Pictured is Fisher Willsey
The Mansfield Tigers went into their scrimmage against the Mena Bearcats on Tuesday night with plenty of questions behind them. After a lackluster 2020 season, critics held little respect for the Tigers going into 2021. But a question is a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information, so of course, it is nothing without an answer. Although the Tigers fell 20-14 in the last seconds to last year’s 4A-4 Champions, the Mena Bearcats, Mansfield boldly gave their answer. The Tigers took this scrimmage as an opportunity to show critics and conference foes that if they can hang with the reigning 4A-4 Champions, then the 3A-1 better take note.
Mansfield started out with solid offensive drives and stellar defensive stops on the Bearcat’s speedy offense. The Tiger’s offensive run game consisting of Shawn Brown and Tyler Woolbright kept Mena on their heels for most of the first half. Brown was able to find gaps in the Bearcats defense and literally ran his pants off chewing up large chunks of yardage along the way. Woolbright patiently looked for Mena’s miscues and slipped past defenders for plenty of yards himself. Although the Tigers were able to march great lengths downfield, they struggled to capitalize on their drives.
The Tiger’s defense held its own against Mena but some of the Bearcat’s offense was on target. The Bearcats rang up points on the scoreboard first in this scrimmage with 2:18 left in the first quarter putting the Tigers down to an early 7-0 deficit. Mena would strike again in the second quarter giving them a 14-0 lead over Mansfield but the Tigers rallied with a big run by Fisher Willsey to jump back into the game. Braxton Byers drilled the extra point kick to inch the Tigers to a 14-7 score going into the half. Fans could see the slight improvements in the Tigers, but it wasn’t enough at the time to match up on the scoreboard. Mansfield’s offense was gaining ground still and their defense was slowly fixing mental mistakes. It wasn’t until after the half that things started clicking for the Tigers.
In the second half, the Tiger’s defense bowed up. Reading the Bearcats offense, the Tigers were able to begin making headway by sniffing out plays before they happened. This created Mena to make critical mistakes and caused them to get flags thrown. A forced fumble by the Tigers over the Bearcats early in the third quarter shifted momentum in Mansfield’s direction and it was game on from there. Mansfield took the defense’s fumble recovery like a shot of adrenaline to their offense and again, the Willsey and Byers duo came together and tied the game 14-14. With desperation in their eyes and a scrimmage upset looming, Mena chunked a Hail Mary pass with seconds winding down. Unfortunately for Mansfield, the Bearcats were able to connect with that pass to close the game out with a 20-14 final score.
“I thought our hustle and our effort was excellent last night on both Jr High and Sr High squads,” said Head Coach Tim Cothran. “We made some good plays on both sides of the ball. We just have to continue to sand out the rough edges, make sure the kids understand where we need them to be, and what we need them to do. We also need to stay hooked up on blocks and swarm the ball on defense. We will do a lot of film work the rest of this week and continue to rep our offense and defense so they know where we need them to be. We will spend the rest of this week working a lot of individual work as well.” Now, the Tigers will start preparations for their first official game of the 2021 season when they take on the Magazine Rattlers on August 27.