Running wild: Senior back could rewrite North record books

When it comes to numbers for his senior football season, Mitchell Burton has some lofty goals.

But the goals that are most important to the Columbus North running back center around the team’s success. The Bull Dogs started 6-1 last season but dropped their final three games, all to state-ranked teams, missing out on a chance at Conference Indiana and sectional titles.

“I think this is the year,” Burton said. “We have a really explosive offense, and I think our ‘D’ has stepped up a lot. I think the team is going to be very explosive.”

That explosiveness starts with Burton. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound speedster is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Last year, Burton ran for 1,757 yards and tied a school record with 22 touchdowns. He hopes to torch those numbers this season.

“I want to get as many touchdowns as I can, and that 2,000-yard rushing season — that would be pretty nice,” Burton said. “But I definitely want to win sectional and conference and stuff like that.”

The Miami (Ohio) recruit is coming off a big track and field season. He finished fifth in the state in the long jump and was a regional qualifier in the 100 and 200 meters and as part of North’s 4×100 relay team.

Burton, who also is expected to play on defense in North’s nickel packages this year, said he’s put on about nine pounds since last football season.

“He’s faster than he’s ever been,” North coach Tim Bless said. “He’s stronger than he’s ever been. He has the combination of having a lot of talent, and he’s a hard worker. He’s humble, and he’s coachable. He’s just a lot of fun.”

As he did last summer, Burton spent some time this summer running hills at Mill Race Park. That came in addition to his normal lifting and running regimen.

With the Bull Dogs returning four of their five starting offensive linemen, including Western Michigan recruit David Redding at left tackle, Burton figures to have some big holes to run through this fall.

“This offseason, it’s been great because everyone knows what they’re doing, and all the guys are pretty big,” Burton said. “It’s pretty nice to be behind them going down the field.”

As the 2016 season has drawn near, Burton has been mentioned as a possible Mr. Football candidate. If he were able to win Mr. Football, he would become the second running back from Columbus in three years to win the award.

While he isn’t likely to match the single-season state-record 3,556 yards or 60 touchdowns that Columbus East’s Markell Jones put up in his Mr. Football season of 2014, Burton could rewrite the record books at North.

“There are a lot of great football players in the state of Indiana, but I think he ranks right up there with the best of them,” Bless said. “The league we play in, it’s a grind week in and week out. But he’s a big part of what we do, and I think the numbers will take care of themselves.”

Mitchell Burton

Name: Mitchell Burton

School: Columbus North

Year: Senior

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 190

Position: Running back, safety

Sports: Football, track and field

Favorite sport: Football

Favorite athlete: T.J. Yeldon

Other activities: Student Athletic Board

College choice: Miami (Ohio)

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.