The most wonderful time of the year has begun. No, not Christmas…..Football season. As happy as it makes a lot of people to see players on the gridiron again, Mansfield fans tend to be lackadaisical about it anymore. The Tigers hype seems to have died down after merely three total wins in the past two seasons. Therefore, when Mansfield traveled to Mena on Tuesday, August 17th to take on the 4A Bearcats, not many gave the Tigers a chance. But this is a new era of Mansfield Tiger football and the Tigers proved that with a 21-15 victory against Mena in their scrimmage.
Of course, the naysayers are going to be screaming “but that’s just a scrimmage. That doesn’t count”. Those people may be right, but they’re very wrong at the same time. True, this wasn’t a “game game”. It was just a scrimmage. Nothing will go in the books as a recorded win. The scrimmage consisted of a full half of regular play then each team was able to play ten plays on offense and ten plays on defense to close things out. But a recorded win doesn’t matter to the boys in the red helmets and white uniforms as the Tigers won on the field and the scoreboard against Mena for the first time in years. That’s a statement within itself.
Mansfield started the scrimmage off on offense and went three and out in a dull opening position. Once the defense hit the field the slump continued as the Tigers were called for an offside and then allowed a bruising run by Mena up the gut. Although the big rush was called back on a holding call, the Bearcats were still able to punch the ball into the end zone with another big run giving them an early lead in the scrimmage. Offensive blunders, mental mistakes, and flags were very evident to the Tiger faithful in the stands. This was shaping up to be like the Tigers of old rather than a new era team. Come to find out though, Mansfield just needed to get down a score to get into the game.
On their next offensive possession, running back Tyler Woolbright sliced through the Bearcats for a quick seven-yard gain. Tigers quarterback Cole Kindel followed up a couple more Woolbright runs with a read option and kept the ball for the Tigers first first down of 2022. Kindle hit a short pass to the flats then took to the ground game again as he rushed for another Mansfield Tiger first down. The Tigers were on a roll when Trey Powell took a quick pitch 46 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately, a referee lost some laundry on the field which brought the ball back. So, the Tigers picked up where they left off giving the ball to Woolbright for another eight-yard gain followed by a seven-yard Kindle scramble. The Tigers had a good drive going but couldn’t capitalize and had to punt the ball back to Mena.
Cue the Tigers defense. Mansfield’s defense kept a chip on their shoulder from allowing Mena to score first in the game and set out to right that wrong. The Tigers defensive line consisting of Sam Burton, Caleb Collier, Dakota Deer, Kindel Noblitt and Trey Vaughan stuffed the Bearcats in the backfield on back-to-back plays. Mena was able to sling a completed pass under pressure to make up for it, but on the very next play, Vaughan stripped the Bearcats of the ball and Braxton Byers won the battle at the bottom of the pile for the recovery. It only took Mansfield a couple of short passes and a solid Fisher Willsey run to bait the Bearcats in close. Once Mena got close enough to the trap, Kindle found Peyton Martin on a pass in the flats. Martin sprung the trigger and fought his way through seven, yes seven, Bearcat defenders for a Mansfield Tiger touchdown.
Mena couldn’t get any momentum after the Tigers score as Mansfield’s defense smothered the Bearcats. The Tigers linebackers core of Drew Elmore, Toby Towe, and Andrew Burton kept Mena’s run game at bay the next series which opened up the opportunity for Byers to blast threw the Bearcats line for a BIG sack on third and long. With the Bearcats on the ropes, Mansfield went for the knockout blow. On their first play, Kindle found Clint Stovall for a 63-yard uppercut to the chin of Mena’s defense. Penalties kept the Tigers from capitalizing on the big play though as Mansfield sent their defense back on the field. It didn’t take long for the potent defense to force Mena to punt. The teams went back and forth shutting each other’s offenses down until Tiger defensive end, Sam Burton, intercepted a tipped Mena pass at the Bearcats ten-yard line.
The Tigers again would have a shot to knock out the Bearcats, but this time they only had ten yards to do it. Ten yards? Yeah, they have a Willsey for that. The ball snapped, was handed to Willsey, and just like that Mansfield tacked points onto the board again. What’s that, need a two-point conversion? A Willsey will work for that too. With the score and two-point conversion, Mansfield went up 14-7. With the game still close, Mansfield’s offensive play callers, Coaches Layton Robinson and Daniel Martin, took the ol’ “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” method. So, they handed the ball to Fisher Willsey who went right through the middle of Mena’s defense for a 31-yard touchdown. Braxton Byers would kick the extra point to extend the score to 21-7 in Mansfield’s favor.
Mena would wing one more score before the end of the regular play, but the Bearcats couldn’t close the gap as Mansfield won the half-game scrimmage 21-15. Both teams ushered in their second string and backups for the ten offensive and defensive plays, but neither could put any points on the board in their series. Head Coach, Tim Cothran, was elated with his team’s performance. “I’m very proud of this group. Our player’s chemistry was really good last night. They played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They have worked hard the entire summer to get better and that work is beginning to show results”. Call it a scrimmage or game, it doesn’t matter. The Mansfield Senior High football team earned the W and are proud of it. Next up will be their Week0 matchup against the Magazine Rattlers on Friday, August 26th. The Tigers have handled the Rattlers the past two seasons, but Magazine can never be taken lightly.