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Ashford sets receiving record
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Mitchell Ashford isn’t a big man on campus at Warren County High School. When Ashford walks down the halls, most might not even realize they are crossing paths with one of the best wide receivers to step foot in Nunley Stadium.
Being overlooked is nothing new to Ashford though. The 5-foot-6 senior wideout has been fighting an uphill battle since stepping foot on the football field, but catching flack for his size hasn’t stopped Ashford from catching passes.
When Ashford hauled in his fifth catch against Cookeville last Friday, he became the all-time leader in Warren County football history in receptions with 60. It broke a record which had stood for 15 years as Matt McCarter caught 59 passes from 1985-87.
After Ashford caught a deep ball down the sideline from Lee Carden in the fourth quarter, which gave him his second 100-yard game of his career, the record was his and the senior receiver couldn’t be happier with his accomplishment.
“I feel honored to break the record,” said Ashford.  “It means a lot to me knowing I’m No. 1 on the list. All the hard work and extra time after practice catching balls and running routes paid off.”
Ashford wasn’t always the little guy when playing football. He started playing football in fourth grade, where he was a defensive standout on his pee-wee team.
Ashford didn’t stray to the other side of the ball until he was in seventh grade and his coach asked for a scout receiver during practice. Ashford admitted he didn’t even know if he could catch a ball before he volunteered, but after he made the move he had a position for life.
Since suiting up to play receiver for the Pioneers, Ashford has made a name for himself by making highlight-reel catches. Two stand out in the minds of Ashford and they came on his favorite route to run, the hitch-and-go.
“My favorite catch would either be the one I made on homecoming my sophomore year against Cumberland County or the record-setting catch,” said Ashford. “Against the Jets, the defensive back was all over me and I dove out and made the catch and the crowd went crazy.
“The catch that broke the record was kind of the same situation. I ran the same route and looked up and was thinking there is no way I’m going to catch up with the ball, but I dove out and made the catch.”
Running precise routes and putting his Velcro-like hands to work are what sets Ashford apart on the field. Ashford knows he wasn’t blessed with game-changing speed, towering height or the strength to shrug off defenders, so he went to work trying to make sure he could get open in other ways.
“I think what makes me a good receiver is my route running and ability to get open,” said Ashford. “Running routes is about having good technique and you have to know what you’re doing. Coach Pedro Holiday has done a good job of teaching me all the techniques.”
Ashford still has a chance to break more records as his senior season is at its midway point. With five games to go, Ashford needs 404 yards to break the all-time yardage mark. Ashford currently is fifth on the list with 802 yards, having passed his coach Chris Madewell last week. With three more touchdown catches, Ashford would also move into the top five in career touchdown catches.
If Ashford does set more records, don’t expect the senior to take sole credit for his accomplishments. As his career slowly comes to a close, the senior realizes his catches wouldn’t be possible without the help of his team.
“I didn’t do this all by myself,” said Ashford. “I can’t thank everybody enough on the team for all they do.”
Fans will have their chance to show appreciation for No. 17 Friday night when the Pioneers play host to the Moore County Raiders for homecoming.
If you don’t spot him at first, don’t be alarmed. He’ll show up when Warren County needs a big catch.
It’s what Ashford has been doing his entire career.