Mineola Is In Comfortable Role As The Class 3A Division I Title Game Underdog
LINDALE -- Mineola's bus will be directed by AT&T Stadium personnel less than 48 hours from now into an entrance modern NFLers, collegiate football stars and even Final Four basketball participants have passed through.
From there, the acoustics will take over. There will be another UIL state championship football game playing out ahead of the Class 3A Division I game between the Yellowjackets and Cameron Yoe.
Drums reverberating off the stadium walls and closed roof. One half of the stadium cheering the outcome of the most recent play. An explanation of the play by the public address man, which will also echo all throughout the stadium.
"You enjoy it," Mineola head coach Joe Drennon said of any distractions the home of the Dallas Cowboys will play prior to the start of the game. "There's no need to minimize it. This is why you work all year long."
Tuesday's practice at Lindale's Eagle Stadium, where the Yellowjackets are practicing to get used to playing on field turf, could not be more different than the environment the team will enter at 8 p.m. Thursday.
With a crisp chill in the air under a late autumn sky, a pin drop could be heard a half mile away. A neighbor's dog provided the only soundtrack outside of pads colliding on the field and coaching instructions.
Preparation for this game is all about keeping focus while the outside world zeros in on Mineola.
The game will be broadcast live on regional television. The only in-state professional sports team playing a game in the same time slot will be the Houston Rockets versus the New Orleans Pelicans and CBS will counter the state football championship with an NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-12 teams.
FOX Sports Southwest, the rights holder of the Yellowjackets' game, calls these guys the Cinderella team of all 20 programs participating in this week's 10 state championship games.
The funny thing about the Cinderella tale is the clock struck midnight. Drennon's squad knows, once again, the general public projects it to lose.
Cameron Yoe has everything you could want in a state championship team. The offense has produced a 2,500-yard passer, a 2,000-yard runner and two receivers with more than 1,000 yards apiece.
Thursday will mark Cameron Yoe's third straight trip to a championship game, and it won both its previous games in Arlington. It took out Daingerfield in the 2012 Class 2A Division I title game and Newton the week prior. Last year, it survived White Oak in the state semifinals.
A team chaplain gave a motivational speech after the confidently quiet practice. The theme was Mineola's answers rest within.
"I don't know that we've been picked to win a playoff game yet," Drennon said. "I don't know why this one would be any different. But Yoe is a great football team, don't get me wrong. There's a reason they're there for the third year in a row. We'll have to play really, really well.
"I think if we do the things we do offensively, it hurts them. We're not going to get out there and try to sling the ball all over them because they're athletic. They're good. So we're going to have to take advantage of the things we do which is our offensive and defensive lines."
Tuesday's practice ended 50 hours before kickoff.
Mineola will travel to Lindale a final time Wednesday. The following trip on the bus will be the team's last, win or lose.
"I think it's really cool we're going to play at the Cowboys' stadium," defensive end Casey Gilbreath, who holds an offer from East Texas Baptist University, said. "Not a whole lot of kids are going to play college ball after, and it's even less likely that you're going to play professional football. But we'll get the 'oh's' and 'ah's' out and go play football like we've practiced all year for."
No one outside Wood County figured the Yellowjackets would come this far.
They're 48 minutes from the school's first state championship.
"I'd probably just cry all the way home," Crawford said, laughing and trying to find the words. "I mean we've put in so much work. It'd be a pleasure to see it go our way. We've worked really hard. I think we've got a good chance at winning state."