In a rain-soaked Meredith Memorial Stadium the Gladewater Bears steamrolled the Mineola Yellowjackets 53-21 behind a grinding running attack. Gladewater tallied 335 yards on the ground, while shutting down the potent Mineola running game. For the Yellowjackets the loss sets up a critical contest this Friday as they travel to White Oak and take on the Roughnecks.
The Bears cracked the Yellowjacket defense on the first play from scrimmage, as sophomore Tailback Eligia Carter broke a lead play over the right side and took it 59 yards for a score. The line heavy I-formation with a fullback two yards behind the quarterback and the tailback eight yards deep in the backfield was featured by the Bears the whole night. A number of highly skilled backs exploited the line’s point of attack throughout the contest.
Mineola’s first possession started with Running Back Trevion Sneed picking up a first down after his first two carries. After a big gain on a quarterback scramble, Senior Shaw Franklin lost the ball and Gladewater took over on their own 30 yard line.
The Yellowjacket defense stone-walled the Bears on the ensuing possession. Stopping a tailback lead play for no gain and throwing the fullback down for losses on consecutive plays. This series set up a game-changing sequence, as the Gladewater long snap sailed far over the head of the Bear punter. The ball was eventually covered at the Gladewater 4 yard line. Sneed took a direct snap and rumbled over the right side for Mineola’s first points of the night.
It appeared that some of the misfortune encountered early in the West Rusk game had been reversed, when Junior Wylie Franks recovered a Bear fumble on the next series. Mineola took over at their 35 yard line, embarking on their best drive of the game.
Mineola conducted a classic drive with Sneed carrying 4 times and Franklin mixing in a QB draw and a QB sweep. A wide receiver screen to Junior Cole Castleberry put the ball on the Bear 11 yard line and set up Sneed’s obligatory highlight run of the evening. Taking the handoff and paralleling the right side of the line, Sneed chose his gap and sliced upfield. Impacting and hurdling defenders at the same time Sneed demonstrated incredible balance as he finished the run strong and gave Mineola the lead. The extra point made the score 14 – 8 with 2:58 left in the opening quarter.
It was at this juncture when the rain really started. A soaking, steady, bothersome rain which halted only briefly once in the second quarter and over the intermission, but came down as a heavy rain for practically the whole of the second half.
Gladewater took 3 minutes off the clock to go 60 yards and even the score on a beautifully completed 40 yard post pattern which the receiver took in stride in the end zone. The two point conversion gave Gladewater the lead at 16 – 14.
Mineola could not get untracked in their next possession and were forced to punt. Franklin boomed a great punt which was fielded on a bounce deep in Bear territory. Gladewater Junior Robert Hodges zig-zagged and raced his way up field with an amazing return and was finally pushed out of bounds at the Mineola 17 yard line. Gladewater scored on the next play beating the Mineola defense to the corner of the end zone.
Taking possession near mid-field after fielding a pooch kick, the Yellowjackets were stymied by an aggressive Bear’s defense. An incomplete pass on a 4th and 3 resulted in a turnover on downs, the first of three on the night for the Yellowjackets.
Gladewater went 51 yards in five plays for the score which put them up 28 – 14 with just under 4 minutes left in the half. The 42 yard scoring jaunt came on a 4th and 3 courtesy of starting middle linebacker Rashaud Johnson. The Gladewater Senior took the handoff from the fullback position and broke two tackles on his way to the end zone.
The Yellowjackets had two opportunities to close within one score before halftime. The next possession began on their own 41 yard line and resulted in a punt. After forcing a Gladewater turnover and taking possession at the Gladewater 29 yard line, the Jackets could not produce positive yardage and ended up turning the ball over on downs. No doubt the now heavy rain played a role in these two possessions, but regardless the opportunities to score were lost.
The initial second half possessions by each squad resulted in an exchange of punts. Mineola then took control at their own 41 yard line and embarked on an 8 play drive, capped by an exciting broken field run by Franklin who scored from 30 yards out. Initially scrambling up the middle, Franklin drew the converging defense to the middle of the field before abruptly cutting right and speeding to the corner of the end zone. Franklin’s run was the sole highlight of the second half.
Gladewater scored on their next four possessions on drives of 61 and 54 yards, and on two short fields after a Mineola turnover on downs and a fumble. The well synchronized Bear running attack was relentless and simply wore down the Mineola defense. The Yellowjackets’ remaining possessions on the evening were punt, turnover on downs, fumble and end of regulation.
An interesting statistic which is becoming familiar is the numerical strength of Mineola vs opponents. Gladewater carried 38 football players on the roster with 33 of those being upper classmen. Comparatively Mineola carried 27 with 19 upper classmen. The first district opponent, West Rusk, carried 33 on the roster of which 29 were upper classmen. It will be interesting to see how these numbers fare against the remaining district schools and how it may impact this and future seasons at Mineola High School.