ROYSE CITY -- How much more can Mineola fans take before their hearts give out?

They'll have to get through at least one more game. The Yellowjackets scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:54 remaining in Saturday's Class 3A Division I quarterfinal and held a frantic Pottsboro drive 12 yards short for a 14-7 win at Royse City ISD Stadium.

With that win, the town can declare this Mineola team the best ever. The program has never played a fifth round playoff game before.

"First time ever," an emotional head coach Joe Drennon said. "We're a game away from the state championship. I don't know any other way to put it."

Defensive tackle Trevor Keener and linebacker Juan Vargas combine to bring down Pottsboro running back Thadues Flinn a few yards short of the goal line before a bad snap bailed the Yellowjackets out of the situation. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The Yellowjackets (11-3) will take on Shallowater, a town just north of Lubbock, at Brownwood's Gordon Wood Stadium on Friday at a specific time to be determined. The winner of that game will play for the state championship a week later.

Mineola's 500-mile round-trip for the semifinal game will be, by far, the longest distance an East Texas football team goes for a game this season.

It could easily be Pottsboro (12-2) planning its itinerary. Two fumbles lost at the goal line on bad snap exchanges cost it dearly.

A few plays after the Cardinals dropped a potentially game-tying score and with nine seconds on the clock, linebacker Juan Vargas closed the game with an interception on 2nd-and-goal from the 12. Quarterback Zane Prichet, who had no more timeouts to work with, ran to the sideline for a three-yard loss the play before rather than take Mineola's third sack of the game.

The Yellowjackets defense also forced turnovers on downs at their own 10 and 29-yard lines as well as two second half punts. Defensive tackle Trevor Keener played a hand in both fourth down stops, including a sack against Prichett on 4th-and-10 from the 29.

The stop at the 10, a 4th-and-1 situation, came four plays after a controversial defensive pass interference call extended a Pottsboro drive that appeared to be over.

"It feels good when they think they can take us into our own end zone for a score," Keener said. "We build a stone wall and don't let anybody through."

Mineola's Trevor Keener sacks Pottsboro quarterback Zane Pritchett on a 4th-and-10 situation from the Yellowjackets 29-yard line midway through the second quarter. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The Yellowjackets defense had to play well all game long. The offense had no answers for Pottsboro in the first half and accumulated just two first downs and 59 yards en route to a 7-0 halftime deficit.

Mineola's best chance to score was safety Aaron Stanford's fumble return on Pottsboro's turnover at the 1-yard line with 42 seconds left in the half. He got all the way to his own 41 before getting caught from behind.

Pottsboro intended to direct snap the ball to halfback Thadeus Flinn inches away from a score.

Mineola sophomores Chantz Perkins, a running back, and quarterback Jeremiah Crawford came alive on their second drive of the second half. On the heels of the Cardinals' first punt.

The duo combined for all 69 yards of a nine-play drive and capped it with a Crawford run on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 with 32 seconds left in the period.

Aided by a 47-yard return by Myles Mitchusson, Pottsboro worked all the way back to Mineola's 1 for a second time in three drives. Prichett's bobbled snap was recovered by defensive lineman Austin Anderson at the 10 and a Cardinals unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball to the 25 with 7:21 left in the game.

Chantz Perkins scores Mineola's go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard carry with 1:54 to play in the game. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Perkins accounted for 42 yards on a five-minute drive and gave the team the lead on a two-yard run with 1:54 to play. Crawford recorded the other 33 yards on the scoring possession.

"I think in the first half we were just in our nerves," Perkins said. "Mineola has only been this far once in (the school's) lifetime. To get this far was a great accomplishment, but I think it was all the nerves. Once we got into halftime, we came back and just gave it our all."

Perkins finished the game with 131 yards on 13 attempts, an average of 10.1 yards per play. Crawford had 84 yards on 18 carries and completed four of nine passes for 25 yards.

The offense recorded 240 yards, 181 of those in the second half.

Pottsboro returned the final kickoff to the 33, managed four first downs and got off 11 plays in less than two minutes before Vargas picked off the final meaningful play of its season.

"All I thought was, 'Is this really happening right now? I saw the ball, I thought it was an illusion, and caught it," Vargas said. "The feeling was great."

Pottsboro put up 310 yards and only got seven points out of it. The score came on fullback Patton Lyons' 2-yard run on a direct snap, the same play the Cardinals meant to execute later in the first half.

For the second straight week, Mineola is advancing on a late touchdown and an even later defensive stand.

"Words can't express how happy I am right now," Perkins said. "Every single game, everybody counts us out. Every single game, we prove them wrong. We prove them wrong every single week."

Mineola lifts is Class 3A Division I, Region II championship trophy high after the Yellowjackets 14-7 win against Pottsboro. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Mineola 14, Pottsboro 7

Class 3A Division I
Region II Championship
At Royse City ISD Stadium, Royse City

Pottsboro                 7      0       0     0    --     7
Mineola                   0      0       7     7    --     14

First Quarter
POT--Patton Lyons 2 run (Abdul Mal kick), 3:10
Third Quarter
MIN--Jeremiah Crawford 1 run (Willie Tinajero kick), :32
Fourth Quarter
MIN--Chantz Perkins 2 run (Tinajero kick), 1:54

 

                                         POT                  MIN

First Downs                      21                   13
Total Yards                       310                240
Rushes-Yards                  47-148           31-215
Passing Yards                  162                 25
Comp.-Att.-Int.                 16-26-1          4-9-0
Punts-Avg.                        2-16.0            3-40.0
Fumbles-Lost                    2-2                 1-1
Penalties-Yards                9-75               9-89

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Pottsboro, Zane Prichett 24-88, Thadeus Flinn 16-87, Patton Lyons 5-3, TEAM 2-(-30). Mineola, Chantz Perkins 13-131, Jeremiah Crawford 18-84.
PASSING--Pottsboro, Pritchett 16-26-1--162. Mineola, Crawford 4-9-0--25
RECEIVING--Pottsboro, Zack Lovelady 5-61, Nate Watson 3-34, Jacob Tol 3-33, Myles Mitchusson 4-22, Eric Delacruz 1-13. Mineola, Brent Wells 1-10, Kourtland Sinches 1-8, Perkins 1-5, Noah Sneed 1-2.