Mineola to challenge for playoffs

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At the mid-way point of the 2018 campaign, Mineola Head Football Coach Luke Blackwell provided some interesting perspectives on football, coaching and the present Yellowjacket squad. The interview was conducted on the Yellowjackets’ bye week as the team looked forward to hosting the Gladewater Bears on Oct. 12.

Coach Blackwell characterized the football team as showing consistent improvement since the first two-a-day sessions. “We have seen steady growth from week to week,” he assessed. “I like the way things are going, steady incremental improvements.”

Speaking about the “pleasant surprises of coaching,” Blackwell explained how he challenges his coaching staff to “coach all the kids” as one of those athletes will assuredly end up playing a significant and unforeseen positive role on the team. He expressed this phenomenon as being one of the true joys of the coaching profession.

The area which has seen the most improvement in the head coach’s view is mental discipline. Coach Blackwell explained how mental discipline is not just about playing sports, but rather is a key component in all the roles we fulfill in life and especially in our personal and familial relationships.

“You have to be in control of your mind and your thoughts … the mind controls the body,” he explained. Specifically, he addressed the ability to react to and overcome adversity as an example of mental discipline. He expressed pride in how the Yellow Jackets have performed in the face of adversity so far this season.

Coach Blackwell described the two standout performers of this year’s squad, running back Trevion Sneed and quarterback Shaw Franklin. Sneed’s extreme competitiveness, Blackwell noted, translates into everything the team does.

“He will just get better and better and better,” noted the coach.

In Franklin, Blackwell described a young man who never fails to step forward and take a leadership role, all the while holding himself to the highest standards possible.

Blocking for these two stellar ball-carriers is a group of offensive linemen who have come a long way together since August. In addition to stand-out veteran linemen Cameron Wise and Seth Kirk, Blackwell explained how Junior Zane Bedford moved from Guard to Center this year, while Senior Marcus Riley stepped forward to fill out the line, and Sophomore Jackson Anderson benefits from a long legacy of superior line play. Each of these young men, stated Blackwell, is very capable and their play together has been “a most pleasant surprise.”

Regarding the defensive squad, Blackwell described a group of fearless competitors who are developing confidence with each snap of the ball. He commented about a “tough group of kids” who step to a challenge and do not back down from anyone. He noted how well they have responded when challenged and that despite being put under immense pressure in the West Rusk game, had up until that point yielded only two scores per game.

Fans of Yellowjacket football are well aware of the success the team enjoys after coming out after half-time. Blackwell described the process of half-time adjustments as being, “a balance between what you want to do and what you are physically capable of doing.” He stressed the importance of keeping adjustments simple, and not out-scheming oneself. “The assistant coaches have done a good job, and the kids have done a great job” in making adjustments which can have an immediate effect.

As 2018 is the first year of a two year scheduling cycle, Mineola will again be facing Wills Point, Canton, Farmersville and Big Sandy as pre-district opponents in 2019. Blackwell described the process by which those pre-district opponents are scheduled as a bit of bartering. The most critical issue for selection of opponents is to prepare the team for district play by exposing them to specific opposing team schemes and strengths.

Some of those opposing team strengths will be on display this Friday as Mineola hosts the powerful Gladewater Bears. Blackwell noted the similarities between the Gladewater and West Rusk teams. He described them as “physical and well-seasoned” and stated Mineola must do “the little things correct on every play in order to give ourselves an opportunity.”

Although they dropped the opening district game against West Rusk, the Yellowjackets are keen for yet another playoff run. The next five Friday nights promise to be chocked full of exciting match-ups and quality football.

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