Mineola Rolls Into Regional Championship Round With 37-14 Victory Against Callisburg
ROYSE CITY -- One year ago, a receiver named Brent Wells took an innocent dump off pass 60 yards for a game-winning score inside the final minute of Mineola's third-round win.
That started a tradition for the remainder of the season. From there on out, the entire town of Mineola would come onto the field to celebrate wild regional round wins and then a state semifinal win.
Maybe 40-degree weather, a whipping northern wind and the resumption of rain held some fans back from prolonging their outdoor exposure following the Yellowjackets' 37-14 victory against Callisburg on Saturday at Royse City ISD Stadium in the Class 3A Division I regional semifinal round. But this playoff run just doesn't seem to have that same Mineola Magic feel.
It's not taking magic for the Yellowjackets close in on their second-consecutive regional championship. This team isn't relying on big breaks to work out of Region II. And two of the squad's first three playoff games haven't made the adrenaline pump enough to jump a fence and run onto the field.
"Well, we do have some goals," head coach Joe Drennon said. "We started them out early this year and we're working on them now. It's a work in progress. Our fans want us to win and expect us to win. I was surprised with how many we had today, to be honest with you. We had quite a few for this weather, so I'm pretty proud about that."
Whereas Mineola scored in the final minute of last year's third-round game and had to bat down a game-tying pass in the end zone, the Yellowjackets (13-0) out gained Callisburg 428-162 and won back three turnovers of their own with interceptions.
The team was comfortably in control, 30-14, after three quarters to set up a meeting against Sunnyvale in the regional championship round next week.
Quarterback Jeremiah Crawford and running back Chantz Perkins, both juniors, did their thing offensively. They combined for 373 yards on 51 carries and did all the scoring aside from Willie Tinajero's 29-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Crawford eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards this season around the start of a 50-yard run in the third quarter. Perkins moved to less than 300 yards away from the same mark.
Cornerback Noah Sneed earned his fifth interception of the season in the win as well as a pass breakup that just might have saved a Callisburg (10-3) touchdown. Linebacker Drason Tenner and safety Dalton Harris recorded picks of their own to help preserve the final margin of victory.
The defense as a whole forced four punts and three turnovers on downs in addition to the three turnovers for 10 Callisburg drives yielding zero points.
Mineola's offense fumbled twice, punted the ball once, turned the ball over on downs once and was picked off once. But Drennon's squad scored on six of 11 drives while Callisburg converted two of 12 drives.
"Our defense is amazing," Crawford said. "They've grown up. They've matured mentally and physically. They've become a better team as the defensive side of the ball."
Mineola's defensive front was the biggest question mark before the current season.
Crawford, Perkins and the secondary had done enough, largely as sophomores, to get their team to the Class 3A Division I state championship game last year. But losing defensive tackle Trevon Keener, end Casey Gilbreath and linebacker Juan Vargas essentially took away half the unit's production.
Where those former players really began to shine, here in the middle rounds of postseason play, the overhauled front recorded seven tackles for negative yardage and restricted Callisburg to an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Paired with the secondary, Callisburg managed 3.3 yards per snap.
"People worried about our defense starting out and our kids have grown up so much," Drennon said. "Coach (Luke) Blackwell and our staff on that side of the ball do an outstanding job of preparing our kids and getting them ready. Tonight was a big indication of that. We knew everything they were doing when they lined up pretty much. We made a lot of great plays, too."
Callisburg opened scoring midway through the first quarter in its third opportunity with the ball.
Mineola ran a halfback option play and, just as Crawford was about to pitch to Perkins, Callisburg's Rance Sanborn knocked the ball away from Crawford. Kade Orsburn recovered the fumble at the Yellowjackets' 28-yard line and Chance Caldwell punched it in four plays later from 12 yards.
Crawford and company retaliated with the game's next 30 points.
Perkins broke off a 52-yard run on Mineola's next offensive snap and Crawford reached the end zone with a 4-yard keeper two plays later for a 7-7 score.
Less than a minute later, Tenner picked off Callisburg at the opposing 32-yard line. Perkins ran for 27 yards and Crawford scored from five yards and a 13-7 lead after a quarter due to a missed point after attempt.
Tinajero scored his 29-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, and the Yellowjackets took a 23-7 lead to the locker room with Perkins' 1-yard dive to cap an eight-play, 41-yard drive 23 seconds before the break.
The defense held Callisburg on fourth-and-9 at Mineola's 13 to a 5-yard gain in its first series of the second half. Crawford ran for 50 yards the next play and capped a 92-yard drive with a 1-yard dive for the 30-7 lead.
Caldwell ran in from three yards to close third quarter scoring, cutting the Yellowjackets' lead to 30-14.
Crawford added a fourth individual touchdown in the fourth quarter. A 6-yard run.
"Last year, we had a great season and all," the leading scorer said. "But, this year, I feel like we're way better than we were last year. People are going to step in our way, but we're going to keep moving. We have a really strong team."
Sunnyvale spoiled the prospect of Mineola rematching White Oak, a District 8-3A Division I rival, in the fourth-round playoff game with a 32-15 win Friday in Van. Sunnyvale had not won a playoff game prior to this season.
The Yellowjackets will meet Sunnvale next Saturday at 2 p.m. back inside Royse City ISD Stadium with a state semifinals berth on the line.
"It is awesome to get this opportunity to be in the fourth round," sophomore linebacker Mike Drennon said. "Not many teams get this opportunity. We're truly blessed to be at where we are right now."
Mineola 37, Callisburg 14
Class 3A Division I Regional Playoff Game
Royse City ISD Stadium
Callisburg 7 0 7 0 -- 14
Mineola 13 10 7 7 -- 37
CAL--Chase Caldwell 12 run (Gage Oppel kick), 4:20
MIN--Jeremiah Crawford 4 run (Willie Tinajero kick), 2:58
MIN--Crawford 5 run (kick failed), 1:37
MIN--Tinajero 29 field goal, 5:02
MIN--Chantz Perkins 1 run (Tinajero kick), :23
MIN--Crawford 1 run (Tinajero kick), 4:42
CAR--Caldwell 3 run (Oppel kick), 1:50
MIN--Crawford 6 run (Tinajero kick), 9:15
First Downs 8 21
Total Yards 162 428
Rushes-Yards 34-107 52-375
Passing Yards 55 53
Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-15-3 5-8-1
Punts-Avg. 4-28.5 1-27
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 3-25 9-100
RUSHING--Callisburg, Chase Caldwell 17-45, Parker Huddleston 3-30, Morgan Rigsby 5-22, Reese Richey 1-5, Tanner Thurman 1-4, Kordan Ward 3-3, TEAM 1-0, Blake Berryman 3-(-2). Mineola, Jeremiah Crawford 25-210, Chantz Perkins 26-163, Mike Drennon 1-2.
PASSING--Callisburg, Rigsby 2-9-3--38, Huddleston 3-6-0--17. Mineola, Crawford 5-8-1--53.
RECEIVING--Callisburg, Thurman 3-45, Eli Parker 1-6, Caldwell 1-4. Mineola, Frankie Meason 3-29, Seth Hudgins 1-13, Kourtland Sinches 1-11.