DAINGERFIELD -- It may have taken a while for Daingerfield head coach Aric Sardinea to decide how to best utilize his speedy and athletic collection of talent.

Better late than never.

Daingerfield was a .500 team after six weeks, but the Tigers have since reeled off nine straight wins and will be playing for their seventh state championship Friday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Two of the biggest reasons for the turnaround have been junior quarterback Keris Alexander and versatile senior Edwin Mims, and how the two have fit into roles that weren't so clearly defined at the beginning of the season.

Alexander and Mims split the quarterbacking duties at the outset, but as the season evolved, Sardinea began gradually easing Alexander into a full-time role.

Daingerfield's Keris Alexander attempts a pass against New Boston during their Class 2A Division II Region II final on Dec. 7 in Mount Pleasant. (Richard Shoemaker, ETSN.fm)

“What we’ve tried to do is make things simple for him, try to get him comfortable early in games," Sardinea said. "Starting the year, we felt like we were giving him some things that were easy. When you start having three or four reads, it can kinda get complex."

Alexander admits being a little overwhelmed at first.

“I feel a lot better than at the beginning of the season," he said. "I was a little rusty, but as the season’s gone on I feel more comfortable at quarterback. When I first got in, I was nervous. I had to calm down and get in a rhythm.”

Sardinea never had a doubt.

“We just felt like that over time he would continue to get better and he still has a lot of growth, but we’ve just got to keep working with him," he said. "At this point where he is right now, obviously he’s much better than he was in August.”

For the season, Alexander is 145 of 248 (58 percent) for 2,248 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“We’re on a roll now," Alexander said. "At the beginning of the year, we started out slow but then we started executing and doing what we were taught to do.”

Sardinea's confidence in Alexander has reached the point where the coach has entrusted the pupil with the responsibility of changing plays at the line of scrimmage.

Daingerfield's Edwin Mims (7) runs with the ball during the Tigers' 35-28 fourth-round win over New Boston in Mount Pleasant. (Richard Shoemaker, ETSN.fm)

"When I call one play, it’s really three plays when he’s out on the field," Sardinea said. "He has the ability to go in and change what we call. Defensively, they can’t always adjust to it.”

Sardinea also hinted that he's been keeping some of Alexander's talents a secret.

“Keris is a kid who we don’t run very much," he said. "He can run if we give him those opportunities. At some point, whether it’s in this game or it’s next year, we’re going to let him loose on some folks with the run."

In the case of Mims, the cat's already out of the bag. The senior lines up just about everywhere on offense and his special teams play has often been the difference between winning and losing.

With Daingerfield and district rival New Boston tied at 28-28 with less than a minute to go in their regional final on Dec. 7, Mims returned a punt 70 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

“As soon as I caught it, I saw like five people in my face," Mims said. "After that, I made one cut and didn’t see anybody. Then I saw Shawn Hooks, he put in a key block for me. After that, I was just gone, off to the races."

Added Alexander: “I’m glad to play with him. Without him, we probably wouldn’t have beat New Boston. I was surprised at first (at Mims' punt return), I didn’t know he was going to do all that. But he’s known for his little stab moves and he took it to the house.”

That may have been the biggest play of the season for Daingerfield, but it was only a sample of what Mims has brought to the table all year long. Mims has 2,181 total yards of offense while accounting for 30 touchdowns. He's passed for three TDs, run for 19 and caught eight.

Daingerfield's Edwin Mims heads upfield against Winnsboro on Nov. 30 at Rose Stadium in Tyler. (Richard Shoemaker, ETSN.fm)

“We put him at receiver, we put him at quarterback, we play him at running back, he’s a special teams kid that goes back there and makes plays," Sardinea said. "The defensive guys have to know where he is. In my offense, it’s so wide-open to do whatever you need to do based on the defense. It just allows a kid like Edwin to go out and do a lot of stuff. You can put him anywhere on the field because he’s so explosive and so athletic.”

Both Alexander and Mims will be relied upon to have big-time performances in the Class 2A Division I state championship game against Cameron Yoe (14-0).

“The thing about Edwin is he’s a very smart kid," Sardinea said. "What we’re going to need to do with him is put him in some spots to go out and make plays. If they try to take that away, then we just have to throw and run the ball at other places. That’s the beauty of what we have athletically. As far as Keris, he’s got to go out and put the ball in the right spots as a quarterback when he’s throwing it."

Alexander has a much simpler approach.

“All we have to do is execute and stop them on defense," he said. "As long as we put points on the board, we’ll be good.”