After not being challenged for most of the season, the Hughes Springs Mustangs found themselves in quite the predicament during last week's playoff with Centerville.

Hughes Springs dominated for the most of the game, carrying a 21-7 lead deep into the fourth quarter, before witnessing its grip slip away. Centerville rallied late to send it to overtime, when an unlikely stroke of fate kept the Mustangs' season alive.

The Mustangs went up 28-21 after scoring first in overtime, and the game looked destined for another extra session when Centerville reached the end zone on its possession.

But Chad McKinney blocked Centerville's extra-point attempt, punching Hughes Springs' ticket into the Class 2A Division II Region III championship game.

“The scene was bedlam, a lot of excitement," said Hughes Springs coach Chris Edwards. "I was excited that we were able to persevere through all that. I think that was great after all the hard work the kids had put in.”

It proved that the Mustangs, whose closest game prior to that was a 28-21 season-opening win, could handle late-game, pressure situations.

“There were several things we could’ve done better, but Centerville’s a good team," Edwards said. "They did some things that made us look not so good. It made us regroup, refocus and rededicate ourselves. We were letting it slip away after controlling things for about 3 and-a-half quarters. They scored two touchdowns in about a 3 and-a-half minute span. That was pretty scary.”

Edwards said he learned something about his team that night.

“We stuck it out," he said. "I think we showed our mental toughness after talking about it throughout the season. We haven’t faced a lot of adversity this season.”

Not only did Hughes Springs have to withstand its toughest test of the season, they had to do it without leading rusher Michael Martinez, who never returned after suffering a bruised knee in the fourth quarter.

Edwards said Martinez, who has rushed for 1,844 yards and 29 touchdowns, is rehabbing this week but is not sure if his star fullback will be able to play this week.

“That’s why we work more than one guy back there," Edwards said. "We’re going to need those kids to step if Martinez can’t go. Of course, we want him back there, but if not, our other kids are going to have to step up.”

Hughes Springs faces District 9-2A rival Elysian Fields (10-3) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Longview in a rematch of the Mustangs' 55-14 regular-season victory.

Edwards said he's warned his players about not overlooking Elysian Fields, which the coach said is a much different team than the one his team played on Oct. 26.

“We have definitely looked at that," Edwards said. "If this is ignored, it’s kinda like the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. We got a few breaks in that game over at their place. They kinda suffered from Murphy’s Law, everything kinda went wrong for them. But our focus right now is on our kids. We need to rededicate ourselves and focus on this week and not the past. The past doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is this week.”