Second half propels Mineola to win

Posted 9/8/22

The Mineola Yellowjackets overcame a lethargic first half only to have an offensive explosion in the second half and record a 44-34 win over the Hughes Springs Mustangs Friday.

Maybe it was a long …

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Second half propels Mineola to win

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The Mineola Yellowjackets overcame a lethargic first half only to have an offensive explosion in the second half and record a 44-34 win over the Hughes Springs Mustangs Friday.

Maybe it was a long bus ride, but the Jackets just did not have their legs under them until late in the first half. As the first quarter ticked away, the Yellowjackets had 23 yards from scrimmage, while an energized Hughes Springs side had scored on drives of 56 and 83 yards and led 14-0.

The Mustangs used a straightforward power running game to press the action in the opening quarter. Their initial drive of 12 plays had no gain greater than seven yards, as they exploited the edges of the Jacket defense with quick-hitting running plays behind their big fullback. 

The Mineola defense was having a hard time bringing down the Mustangs’ halfback and were caught “catching the blockers” instead of shucking them.

After a Mineola three-and-out, Hughes Springs moved 83 yards to their second score. It came from 35 yards out, when the Mustang quarterback faked the throw for the wide receiver screen and hit a slant route that went for the touchdown.

Mineola began to move at the turn of the quarter. With the Mustang defense shutting down the running game, the Jackets used two wide receiver screens – to Brady Shrum and Xzavien Lipscomb – to jumpstart the offense. 

They were first-and-10 at the Mustang 18-yard line but could not close the goal line. The ball was turned over on downs.

Hughes Springs took over and drove to midfield. A nice play by Adam Blalock cutting down a quick pitch  and a fourth down stop gave the Jackets the ball back at their own 42. 

The Jackets needed a score. With time running out in the half, they worked the ball deep into red zone. On a fourth and goal with :19 seconds left on the clock, quarterback TJ Moreland rolled left and connected with Moses Medellin who had come from a wing position to find an empty spot in the end zone. 

At the half, the score stood 14-7, Hughes Springs. The Yellowjacket faithful anxiously waited for the half-time adjustments.

They didn’t have to wait long. On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Moreland put the ball in the belly of Dawson Pendergrass on an option. He then pulled the ball and sliced back through the Mustang defense for a 51-yard jaunt. Pendergrass busted through to score on the following snap. Mineola had evened the score in the first 37 seconds of the second half.

The Jackets forced a fumble from Hughes Springs and took over at the Mustangs’ 41-yard line. Five plays later Moreland again ran a counter-option – this one for a touchdown from 14 yards out.

The Mineola defense also made some adjustments. Periodically they brought Medellin down into a nose guard position, which wreaked havoc with the Mustangs’ blocking schemes. They hardened the edges and began to close much more forcefully. 

Their work turned the Mustangs over on downs and set up the Jackets’ offense in great position. Pendergrass – who exploded for 230 yards in the second half, after being held to only 22 in the first half – scored from 13 yards out to make the score 27-14. He carried a 2-point conversion over to make it 29-14.

The next five possessions produced a lot of scoring. Hughes Springs answered Mineola at every turn, scoring three touchdowns, while Mineola added two more. 

Pendergrass recorded two long touchdown runs, of 55 and 49 yards. Mineola needed them both as the Mustangs just kept coming.

The Jackets coughed the ball up on the goal line with 4:00 minutes left on the clock and gave Hughes Springs one last chance to rally. 

A sack by Edgar Rubio and a well-played interception by Jamarcus Kennedy sealed the win for Mineola.   

It was reassuring to see the Jacket offense function effectively. They churned out 407 yards (309 in the second half) and demonstrated some flexibility. The concern going into week three must be the Jacket defense. Despite having made a number of adjustments, the Yellowjackets still gave up 218 yards in the second half (403 yards on the night), and struggled to get off the field.

Each pre-district game is a huge learning tool for district. To win a pre-district game is a bonus: the team gets all the learning points and the euphoric experience of a tough win. 

Mineola will need both of these aspects as they prepare to host West Rusk Friday.