With their season on the line and a playoff birth at stake the Mineola Yellowjackets used a 28-point second half to beat the Winnsboro Red Raiders 35-14 Friday and will now advance to the UIL state playoffs.
Prior to the game Mineola was deadlocked in a three-way tie for second place in District 7 Class 3A and were facing a hungry Winnsboro team who with the win could also clinch themselves a slot in the UIL state playoffs.
The stage was set for a great final regular season district game between the Jackets and the Raiders. On hand in the pressbox for the night’s match up was the legendary John “Bubba” Kelley – the Mineola quarterback in 1948-1949, an alum of SMU, and a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (inducted 2006).
Throughout the first two quarters the teams seemed to be evenly matched but the score at halftime favored the Red Raiders who held a 14-7 lead.
Mineola Head Coach Luke Blackwell said, “We were down at half-time, but we weren’t worried. We were ready to make the adjustments needed. We tried to keep the kids upbeat and positive. We talked about staying mentally tough. We had some turnovers after some good plays, but our defense responded well and tried to get it right back. The team’s body language and approach were great.”
In a long topsy-turvy third quarter, it was the Yellowjackets who would come out on top with a 21-14 lead, and who went on to win the thriller with a second-half shutout of the Red Raiders, 35-14.
The story of the night was a determined offense, a strong defense and a third quarter that had eight offensive possession changes and was plagued with multiple turnovers and penalties.
Mineola scored a touchdown to start the third quarter after an 11-play drive from their own 49-yard line. Trevion Sneed, who finished the night with 203 yards rushing and three touchdowns, had a 25-yard run for a touchdown that was called back after a block in the back, however the nullified play would be a trend of things to come.
Mineola kept pounding the ball and with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter the Jackets tied the ballgame with a touchdown run by Curtis London on six yards out. On their next possession after four first downs on successive plays, Mineola threw an interception. Three plays later Cody Ford got the ball for Mineola when he intercepted a Winnsboro pass on the Mineola 2-yard line.
On fourth and six from deep in their own territory, Winnsboro’s punter unintentionally kneeled as he was trying to capture the low-snapped ball and Mineola took over with great field position on the Winnsboro 15-yard line.
One play later Mineola scored. With 10 seconds remaining in the third after four combined turnovers by both teams, and a flurry of penalties and confusing calls, Mineola was up 21 to 14.
In the fourth quarter Mineola’s ball-hawking defense continued as Cameron Sorenson opened the fourth quarter with an interception on the Winnsboro 30-yard line that he returned to the 19.
From there Sneed ran it in for a touchdown to make the score 28 to 14 at the 11:47 mark. With 2:19 remaining in the game London intercepted Winnsboro for a pick-six at their 22-yard line as he took it in for the final score effectively sealing the game.
Blackwell said he was especially proud of his group of seniors who likely played their last game at Meredith Memorial Field.
Blackwell said, “Sorenson had 17 tackles, three for a loss, along with a key interception. London had some great runs, along with the pick-six. Preston Lankford played tough all night. Ian Thompson, (offensive line and defensive line) was very strong and Jacob Hurst had 14 tackles. This kind of performance is just what I would expect from this group of seniors. They all played very well.”
When asked what the key was for Mineola’s performance on Friday Blackwell said, “I thought our effort was a big key for us. The attitude we ran the ball with and our determination to swarm the football on defense were really difference makers for us. I also like the fact that we never got down, even after being down seven at the half. I thought we did a great job of staying in the game mentally and overcoming adversity.”
Without a win Mineola would’ve been out of the playoffs. However, with the win they now face the 8-2-0 Hughes Springs Mustangs in a neutral location bi-district playoff game at Hallsville Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Blackwell said, “Hughes Springs will be like Winnsboro in that they have a strong running team and a very aggressive defense. We have our work cut out for us.”
Blackwell concluded his thoughts about their playoff opponent saying, “We have to be great in all three phases, and eliminate turnovers. As always, we will work on being great fundamentally.”