MINEOLA -- The biggest question surrounding Mineola and its hope to return to the Class 3A Division I state championship got answered Friday at Meredith Memorial Stadium. In a big way.

The Yellowjackets' still fairly new defensive front held White Oak to zero yards or negative yardage on 16 of 38 running plays while quarterback Jeremiah Crawford did his thing in a 28-13 District 8-3A Division I opening victory.

Adding in 12 incomplete passes in the game and three completions for no gain or lost yardage, Mineola held the Roughnecks to positive yardage on just 54.9 percent of their offensive plays.

"That means we're pretty much dominating up front," Yellowjackets head coach Joe Drennon said. "That's a great thing. Most football coaches are going to tell you, if you won the battle up front, you're going to win the game. I think we did that. And you saw us take over the second half with our offensive line. We won the battle on the offensive side, too."

Chantz Perkins pulls in a 24-yard reception from Jeremiah Crawford to open Mineola's scoring in Friday's District 8-3A Division I game. (Michel Alfaro, ETSN.fm)

White Oak (4-2, 0-1) entered the meeting with excellent production from its own defensive front. The unit performed very well in spite of offensive struggles to give the team a chance beyond halftime.

Mineola (6-0, 1-0) -- which began the week ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press' Class 3A poll -- held a 7-3 lead through 24 minutes and was off normal pace with 124 yards in total production.

Crawford ripped off touchdown runs of 46 yards, 40 yards and three yards in the second half to help the team get closer to normal -- 341 total yards. White Oak didn't cross the goal line until the 9:45 mark of the fourth quarter and then closed scoring in the game on Arthur Nakai's second successful field goal, a 34-yard kick.

Mineola's defensive front development is an encouraging sign for what could come in the future.

Former linebacker Juan Vargas and former defensive tackle Trevor Kenner exhausted their eligibility in the Yellowjackets' state championship loss last season. Those two players combined for 410 tackles in the 16-game campaign to lead individuals within East Texas.

The preseason thought was Drennon could lean on his underclassmen dominated secondary. That group had a relatively easy night thanks to the pressure up front for two sacks and three throwaways.

White Oak only had 38 passing yards before the three-minute mark of the third quarter. At that point, the Roughnecks turned to starting receiver Heath Hood as dual-threat option.

Hood passed for 122 yards and ran for another 24 yards on eight carries in the game's final 15 minutes. But he was sacked once, lost yardage on a run once and was tackled a third time for no gain.

"They have two very good receivers and a quarterback," Mineola linebacker Kourtland Sinches said. "You could see that they're capable of executing very well. What the front had to do, we had to put pressure on the quarterback so he couldn't see his passes."

The two teams traded punts to open the game before White Oak jumped ahead on Nakai's 17-yard field goal. The Mineola defense fended off 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line to force the kick.

White Oak defensive back Dax Davis picks off Mineola's Jeremiah Crawford inside the final minute of the first half. (Michel Alfaro, ETSN.fm)

Crawford connected with Chantz Perkins for a 24-yard touchdown on the Yellowjackets' second possession. It was his lone completed pass of the game. He threw two interceptions on back-to-back attempts as part of a 1-for-6 night through the air to Dax Davis and Hood.

Davis recorded his third interception of the season to kill a late first half scoring attempt. Hood's pick put the ball in the Roughnecks' hands 13 seconds into the second act.

Yet Crawford made up for a bad passing game with a 46-yard scoring run late in the third quarter to up the Yellowjackets' lead to 14-3. And just moments after his defense stood White Oak up on 4th-and-inches from the Mineola 40-yard line, Crawford ran in a 40-yard touchdown for a 21-3 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"Their defensive line is very good," Crawford said. "They've got one guy, No. 52 (Dustin Griffin), he can move. He slants real hard and can get after you. But we also have Oliver (Elhallaoui) on that side and he can get after you, too. It was an even match up there. I just had to break a couple. The offensive line did most of it."

Antonio Castiglione's 33-yard reception to set up Hood's 2-yard score made it interesting on the ensuing White Oak drive, but Crawford and Perkins combined for 67 yards through seven plays with Crawford icing the game on a 3-yard touchdown run.

Mineola's defense forced a fumble and 12-yard loss on the Roughneck's second-to-last possession. White Oak settled for a field goal the next play with 2:49 left and hoped it could recover two onside kicks.

Cornerback Noah Sneed recovered the first and only onside attempt, Mineola bled 1:20 off the clock against two White Oak timeouts and the Roughnecks went four-and-out with a run for no gain and three incomplete passes.

It was an important game.

Mineola was projected to win 8-3A Division I in preseason publications. White Oak was projected to finish second.

Of course, Harmony has quietly worked its way out to a 5-1 overall record and blasted Quitman elsewhere in district action. Harmony is Mineola's next opponent, a 7:30 p.m. kick back at Meredith Memorial Stadium this upcoming week.

White Oak will try to regroup at home against Sabine, which also won Friday.

"Those guys are hard to beat," Drennon said. "I knew going in that this was going to be close football game and a hard-fought football game. Those guys are coached well and play so hard. Just like our kids, they're not going to give anything. You have to earn it."

Mineola linebacker Devon Goguen, who began Friday with 12 tackles for loss through five games, pressures White Oak quarterback Cade Palmer into a forced pass in the second quarter of Friday's game. (Michel Alfaro, ETSN.fm)

No. 1 Mineola 28, White Oak 13
District 8-3A Division I
At Meredith Memorial Stadium, Mineola

White Oak        3    0     0      10    --    13
Mineola            7    0     7      14    --    28

First Quarter
WO--Arthur Nakai 17 field goal, 2:13
MIN--Chantz Perkins 24 pass from Jeremiah Crawford (Willie Tinajero kick), :23
Third Quarter
MIN--Crawford 46 run (Tinajero kick), 3:54
Fourth Quarter
MIN--Crawford 40 run (Tinajero kick), 11:54
WO--Heath Hood 2 run (Nakai kick), 9:45
MIN--Crawford 3 run (Tinajero kick), 5:41
WO--Nakai 34 field goal, 2:49

                                                    WO              MIN
First Downs                                  11                16
Total Yards                                  264              341
Rushes-Yards                         38-104             37-317
Passing Yards                             160                24
Comp.-Att.-Int.                         15-27-0         1-6-2
Punts-Avg.                               4-29.8          3-25.0
Fumbles-Lost                               1-0             1-1
Penalties-Yards                          5-30            7-70

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--White Oak, Connor Hearron 19-46, Cade Palmer 10-34, Heath Hood 8-24, Chris Bloyd 1-0. Mineola, Jeremiah Crawford 21-220, Chantz Perkins 16-97.
PASSING--White Oak, Hood 9-16-0--122, Palmer 6-11-0--38. Mineola, Crawford 1-6-2--24.
RECEIVING--White Oak, Brandon Cook 1-44, Antonio Castiglione 2-41, Zach Rowe 2-26, Colby Siegley 3-23, Hood 3-17, Dax Davis 2-9. Mineola, Perkins 1-24.