Quick start not enough for Mineola

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The first 22 seconds of Friday’s Mineola-Sabine football game could not have gone better for the Yellowjackets. Cole Castleberry took the deep kickoff and returned it straight up the middle of the field to the Mineola 45-yard line. On the Yellowjackets’ first play from scrimmage, Trevion Sneed carried off of right tackle, made an accelerating cut to slice through the line and another to free himself into the secondary, and scored on a 55-yard run.

The play stunned the large Sabine crowd, and they assumed they would be fighting out of a 7-0 hole.  The PAT was a precursor of things to come. The Cardinals blocked the kick directly up the middle, picked up the ball and began racing to secure the two points in their favor. Holder Rogers had the speed to catch him, and would have, had a Sabine player not blocked his attempts to run down the Cardinal advancing the ball.

Sabine scored the two points on the long return, making the score 6-2 before a minute had expired on the game clock.

The Sneed run represented 46% of the total Mineola offensive production in the game. Sabine shut the Yellowjackets down and went on to a 31-6 win.

The Cardinals, who are undefeated on the season, are for real. In addition to a stifling defense, they tallied 302 yards of offense on a muddy turf. Sabine’s first and second team rushers were out with injury, but sophomore Chance Owens came up from junior varsity and had a productive night.

Except for the opening run by Sneed, the Yellowjackets had no drive greater than 18 yards. Poor field position the entire first half hindered Mineola, as they executed five consecutive punts.

Meanwhile, two Sabine touchdown drives of 60 and 46 yards, and a 57-yard drive resulting in a field goal, made the score 18-6 at the half.  A successful fake punt extended the field goal-scoring drive.

The Cardinals used their extremely fast up-tempo offense for part of two of their scoring drives. No doubt, their tempo is likely the fastest in East Texas. The Cardinals appeared to use that technique as a surge over a span of 3-4 plays.

Sabine just led the Yellowjackets by one step all night.  Frustration showed itself and resulted in uncommon penalties for a normally well-disciplined Mineola team.

The second half held no turnaround, counter to what Mineola fans are accustomed. The Yellowjackets continued to struggle offensively and fought uphill the whole night. The average starting position for the Yellowjackets was their own 24 yard line.     

A Mineola fourth-and-4 from their own 30-yard line early in the fourth quarter was indicative of the night. The Jackets brought in a heavy line package and ran a direct snap lead play with Sneed over the right side. Sabine stonewalled the play for a loss.

The rainy conditions made for some sloppy second half football by both teams.  Sabine added two field goals to make the score 24-6. With under a minute to play, Sabine punted the ball which rolled out of bounds at the Mineola 1-yard line. Two plays later, while scrambling in the end zone to make a play, Mineola fumbled and the Cardinals recovered for a score. The PAT made the final score 31-6. 

They host Tatum this week, and finish the regular season at Winnsboro. The Sabine loss could have costly implications, as now three playoff spots are yet open.  The last two weeks of the season will determine the Jackets playoff fate, and everyone can expect to see an energized squad Friday against the Tatum Eagles.

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