Tigers hold off Jackets

Posted 9/29/22

The Mt. Vernon-Mineola football game Friday promised to be akin to a heavyweight fight. Largely, it met its billing.

Mt. Vernon returned home with a 42-25 win, in a game which belied the final …

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Tigers hold off Jackets


The Mt. Vernon-Mineola football game Friday promised to be akin to a heavyweight fight. Largely, it met its billing.

Mt. Vernon returned home with a 42-25 win, in a game which belied the final score. At the midway point of the fourth quarter, the score stood 28-25, Mt Vernon. The Tigers generated two quick scores late in the final stanza to open the large margin. 

Mt. Vernon knew they were in for quite a battle. Maybe with this in mind, when they won the toss, they chose to receive the opening kickoff. What followed in that initial Tiger possession was their most methodical drive of the game. They moved 70 yards in 13 plays – all but eight yards of it on the ground. 

The Tiger fullback took the ball over from the 2-yard line behind a crushing double-team block on the Mineola nose tackle. 

The teams then exchanged punts, as the game settled a bit. The Mineola defense began to shut down the edge rushes of the Tiger offense. In that defensive stand, Tommy Trent and Adam Blalock combined to stuff a run around the left end, while Moses Medellin and Chris Rossie teamed for a sack. 

When Mineola took over at midfield on their third possession, they made a determined effort. It took 11 plays, but by mixing in screens to Cason Davis and Mario Baustista with the relentless running of Dawson Pendergrass and a nice gain by Davis over the left side, the Yellowjackets were inside the Tiger’s 10-yard line. Pendergrass carried over the goal line on a fourth-and-1. 

From that moment through the end of the half, the Yellowjackets held the momentum. They forced Mt. Vernon to turn the ball over on downs on the next Tiger series. That defensive stand featured some of the best Jacket defense of the game. A spectacular effort by D.J. Newsome and Trent stuffed the Tiger’s fourth-down attempt. 

The Jackets began to move. Midway through the second quarter, they were on the Tigers’ 28-yard line, with a third-and-10. Pendergrass took the shotgun snap, feigned toward the line, then stepped back and lofted a beautiful ball to tight end Braydon Alley. Alley made a nice catch in stride and Mineola took the lead. 

A unique formation shift drew Mt. Vernon offside on the extra point attempt and moved the ball closer to the goal. Mineola converted the 2-point conversion through a crease on the right side and the score stood 15-7, Mineola. 

The Tigers scored on their next series on what was the longest play from scrimmage in the game – a 50-yard run. Up to this point, the Jackets had done a solid job denying the Mt. Vernon runners the edge. 

Two broken tackles at the line opened an alley through the left side of the Jacket’s defense. Mt. Vernon gained the edge and, once free, the Tiger halfback could not be caught. The score closed to 15-14. 

With 2:13 remaining on the clock, the Jackets took over on their own 28-yard line. The strongest three runs off the game by Pendergrass (right side for 13 yards, left side for 15 yards, right side for 12 yards) put the ball on the Tiger 34-yard line with only seconds remaining.   

On a fourth down, the Mt. Vernon defensive lineman read a middle screen play and intercepted the ball. Although he had a shot at returning it the distance, he ran out of bounds deep in Jacket territory. Time in the half had expired. 

The teams were remarkably even both statistically and in their schemes and effort. One felt that it might be the team which could make the most impactful adjustments which might carry the day.

But there were no obvious changes in tactics between the two squads in the second half. There was, however, a decided advantage tilted to the Mt. Vernon team. That advantage was the manner in which the Mt. Vernon defense defended the running game. 

Each team had excellent athletes running the ball. Both Dawson Pendergrass and Mt. Vernon’s Makenzie McGill can be expected to be playing on Saturdays next year. Each team has other talented runners as well. 

The key to defending both of these playmakers is to stop the play at the point of attack and prevent the runner from cutting back through the defense. On Friday night, Mt. Vernon filled the cutback lanes against Pendergrass, while the Jackets’ defense could not close the backside against the Tiger runners.

The ability of the Mt. Vernon offensive line to stay engaged in their blocks kept the running lanes for their offense open. 

The Tigers scored on their first two possessions of the second half and built a 28-18 lead as the third quarter came to a close. 

The Jackets however, were not done. Mineola opened the final quarter by scoring on a 3-play, 57-yard drive. It featured a 40-yard post route connection between Pendergrass and Brady Shrum, which took the ball down to the Tiger 5-yard line. 

Pendergrass scored behind an overloaded left side of the offensive line. The score closed to 28-25, and Mineola had regained the momentum.

A great defensive play by Bautista, who came out of his safety position to undercut a deep throw for an interception, gave Mineola the ball back. There were nine minutes left in the game, and Mineola fans were hoping for one long, time-consuming drive.

After converting a fourth-and-6 (on a nicely executed toss from Pendergrass to Alley on an out-route) and reaching the Tiger 37-yard line, the drive stalled. Two long passes missed by mere inches, and with them the Mineola momentum was spent.

Mt. Vernon struck quickly in their last two possessions. They cracked a tired defense open and ran through numerous tackles. 

In the final minutes the Tigers’ confidence grew while desperation began to infect the Yellowjackets.        

Both teams will improve significantly from this game. The problem with District 5-3A is that it is chockfull of solid teams. 

Mineola travels to Pottsboro on Friday before going into a bye week on Oct. 8. The Pottsboro game is critical it sets the stage for the second half of the season. 

Several young athletes called up to varsity are noteworthy. Ainsley Stewart (4), Tommy Trent (28), Ethan Dunham (30), Juan Villaneuva (52) and Juan Cervantes (56) all are making excellent contributions.