The Mansfield Jr High team traveled deep into enemy territory Thursday night as they faced off against the Charleston black and gold Tigers. Coming off a big win against Greenland last week, the Tigers were hyped but knew they had to bring all they had when they hit the field against a Charleston team who has pummeled every opponent in their path this season.
The Tigers woes began right from the get-go as Charleston took the opening kickoff 60 plus yards for a score. Tacking on the two-point conversion, Charleston took the 8-0 lead on the Tigers with just 12 seconds taken off the clock. When it was Charleston’s turn to kickoff, Mansfield muffed the catch but luckily recovered the ball quickly. The Tigers had a rough time connecting on their first drive as Charleston picked off a pass that sent Mansfield’s defense back on the field. Mansfield’s defense stiffened up and began to make solid tackles in the open field, but the overall speed of Charleston was too much as they scampered into the end zone again on the Tiger D. Adding a two-point conversion, Mansfield was down 16-0 with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
Mansfield was down going into the second quarter and Charleston didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal. Charleston was not only bigger than Mansfield on the field, they were faster. The black and gold Tigers’ overall speed made their tackles harder and their field shorter with each play. Anytime Mansfield had an opening to run or pass the ball, Charleston would close the gap with superhuman speed creating a stall in the Tigers offensive movement. Charleston would score two more times before half sending Mansfield into halftime down a whopping 32-0.
Mansfield’s coaches must’ve pulled out the WD-40 and Duct Tape after halftime because the team that walked onto the field in the second half wasn’t the same broken first-half team. It was the same players, but you would’ve thought the game had started over at 0-0. Charleston began to drive downfield, but small mistakes began to tame their game. Mansfield created chaos of the black and gold Tigers offense which in turn caused missed snaps, missed blocks, and dropped passes. Charleston was still Charleston though and they were still able to drive downfield against Mansfield and get the ball down inside their own ten-yard line. With the Tiger faithful watching and what had happened in the first half looking like it was going to repeat itself, Mansfield’s Jeremy Strozier, Tyler Turnipseed, and Toby Towe said “nope, not so fast”. The Tigers defense shut down Charleston and forced a 4th down turnover.
Now it was time to see if Mansfield’s offense had the same turnaround as their defensive counterparts. Only a blind man couldn’t see that the Tigers offense was hungry to prove themselves at that point. Trey Powell took the handoff and with some “Powell Power” took off. Powell broke four tackles and gained 35 yards before Charleston finally took him to the turf. Aaron Person was the person to watch next when he got the football in his hands. Person bounced off of defenders en route to a Tiger touchdown with 2:46 left in the game. Jeremy Strozier then telegraphed a perfect pass to Raine Hecox for the two-point conversion putting the score at 32-8 with Charleston still leading. The Tigers defense made sure they finished the game on a strong note as they held Charleston to zero points in the second half.
Mansfield’s Jr High team now sits at 1-2 in conference play after dropping to Charleston, but the scoreboard didn’t show one key element of the game. The Tigers grew as a team and showed a second half of pure effort. As this team continues through the season, expect to see them go from a mere acorn to a strong oak by seasons end. Taking things one game at a time, Mansfield’s sights are zeroed in on a wolf hunt next Thursday as they host the Lincoln Wolves.