WR outduels Yellowjackets

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The Mineola Yellowjackets were overwhelmed by a cascade of West Rusk scoring in the first half of Friday’s 42-21 loss at Bruce Bradshaw Stadium. Three first-half Mineola turnovers and an inability to stop a potent West Rusk offense created a deficit too large to overcome. Mineola mounted a spirited comeback, but a sequence of plays late in the third quarter sealed the victory for the Raiders.

Mineola’s first play from scrimmage was indicative of a catastrophic first 20 minutes of play. West Rusk jumped a Mineola slant pass and took over at the Mineola 29 yard line. A jet sweep and a pitch option, both around the right side, took the ball down to the 16. Junior Running Back Tyrell Moore turned the left edge and went in for the first score of the night. The extra point was wide, but within 90 seconds of kickoff, West Rusk had the first six on the board.

Mineola Junior Dalton Rodgers returned the ensuing kick 20 yards, nearly breaking it for a bigger gain. The Yellow Jackets however could not get untracked and were stopped on a 3rd and 1. The long snap for the 4th down punt was low and skidded by Quarterback/Punter Shaw Franklin. After chasing down the snap, Mineola covered the ball, but gave possession back to the Raiders at the 18 yard line.

Mineola secured the ball back two plays later as defensive back Cole Castleberry grabbed a well defended pass near the goal line and returned it out to the 26 yard line. It appeared the fortunes of the game were changing as the ‘Jackets began to move the ball, taking the ball out to midfield with a nice run/pass mix of plays. On a 3rd and 4 from their own 46, Franklin found Running Back Trevion Sneed on a short outlet pass, and Sneed took it upfield for 30 yards. The big play was for naught as Mineola was flagged for a block below the waist. This was the first of several impacting penalties which plagued the Yellow Jackets all night. Two plays later Mineola punted the ball back to the Raiders who took possession at mid-field.

West Rusk embarked on their first of two long scoring drives of the night, taking the ball 49 yards on 10 plays and burning over four minutes off the clock. A 16 yard quarterback keeper by Senior L.J. Harper set up his three yard score on the quarterback option a play later. A successful two point conversion made the score 14 – 0 early in the second quarter.

The turnover bug bit Mineola again on the very next play from scrimmage. As Sneed was fighting for extra yardage around the left end, the gang-tackling effort of the Raiders pried the ball loose, and West Rusk took over deep in Mineola territory. The Raiders struck quickly, hitting a straight go route for a 24 yard score. The extra point made it 21 – 0 with ten minutes to play in the half.

The Yellow Jackets determinedly started to come back. Overcoming a holding penalty which pushed them back off of mid-field, the offense stalled eventually at the West Rusk 38 yard line. A deep pass failed on 4th and 10 and Mineola turned the ball over on downs.

Mixing quarterback draws with the running of Moore, the Raiders methodically moved down the field and scored on a 39 yard quarterback option with 2:53 left in the half. A successful point after touchdown put West Rusk up 28 – 0.

What followed was one of many moments which tested the Yellow Jackets’ resolve and belief in themselves. They passed this test. Franklin picked up 25 yards on two quarterback keepers and hit two nicely thrown balls over the middle. The second was a strike to Cameron Bowman for a score with just over a minute to play. Special teams holder Dalton Rodgers scooped up and placed an errant extra point snap which Gustavo Sanchez sent through the uprights to make the score 28 – 7.

Undoubtedly disappointed with their first half showing, the Yellow Jackets knew what had to be done: stop the West Rusk offense and score. Coming out after halftime they did just that. After a West Rusk punt Mineola took the ball at their own 39 yard line. A quick three plays later they were at the opponent’s 34 when Sneed embarked on a highlight reel run through most of the West Rusk defense. It was a run we have come to expect from the Sophmore running back, and it spoke volumes about the fight left in the Jackets. Finally being bounced out at the 3, Sneed took it in for the score on the next play. At 28 – 14, the momentum had shifted.

West Rusk had to earn this win, and they did, on the following drive. With an eight play 58 yard effort, all of it on the ground, the Raiders tallied yet another score. At 35 – 14, the outcome seemed to be decided. Trading scores at this point would end in the Raiders’ favor.

Even so, Mineola was not done. On the first play of the next possession Franklin hit a 47 yard deep in route setting the Yellow Jackets up at the Raider 28 yard line. Two plays later, Sneed reversed his field and scampered 30 yard for the score. It was for naught; a holding penalty brought it back. When Franklin subsequently took the ball down inside the Raider’s five yard line, it too was nullified, this time by a block in the back. A 4th down pass attempt was then broken up in the end zone, and the ball turned over on downs. It was perhaps the high water mark of the comeback.

West Rusk opened the 4th quarter by embarking on a 90 yard scoring drive and losing quarterback Harper for the rest of the night due to injury after a questionable tackle. Back-up quarterback Mark Cook stepped right in and directed the drive, taking a quarterback draw 14 yards to paydirt. With just over 5 minutes to play, the lead was back to 28.

With a nice return of the ensuing kick, Mineola set up on the Yellow Jacket 33 yard line. Two deep completions to Cole Castleberry and Wylie Franks put the ball on the Raiders’ 15 yard line. Junior Running Back Montrell Williams scored on a fine effort through the left side. The point after touchdown concluded the scoring for the night. With two first downs in the final possession, West Rusk ran out the clock.

Franklin was 9-18 for 157 yards passing in the contest and Sneed rushed for 90 hard-earned yards in the game.

Mineola drops to 3-1 on the season and the ‘Jackets have a bye and a week off to prepare for one of the state’s top-ranked teams, the Gladewater Bears. Gladewater opened District 8-3A DI play with a 39-6 win over Winnsboro. The Bears are currently ranked ninth in the state poll and they are at home against seventh ranked West Rusk this Friday night. In other district action, Tatum romped over White Oak 56-28.

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