Jackets secure post-season spot with victory
There was a bit of a shoot-out up in Emory on Friday, but it sure didn’t start out that way. The first quarter was scoreless, but the remaining 16 possessions by both teams produced 11 …
Jackets secure post-season spot with victory
There was a bit of a shoot-out up in Emory on Friday, but it sure didn’t start out that way. The first quarter was scoreless, but the remaining 16 possessions by both teams produced 11 touchdowns. In the end, Mineola came home with a 42-32 win.
For Mineola, the game started exactly according to script. Taking the ball at their own 46, the Yellowjackets methodically drove the ball, on the ground, down to the Rains 29-yard line. That is when the script was interrupted.
A Wildcat defender cut inside of a drag route and picked off a T.J. Moreland pass intended for J.J. Gandy. A long return gave the Wildcats the ball at the Mineola 25. A bad snap helped derail the Rains scoring intentions, and the Mineola defense turned the ball over on downs.
Neither team could get totally untracked in that initial quarter. Twice, Mineola gave the ball to Rains deep in their own territory, once on a bad punt snap and again on an interception.
The Mineola defense suffered none of the tackling issues which had recently plagued them. They played aggressive, aware defense and stymied the Wildcats at every turn.
On the first play of the second quarter, from near mid-field, Moreland hit Gandy for a 57-yard scoring strike. Gandy was easily 10 yards clear behind the defense, and Moreland sent him an easy ball to catch.
Although Rains generated some offense on their next drive, excellent defensive efforts by Nate Griffin, Julian Ramos, Adam Blalock and Coy Anderson turned the ball over on downs at the Mineola 16-yard line.
Many Yellowjackets had strong defensive games, but Anderson put on a defensive clinic. He easily led the Jackets in tackles and spent most of the night knifing into the Wildcat backfield. On the first series of the second half, it was Anderson who with Bradyn Alley pressured the quarterback to throw an interception. He also forced a key fumble late in the game – a play on which he came a long way across the field to make – and denied a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
In the very next play from scrimmage, Dawson Pendergrass took a hand-off through the left side for an 84-yard score. The combination blocking on the left side of the Jackets line was textbook. With tight end Conner Gibson and tackle D.J. Newsome blocking down and guard Bryson Myers kicking out, the path for Pendergrass was clear. Early in the second quarter it was 14-0 Jackets.
Rains has put up a lot of points this season, and they have the capability to strike quickly. Three plays later they returned the favor with a 64-yard scoring run. Rains had found the seam in the Jacket’s defense between turning back the edge and filling from the inside to close the seam. They exploited that exact seam for another score in the first half, to tie the game at 14.
Just before the half, Mineola drove 79 yards, mostly through the air, to take a 21-14 lead into the break. A 25-yard quarterback draw was the key play of the drive. From the Wildcat 15-yard line, Moreland then lofted a high-arching pass to Pendergrass in the back of the end zone.
Midway through the third quarter, Rains put together a solid drive and scored on a 13-yard quarterback option keeper. Mineola retained the lead however when Blalock blocked the extra point attempt.
From this point forward, Mineola dominated the game. The Jackets scored on all three of their remaining possessions. Pendergrass carried for two more scores, and Cason Davis broke into the end zone as well.
Mostly, Mineola chewed up yardage on the ground, but Moreland – who went 12 of 18 for 154 yards – had some beautiful tosses. Most spectacular was a ‘drop-in-the-bucket’ pass to Gandy for a 36-yard gain which set up a Mineola score.
The Jackets did give up two more scores and the game was undecided until the Jackets converted a late Wildcat fumble into a touchdown. Davis blasted into the end zone from three yards out and Christian Martinez added a PAT to make the score 42-26.
The two scores which Mineola surrendered were facilitated by a 60-yard hook and ladder play and a 30-yard quarterback scramble. Exposure to late-game desperation should be good training for the Yellowjackets.
Mineola tallied 445 yards of offense on the night while giving up 342 to a talented offensive team. Pendergrass ran for 228 yards on 32 carries. The Jackets blocked well and tackled well. They played with composure and a quiet confidence. It was reminiscent of those early season battles against 4A opponents. The team played Yellowjacket football.
A dangerous Commerce team comes to town Friday for Mineola’s last warm-up before playoff action begins.