ARLINGTON -- Before Mineola quarterback Jeremiah Crawford ever took the field at AT&T Stadium on Thursday night, he had cemented his place as one of the most accomplished high school football players in East Texas history.

There was just one thing missing: a piece of hardware he and his fellow 18 senior teammates had been chasing for three years.

It's not missing anymore.

Crawford ran away from the Yoakum defense all night long, leading the Yellowjackets to a 35-14 win in the Class 3A Division I championship game, the school's first-ever title in football.

Mineola quarterback Jeremiah Crawford escapes a Yoakum defender on his way to a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter Thursday night in Arlington.

The celebration was three seasons in the making after Mineola was drubbed by Cameron Yoe in the 2014 state final with 16 sophomore starters, then ousted by eventual state champion Brock in the semifinals one year ago.

“I just came out and I worked," said Crawford, who ran for 276 yards and four touchdowns Thursday to garner the game's Offensive MVP honors. "I knew I wanted (to get) here again, so I came out and worked; that’s all it takes. If you work hard, you get what you want.”

Not only did Crawford finish 2016 as the East Texas-area rushing champion with 2,874 yards, he also capped a stellar high school career that included more than 10,000 yards of total offense and 145 touchdowns.

Crawford will leave Mineola with 7,283 yards and 105 rushing touchdowns and 3,472 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air.

“He's a great player," said Mineola coach Joe Drennon of Crawford. "No, it's not going to be the end of his career. It's going to be the end of it for us, but he's going to get to play ball somewhere. That kid is just a winner, No. 1.

"He's a great kid. He works his guts out. He's going to win the ballgame. He hates losing, and that's what I've always loved about him. Some people get caught up in his emotions thinking this or that. I promise you, the kid hates losing and he's going to do everything in his power to win the ballgame. He showed it tonight.”

Crawford capped a 10-play, 60-yard march with a 1-yard touchdown on Mineola's opening drive of the night. Then following an even longer Yoakum scoring drive that tied the game, 7-7, Crawford's 51-yard run got Mineola to the Bulldogs' 6-yard line on the final play of the first quarter. The 'Jackets took a 14-7 lead on the first snap of the second on a run by senior running back Chantz Perkins.

With a little more than two minutes remaining in the half, Crawford's 40-yard scoring run gave Mineola the lead for good, 21-14.

Mineola QB Jeremiah Crawford. (Rob Graham,

Crawford added a pair of 5-yard touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to put the game out of Yoakum's reach.

“I can’t say enough good things about Jeremiah," said Perkins, who rushed for 121 yards in his final high school game. "That guy’s not just my best friend, that’s my brother. We just have a chemistry, and I can’t really explain it. We’re pretty deadly in the backfield, and I couldn’t have asked for a better year.”

In three seasons, Perkins posted 5,600 rushing yards and 71 touchdowns.

“I am beyond proud of Jeremiah," he said. "I knew from the start that he was gonna get the Offensive MVP, either him or me. He beat me out this time, but I’m super proud of him.”

Perkins and Crawford will forever be linked, helping turn a downtrodden Mineola program into state champions during the course of their high school careers.

“I’ve worked hard, man, toward what I want to become," Crawford said. "And it’s all just paying off at the moment.”

Mineola quarterback Jeremiah Crawford (center) poses with the Offensive MVP trophy alongside UIL Director of Athletics, Dr. Susan Elza (left) and UIL Executive Director, Dr. Charles Breithaupt, following Mineola's 35-14 win over Yoakum, Thursday in the Class 3A Division I championship game at AT&T Stadium.