Second-half defense propels ‘Jackets to 28-10 win

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Mineola leveraged a fast start and a suffocating second half defense to cement a 28-10 victory over the Sabine Cardinals Friday night. The Yellowjackets fought hard through an evenly-matched first half, and secured the win by limiting the Cardinals to 86 yards in the second half and benefiting from a ferocious pass rush.

Spectacular defensive plays by Linebacker Brady Gully and Defensive End Trevion Sneed stopped the Cardinals’ initial drive and turned the ball over on downs. Overcoming a holding penalty with a strike from Quarterback Shaw Franklin to Wide Receiver Cole Castleberry, the Jackets offense began to move with urgency. Franklin slashed through the Cardinal defense on a Quarterback draw through the right side and scored on a beautiful 40-yard scamper. Gustavo Sanchez added the extra point.

Mineola retained the momentum by stopping the Cardinals on their next possession. A well-defended screen pass forced a Sabine punt from their own 24 yard line. The Jackets worked the edges with Sneed carrying on a pitch left, Franklin on a QB sweep right, and Sneed scoring on an option left. The option was worked to perfection as Franklin advanced well past the line of scrimmage, pitching the ball to Sneed as he sensed the defense closing, and Sneed raced down the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown gallop. Despite the extra point going wide right, it was a near perfect start for Mineola on Homecoming Night.

As expected, Sabine fought back. Attacking the Yellowjackets defense directly up the middle, Sabine went 70 yards on 9 plays to record their only touchdown of the night. Junior Quarterback Landon McKinney hit paydirt by taking an option play over from four yards out. Late in the first quarter Mineola held a 13 – 7 advantage.

Junior Dalton Rogers produced another fine kickoff return and set the offense up at their own 38 yard line. Mineola advanced to the Cardinal 37 yard line before an illegal block penalty derailed the drive. The penalty nullified a first-down Franklin scramble, and set the Jackets back into their side of the field, eventually resulting in a punt.

The Cardinals took possession on their own 20 yard line and embarked on their finest offensive effort of the night. The drive featured the dual threat talents of Quarterback McKinney, as the Cardinals moved the ball 77 yards in 15 plays. Only a fumble at the goal line, covered in the end zone by the Yellowjackets, stopped the Cardinals. This play was one of the turning points of the game as a Cardinal score would have kept building the Sabine momentum.

The Cardinals retained their edge and halted the next Mineola drive at mid-field. A spectacular special team effort blocked the ensuing Mineola punt, and the Cardinals returned the ball to the Yellowjacket 35 yard line.

After a 33-yard gain on a quarterback scramble took the ball down to the Yellowjacket 2 yard line, Sabine self-destructed with an illegal procedure and a false start penalty. The Yellowjacket defense also rose up and rallied to sack McKinney for a nine yard loss. Although successful the resulting Sabine field goal, which made the score 13 – 10, was their high water mark of the night.

Mineola pressed hard to tally another score before half. A 10-play 58-yard drive was wasted when the Yellowjackets coughed the ball up deep in Sabine territory with less than 2 minutes left in the half.

As they went to the intermission each team certainly felt as though they had the chances to have dominated the game in the first half. Neither side was able to land a knock-out punch due to the ferocity of the opposing defenses. It was a classic battle royal of high school football in the first half.

The third quarter was, as we have come to appreciate, that time in which Mineola changed the game. A combination of methodical offensive production and a recalibrated defense, limited Sabine to just 18 positive yards in the quarter.

Although the Jackets turned the initial possession of the second half over on downs, they did so after taking the ball down to the Sabine 30 yard line. Sabine possessed the ball for a quick six plays before punting it back. The Yellowjackets then ground out a 15-play 78–yard scoring drive, with Franklin hitting Castleberry on a well-timed out route for the score. Courtesy of Sanchez, Mineola then took a 20 – 10 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Each defense stepped up in the fourth quarter. The first two possessions of each side resulted in three punts and a turnover on downs. With only a ten point margin, it was anyone’s game until about 4 minutes to play when Yellowjacket junior linebacker Gully made a sensational grab of a McKinney pass attempt and gave the ball back to Mineola deep in Cardinal territory. Gully’s catch was a combination of awareness, quick reaction and great hands as he snatched a rifled pass from McKinney out of thin air.

Mineola would not squander this opportunity. Three plays later Sneed, who had 184 yards on 23 carries, took a quick pitch around the right edge and scored from 16 yards out. Mineola added a two point conversion to record the final scoring of the night.

Sneed now has rushed for 1, 070 on 142 carries this season. That gives him a season average of 7.5 yards per carry. Franklin added 101 yards on 17 totes and that gives him 892 yards on 96 carries this year for a 9.3 per carry average.

Sabine drove 69 yards in the final two minutes but ended up turning the ball over on downs just short of the Mineola goal line. At the end of the night the statistics bore out the score. Each side had 17 first downs and ten penalties apiece, but Sabine suffered five turnovers to Mineola’s two. Mineola also produced a 389 yard to 277 yard offensive production advantage.

It was another great match-up and thoroughly well-competed football game. The Yellowjackets may have the inside edge on a playoff berth, but there are two games yet to play, with a road trip to Tatum upcoming this Friday.

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