ARLINGTON - No more talk of returning to state. Now it's time to get to the business of winning state.
Mineola (13-2) will face Yoakum (11-4) in the Class 3A Division I championship game Thursday, scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff at AT&T Stadium.
The Yellowjackets are back in the state game at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Mineola was defeated in the 2014 Class 3A Division I final. The mission of a return to state was derailed last year with an upset loss in the semifinals.
Mineola senior quarterback Jeremiah Crawford, who started as a sophomore under center in that first title-game loss, said this is what the Yellowjackets have been working for and all that's left is to finish.
"I am done talking about it. I am going to show it in my actions and my team is going to do the same thing," said Crawford, who rushed 28 times for 260 yards and scored four touchdowns a week ago in a 50-8 state semifinal win over Wall.
"We want this. It feels great to have another shot at this."
Mineola enters this game on a 13-game winning streak and now faces a Yoakum team enjoying its own nine-game winning streak. The Bulldogs reached the title game by knocking off another team from East Texas, Malakoff, upsetting the previously unbeaten Tigers, 28-24.
"They are a little more dangerous about stuff," Mineola coach Joe Drennon said of Yoakum. "They have those two tall guys who are committed to Division I, and sometimes they run them too. They can also throw the ball when they want to and you have to be ready for it because they can go get it."
Yoakum twins Joshua Moore and Jordan Moore stand 6-3 and 6-1, respectively with Joshua totaling 319 yards rushing, 516 yards receiving and 12 total touchdowns; while Jordan has 506 yards rushing, 510 receiving and 11 touchdowns.
"They also have four or five running backs that they rotate in and out of there, and they all have their own style, so we need to know who is coming at us when they are in the ball game," Drennon said. "They are really big up front and do a lot of good stuff. They have good athletes all over the field, so we're going to have to play really well."
Yoakum ran the ball 50 times against Malakoff last week with senior tailback Henry Enoch doing most of the heavy lifting with 26 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown.
All told, Yoakum enters with 3,925 yards rushing. The Bulldogs have averaged 261 yards on the ground per game with sophomore Holden Lauer passing for 809 yards, but hasn't played since Oct. 21. In the playoffs, senior Bryson Hagan has passed for a combined 276 yards and five touchdowns.
"Our success has been running the football," Yoakum coach Bo Robinson said. "We are pretty big up front on the offensive line and they have really improved as the season has gone on."
It will be strength against strength as Mineola's rush defense and rush offense are formidable. A week after Wall ran for 320 yards and three touchdowns against defending state-champion Brock, the Yellowjackets limited Wall to 126 yards on 39 attempts while also forcing three fumbles. When Wall was later forced to pass, Mineola picked off two of them.
Meanwhile, Mineola's Crawford and senior tailback Chantz Perkins combined to rush for 422 yards and seven touchdowns. For the season, Crawford leads the team with 2,598 yards rushing and 41 touchdowns with Perkins totaling 1,262 yards and 19 scores. When asked to pass, Crawford has completed 49 of 105 for 868 yards and 15 TDs.
"I am sure we are going to be the underdog by a long shot," Robinson said of Yoakum's chances. "They have been pretty good for three or four years now. … We are excited to be playing. Not many teams who were once 6-4 make it to the state championship."
This will be Mineola's 46th game in three years during a stretch that has produced a state runner-up trophy and two state semifinal winning trophies. One more win will add a state title to the trophy case.
"As a coach I am extremely blessed to have the staff I've got and to have the kids I've got," Drennon said. "The feeling is tremendous. Every school in the state of Texas and all the states across the United States when they start out, their goal is to be where we're at right now.
"To be one of the final two is pretty remarkable in this state. It's a feeling of pride. I am proud of our kids and our school district. This is bringing a lot of positive recognition to our school as well. That is what these kids have done for us."
Mineola Yellowjackets vs. Yoakum Bulldogs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington
Radio: KMOO 99.9-FM
Television: Fox Sports Southwest
Records: Mineola 13-2; Yoakum 11-4
Last Week's Results: Mineola 50, Wall 6; Yoakum 28, Malakoff 24
Last Year: Did not play
All-Time Series: First-ever meeting
Quick Slant: This is the fourth game of a quadruple header at AT&T Stadium, so the scheduled kickoff is more like a wishful thinking kickoff time. … Both teams are seeking their school's first state title in football. … The last time Yoakum played in a state championship game was 1952 and the Bulldogs lost to Terrell, 61-13. Tyler resident Jim Gipson, who grew up in Terrell, recalled listening to that game on the radio before himself leading Terrell to a state title as quarterback in 1957. Mineola's last trip to the ultimate finale was two years ago in a loss to Cameron Yoe. … Both teams like to run the ball, so this one could be over in a hurry. The Yoakum Bulldogs average 261 yards per game with a methodical clock-draining style with Mineola averaging 342 yards per game. Despite being a rushing team, many of Mineola's scoring drives are 10 plays or less. An example would be last week against Wall when Mineola scored seven rushing TDs and only its last drive took more than 10 plays. It was 11 as Mineola drained the clock to finish off a victory. Two years ago, Mineola failed to field the state game's opening kickoff after waiting through a long delay because of television. Mineola HC Joe Drennon said his team understands the challenges now of playing in this game. The Yellowjackets are averaging 46.2 points per game and face a Yoakum squad that is surrendering 22.8 per contest. Last week Yoakum held then-unbeaten Malakoff to its lowest output of the season.
Players to Watch: Mineola - 8 QB Jeremiah Crawford (5-9, 190, Sr.); 9 RB Chantz Perkins (5-6, 165, Sr.); 2 DE Kourtland Sinches (5-10, 165, Sr.); 23 DE Devon Goguen (6-3, 200, Sr.). Yoakum - 47 RB Henry Enoch (6-1, 210, Sr.), 1 WR/RB Joshua Moore (6-3, 175, Jr.), 75 DL/OL Silas Robinson (6-5, 290, Jr.), 79 DL/OL Trey Smith (6-0, 330, Soph.).
Quotable: - "You just have to mentally prepare yourself going into the game and know that ‘Hey, this is going to be the biggest game of our lives.'" - Mineola junior Dalton Harris
Stadium Address: 1 AT&T Way, Arlington, Texas
Next Up: Season complete.