Altoona native Scott Mitchell has his work cut out for him as he approaches his first head football coaching job, but he's relishing the opportunity.
Mitchell, a 1999 graduate of Altoona Area High School who was a member of two District Quad-A championship teams as a member of the Mountain Lions, begins his first season this fall as the new head football coach at Hershey High School.
Hershey has a decent nucleus returning from last season's 6-5 team, but many of the players are still rough around the edges and lack varsity experience.
"I'm very excited, very optimistic,'' Mitchell, 33, said. "I think we have a lot of good players - good size up front, some athletic skill kids, and some good linebacker-type kids. That sets us up to have a successful season, but it's a matter of getting all the puzzle pieces together to decide who fits best where.''
Hershey graduated several seniors last spring who started on both sides of the line of scrimmage a year ago. Mitchell has four returning offensive starters, three returning defensive starters, and several other players who saw limited varsity time last fall because they were playing behind veteran front-liners.
"Getting some of these inexperienced kids to step up will be a key for us,'' Mitchell said. "We have seniors who are inexperienced, because they were behind other people last year, and we have some younger kids, sophomores and juniors, who are going to be starting. If they can all step up and be major contributors, I think we're going to have a successful season.''
Hershey competes as a Class AAA school in the Mid-Penn Conference, a league that also includes state powerhouses Bishop McDevitt and Lower Dauphin.
"We're playing five Quad-A schools, we're playing up (a class) in a lot of our games,'' Mitchell said. "We play a tough schedule.''
Mitchell was a two-year starter at strong safety on Altoona teams that were coached by Ed Dalton in the late 1990s. Mitchell is a mathematics teacher at Chambersburg High School, where he spent the past eight football seasons as a running backs coach. He was also Chambersburg's offensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
Mitchell is a 2003 graduate of Frostburg (Md.) State University, and taught school and coached football at two high schools in Maryland and Virginia before arriving at Chambersburg. He and his wife, Stephanie, are the parents of two children, son Peyton, 7, and daughter Mackenzie, 4.
Mitchell's parents, Michael and Loraine Mitchell, still live in Altoona, as do many of his other relatives.
"We try to make it back as often as we can to visit,'' Mitchell said. "It's always home.''