MINEOLA — Mineola understands what it means to be a bubble team — and planned accordingly.
Every other February the selection committee known as the University Interscholastic League meets.
Will Mineola stay up in 3A, or does its bubble burst — metaphorically speaking — and the Yellowjackets go down in classification to 2A? The Yellowjackets were Class 3A in 2009-10 and then Class 2A in 2010-11, but realignment moved Mineola back up once again into District 15-3A.
“We are always going to be that bubble school,” said Mineola coach Joe Drennon. “We might be up or we might be down. To keep it so we are used to playing at that level, we played all 3A schools in nonconference games the past two years.”
Mineola was 7-1 in those 3A tilts sweeping Kemp, Bullard, and Rains, and splitting with Quinlan-Ford. Now the Yellowjackets are in a district with Mabank, Van, Canton, Brownsboro and Athens.
Mineola is picked to finish fourth by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, but Drennon believes despite their small enrollment — 453 compared to 944 for Mabank — the Yellowjackets will be in the thick of the district title race.
“Our kids know how to play the game, and win lose or draw we are going to play hard,” Drennon said. “The year we won district we were picked fourth. Predictions are fun, but they don’t mean anything until you get out there and (settle it) on the field.”
A big reason for his optimism just committed to TCU. Dac Shaw, a 6-2, 200-pound senior linebacker/running back earned all-state honors last year and was chosen for the preseason Dream Team by the Tyler Morning Telegraph and Longview News-Journal.
Shaw finished with 1,327 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns last season. More impressive is his work on defense where Shaw totaled 76 tackles, 20 for loss, six sacks and three forced fumbles.
“We’re Mineola and in the past they haven’t put out those type of athletes and are kind of hidden out here,” Drennon said. “But once we got film on Dac out there and people saw it, they realized he could play.”
Shaw was pursued by four Big 12 schools (TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) and one SEC newcomer (Texas A&M), and chose the Horned Frogs.
Joining Shaw as a returning offensive starter is junior fullback Rhett Self, who Drennon said provides size and speed as part of a 1-2 punch with Shaw.
Speaking of 1-2 punch, the defense is marshaled by linebackers Shaw and Doug Hearn, who man the middle of Mineola’s 4-2-5 defense.
Hearn is Mineola’s leading returning tackler with 105 to go along with four sacks and 12 for loss.
“He is one of our best football players and I think he will also get some college looks, but Doug’s problem is he’s not 6-2,” Drennon said. “He’s 5-11 and 190 pounds, but he’s awfully good. Doug, if he has the year I think he will have, he will be playing (college football).”
The Yellowjackets also return starting defensive end Colin Wooten, defensive backs Harry El-Hallaoui and Devon Foster and defensive .
Tyler Hudson played corner last year, but is moving over to offense to take over at quarterback along with Hearn and Creech going both ways, manning the offensive line.
That is the good news.
The bad is going to be who comes in if one of Mineola’s starters suffers an injury.
Drennon admits that is Mineola’s biggest obstacle this season.
“We are not as deep as we normally are,” Drennon said. “We are going to have a couple kids playing a little more than (other 3As) because their (roster size) enabled them to rest some kids.
“We are just going to find a way to be in better shape than the people we are playing and find a way to outlast them in the end.”
Mineola opens its season Aug, 31 at Palestine Westwood.