State tight end a year ago, suffered a serious leg injury in an ATV accident back in December.
The injury, which required several surgeries, cost Mitchell the entire 2010-11 winter and spring sports seasons and left him questionable for this football season.
But the day after Panther Valley lost to Lehighton to fall to 0-3 on the season, Mitchell and Panther rookie head coach Lon Hazlet finally got some good news.
Mitchell was cleared to play by his doctors and Panther Valley trainer Mark Shanton.
"I can't tell you how nice it was to have Brock back on the field," said Hazlet. "I could see a noticeable boost in the energy level at practice last week.
"Brock was excited to be back on the field, his teammates were excited, and our entire coaching staff was excited."
For Mitchell, it was a welcome relief to finally get the green light to play.
"It was a very tough nine months," he said. "I had five different surgeries and a lot of intense rehabilitation.
"There were a number of times I wondered if I was ever going to be able to get back on the field, but any time I started to doubt it, I would just push myself harder. I was determined to play football this season."
Despite his determination, Mitchell wasn't getting a lot of good news about his injury.
"I had my fifth surgery in the middle of June and my bone doctor told me there was no way I was going to be able to play this year," explained Mitchell. "Then, my physical therapist told me the same thing this summer when I was doing rehab work.
"But I just kept working. I really believed that there was no way I wasn't getting on the field this year. I didn't know if was going to be the fourth game or seventh game or the last game, but I was determined to play."
Although anxious to get his 6-6, 260-pound senior back on the field, Hazlet said his first priority was to do what was best for Mitchell.
"Brock has a bright future ahead of him and we didn't want to rush anything," said Hazlet. "I talked it over with the training staff and we decided to ease Brock back in gradually.
Hazlet said that meant limiting his time on the field in Friday's game.
"Brock was in for about 15 offensive plays and also did the punting and kicking for us," said Hazlet. "We also got him on the field for about three snaps on defense."
Mitchell played flanker on offense and end on defense against the Olympians.
"We wanted to keep Brock more on the perimeter last week, but as he gets more and more comfortable on the field again and gets back into game shape, we will be increasing his play count and getting him more into the interior on both sides of the ball."
For now though, Hazlet is just thrilled to have Mitchell anywhere on the field.
"As late as July and even August, we didn't know if Brock was going to be able to play at all this season," Hazlet said. "It has been a long road back for him.
"Brock handled it extremely well, however. Not only did he put in a lot of work doing rehab, but he was like an assistant coach for us during the preseason and early season games."
Mitchell couldn't be happier to leave the coaching to Hazlet and his staff and get back to doing what he loves.
"I was a little apprehensive when I went out on the practice field for the first time after I was cleared, and I had the same feeling on my first play Friday night against Jim Thorpe," said Mitchell. "But after that first bit of contact, I realized that the ankle was alright and I had made it back. It was a great feeling."
Although he still needs one more surgical procedure when the football season ends, Mitchell is confident that the worst is over.
"They told me I should be alright for basketball season," said Mitchell. "That is another one of my goals. Plus, I still have plans on playing college football next year. That's another major goal of mine"
The way Mitchell proved medical experts wrong by overcoming his serious injury and getting back on the playing field this season, I don't think anyone is going to doubt his ability to achieve those goals.
OVERTIME HIGHLIGHTS ... Mitchell's return to the line-up and Hazlet's first victory at Panther Valley weren't the only highlights during week four of the high school football season.
OVERTIME was able to come up with information on several other subjects, including scoring streaks, narrow victories and double trouble in an area backfield.
BOMBERS STREAK SNAPPED ... A long streak was stopped when Saucon Valley shut out Palmerton, 21-0, on Saturday.
The Bombers had played 35 straight games without being blanked. The last time they didn't score in a game was Nov. 17, 2007 against Palisades (14-0) in the District 11 Class AA semifinals.
Palmerton also saw a string of scoring in 63 straight regular season games snapped. The last time it didn't register a point on the scoreboard during a regular season game was Nov. 12, 2004 when the Bombers dropped a 14-0 decision to Lehighton in a contingency game.
42 AND COUNTING ... Speaking of consecutive game scoring streaks, Northern Lehigh is the TIMES NEWS area team with the longest current streak of not being shut out.
The Bulldogs have gone 42 straight games without being blanked.
The last time Nolehi didn't score a point was Nov. 2, 2007 against Palmerton.
The 42-game streak is the longest in Northern Lehigh history.
PLAYER OF THE GAME ... The Knights of Columbus organization annually sponsors team Most Valuabe Player Awards when Marian and Pius X of Rosetto meet in football.
Pius X defeated Marian 45-13 on Saturday. In that game, Royals' quarterback AJ Long was named his team's MVP while two-way lineman Brendan McGowan was named Marian's MVP.
McGowan, a senior, has already given a verbal committment to play football at Temple University next season.
TWICE THE FUN ... Panther Valley's Rich Smith and Mike Weaver both topped 100 yards rushing in Saturday's win over Jim Thorpe.
Smith finished with 27 carries for 153 yards while Weaver ended with 22 attempts for 104 yards.
The last time the Panthers had two players reach the century mark in the same game was Oct. 27, 2006 against North Schuylkill. In that contest, a 49-41 loss, George Tessitore ran for 144 yards and Kyle McAvoy collected 111.
LUCKY SEVEN ... Pleasant Valley managed just one touchdown against Lehighton last Friday, but it was enough to gain a 7-6 Mountain Valley Conference win.
The last time the Bears scored just seven points and won was Oct. 7, 2005 when John Peleschak recovered a fumble in the end zone to account for a 7-0 win over PM West.
The last time Pleasant Valley won a game by a single point was Sept. 24, 2004 when it edged Lehighton, 13-12.