Mineola completed its first 10-0 regular season since 1966 with a shutout victory over Quitman last week, but the quest to return to the state title game and win the final game of the season begins Friday with a bi-district contest against Pattonville Prairiland.

Ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for weeks now, Mineola head coach Joe Drennon and his team are not strangers to expectations.

“Until last week, we’ve not mentioned being ranked or anything not related to worrying about ourselves. We had three goals entering the season and those were to play great in non-district, win a district title and win a state championship. We weren’t worried about anything else,” Drennon said. “Friday (before the Quitman game), I said ‘we’re the No. 1 team in the state, and I expect you to play that way no matter the competition.' And I did that to let the players know we’re trying to live up to our expectations.

“We need to meet our expectations and play to our ability. If we can practice hard and go out and have fun and play our best football we’ll be fine. I’m fine with us being confident, as long as we aren’t cocky. Kids can take nights off or take teams lightly, so I wanted them to know before our final district game that we have expectations for ourselves and those come first.”

Mineola is atop the Class 3A rankings in large part because of the junior backfield duo of quarterback Jeremiah Crawford and running back Chantz Perkins.

“Those two guys have started for us as freshmen, so they each bring a lot of experience to the table,” Drennon said. “Jeremiah is a lot more confident with his reads this season. He’s getting the ball out quickly and to the right person and that comes from experience. He’s a natural winner and a very good athlete. Chantz is the same way. He’s a great athlete and he plays hard.

“Both of those guys also have five offensive linemen and wide receivers blocking for them, though. The offensive line does a great job and our wide receivers take a lot of pride in blocking and that is something we stress as a team. Just because the ball isn’t coming your way doesn’t mean you get a play off. All 11 guys on the field have a job to do each play and we grade our receivers on blocking. They love it and enjoy pancaking a guy as much as catching a football. That may be a slight exaggeration, but it is something our group has really bought into and when you see those long runs it is usually because a wide receiver made a good block.”

No matter what, Mineola brings two of the best blockers in the entire state to the offensive line every single game. The Anderson brothers, Riley and Austin, are committed to Texas A&M and start on the offensive and defensive lines for Mineola.

“They make me a better coach,” Drennon joked. “They’re just great kids who are great for this program. The town loves them, the kids love them and they’re just humble guys that want to be a part of a winning program. A lot of credit needs to go to their parents because they keep them grounded and focused. There is never any jealousy or envy in our locker room surrounding the off-the-field attention for Austin or Riley because there is not a selfish bone in either of their bodies. It has been a lot of fun watching them grow over the eight years I’ve been here in Mineola.”