POTTSBORO — There have been only a handful of losses for this senior Cardinal class and there is one that has stuck with them for awhile.
Two years ago Pottsboro was on the verge of equaling the best season in school history and poised to play for a state championship. Mineola put an end to that dream and now the Yellowjackets, with many of the same players, stand in the way at the same spot on the same field once again.
“Our kids know all about them. They’ve kept up with them,” Cardinals head coach Matt Poe said. “They know what they’re all about. They’re excited about the opportunity.”
Finding a way to keep history from repeating itself is the task for Pottsboro (11-2) as it faces Mineola (11-2) in the Class 3A Division I Region II final at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Royse City.
The winner will face either defending state champion Brock or Wall in the state semifinals next week. The Cardinals are trying to reach the state semifinals for the second time and first since 2008.
“That’s what we talked about,” Poe said. “Our goal was to be playing after Thanksgiving. Then it was to be playing in December and we did that. Our next goal is to make history.”
When these teams last met, Mineola got a Chantz Perkins TD run with 1:51 left for a 14-7 victory. Pottsboro scored on its opening drive and held that lead until Jeremiah Crawford’s touchdown run late in the third quarter. Those two Yellowjackets will be in the backfield once again.
The Cardinals had four drives inside the 10-yard line, including two get to the one, and Pottsboro came up empty on all of them.
“You’ve got to play well and execute in the playoffs,” Poe said. “We had every opportunity in the world and just didn’t execute.”
These are different teams two years later and dwelling on the past won’t change anything. But it has served as a reminder about what the playoffs at this point of the year can mean. Mineola is trying to win the region for the third straight season.
“They’ve been in this spot the last three years,” Poe said. “Our kids are ready for the challenge.”
Pottsboro advanced to the region final for the third time in five years with a 42-26 victory against former district foe Farmersville last Saturday.
Hunter Watson ran 28 times for 234 yards and a TD while throwing for 156 yards and two touchdowns on just five-of-six attempts, Carson Rein finished with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and Myles Mitchusson totaled four catches for 141 yards and two scores for Pottsboro, which finished with 535 yards.
With Watson being in and out of the lineup at two different times, Rein has seen time at quarterback. Now he is contributing on offense as a tailback.
“We kinda had that in mind all along. He was a running back playing quarterback,” Poe said. “He’s taken it all in stride. He wants whatever he can do to help the team.”
Farmersville’s Chase Hacker threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns but was also intercepted twice by Ty Bates and the Farmers went almost the final two quarters without a point after taking a 26-21 lead on the opening possession of the third quarter.
“We struggled the first half with their passing attack,” Poe said. “Only gave up six points in the second half. That was big.”
Mineola kept Pottsboro from participating in an all-District 5-3A match-up as the Yellowjackets defeated Howe, 21-7, last Friday.
Crawford had 18 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns, including a back-breaking 57-yard TD run with 4:27 left to push the Bulldogs’ deficit to two touchdowns. Perkins added a touchdown run in the second quarter as Mineola led 14-0 at halftime.
The Yellowjackets won the game despite just 231 yards on offense by holding Howe to 144 yards, all on 53 carries, and the only touchdown was a Tyler Grisham run five minutes into the third quarter to halve the deficit.
In the regular season, Crawford ran for 1,548 yards and 26 touchdowns on 135 carries.
Mineola is riding an 11-game winning streak after opening the season with back-to-back losses — 41-21 against Van and then 41-31 against Kaufman.
It has been smooth sailing ever since for the Yellowjackets with last week’s 14-point win over Howe as by far the closest contest during the streak. In beating another 5-3A foe, Whitesboro, Mineola allowed 33 points, which is the most during that span.
Mineola has scored at least 50 points in seven of its victories and held opponents to seven points or less in seven as well, including a 54-0 victory over Farmersville in District 8-3A play.
“They’ve got a lot of the same people, especially at the skill positions. They were just a lot younger then,” Poe said. “The second time you play someone you have a better feel for both sides of the ball.”