ROYSE CITY - Top-ranked Mineola received its biggest scare of the season last week in an area playoff win over Whitesboro.
The unbeaten Yellowjackets (12-0) faced a halftime deficit for the first time, but battled through in the second half to secure a 21-15 victory and keep continuing their march toward a return trip to the state championship game.
Mineola next faces another run-heavy team from the same District 5-3A Division I in the Callisburg Wildcats (10-2). Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday at Royse City ISD Stadium.
Callisburg overwhelmed Harmony last week in its area-round victory. The Wildcats won 41-8 and held the Eagles to 62 yards rushing and 180 yards total. Callisburg led 34-0 at halftime.
The Wildcats did not have a 100-yard rusher, but instead had three players combine for nearly 200 yards. For the season, junior Chase Caldwell leads Callisburg with 1,321 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns. Seniors Blake Berryman and Tanner Thurman enter the game with 622 and 359 yards, respectively, and have combined for 12 touchdowns.
Callisburg also shares the wealth under center with quarterbacks Morgan Rigsby and Parker Huddleston combining for just over 1,000 yards passing and nine touchdowns. When the Wildcats do put the ball in the air, it is usually to Reese Richey, who leads Callisburg with 25 catches for 356 yards and five scores.
Mineola boasts a highlight-reel rushing attack in junior quarterback Jeremiah Crawford and tailback Chantz Perkins. The two have combined for 3,459 yards on the ground and 48 touchdowns.
Last week against Whitesboro, Mineola showed it can also move the ball through the air. The Bearcats were determined to make Crawford beat them with his arm, stacking the box with eight and sometimes nine defenders. So Crawford replied in kind, connecting on a 55-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter to Michael Drennon. For the Yellowjacket's second scoring drive, Crawford completed four passes, all of them to Frankie Meason before tossing his second scoring pass of the half to Meason. Meason now has 23 catches for 435 yards and six touchdowns.
"We can throw the football, I know we can; we just don't sometimes because when you are running the ball 7-yards (per carry), it's kind of hard to pull the trigger and throw it," Mineola coach Joe Drennon said.
Crawford now has completed 63 of 116 attempts for 1,030 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The extra point following Meason's touchdown was blocked and returned, so instead of the game being tied at halftime, Mineola trailed 15-13.
On what turned out to be the game-winning drive late in the third quarter, Crawford went the more traditional Yellowjacket route. He broke free for a 25-yard run on first down and used a series of keepers to help move Mineola to the Whitesboro 23. A 22-yard keeper by Crawford set up a 1-yard scoring blast by Perkins.
"Our offense delivered when we had to make the drive to (take the lead)," Mineola coach Joe Drennon said following the game. "That's what we expect from (Crawford). He's a three-year starter and the ball needs to be in his hands when it's time to win the game."
Despite Whitesboro's extra attention, Crawford still finished with 144 yards, with Perkins totaling 87.
Mineola's defense also proved to be a wall once again when it mattered most. The Yellowjackets gave up two long TD runs in the first half before holding Whitesboro to 83 total yards in the second half.
Led by junior defensive end Devon Goguen (6.5 sacks, 14 QB hurries, 21 TFL), Mineola continues to hold down opposing offenses. The Yellowjackets have shutouts in three of their last five games and haven't given up more than two touchdowns to an opponent since Sept. 18 in a 35-17 win over Wills Point.
Other than giving up 44- and 50-yard scoring runs last week to Whitesboro, Mineola limited the multiple run-heavy Bearcats to 135 on 34 attempts.
In two playoff games, Mineola's stop unit has allowed a combined 15 points, 268 yards rushing and 150 passing.
The winner of Saturday's area clash will meet the winner of White Oak and Sunnyvale in the state quarterfinals.
No. 1 Mineola Yellowjackets vs. Callisburg Wildcats
What: Class 3A Division I Regional
Where: Royse City ISD Stadium
When: 2 p.m. today
Radio: KMOO 99.9-FM, Mineola
Records: Mineola 12-0; Callisburg 10-2
Last Week's Results: Mineola 21, Whitesboro 15; Callisburg 41, Harmony 8
Players To Watch: Mineola - QB Jeremiah Crawford (5-9, 160, Jr.), WR Frankie Meason (6-2, 170, Jr.), DB Cameron Sorenson (6-1, 170, Soph). Callisburg - RB Chase Caldwell (Jr.), RB Blake Berryman (5-10, 190, Sr.), QB/FS Parker Huddleston (6-2, 175, Jr.).
Quick Slant: It is another run-heavy team from District 5-3A Division I for Mineola to get past. After taking out the second-place finisher from that district last week, the Yellowjackets get the third-place team. Callisburg gets the majority of its rushing offense from Caldwell (1,321 yards, 21 TDs), but Berryman (622 yards, 9 TDs) is also one to keep your eye on. Huddleston is part of a 2-QB system that does more running than throwing. Mineola QB Crawford proved his passing worth last week, completing 9 of 15 for 137 and 2 TDs. The running game for Crawford (1,908 yards, 25 TDs) and Chantz Perkins (1,551 yards, 23 TDs) is always there. On defense, Mineola stood firm against Whitesboro's ball-control rushing attack to force the Bearcats into five punts and a huge turnover-on-downs late to preserve the win. Sorenson leads the Yellowjackets with 118 tackles, averaging 9.8 per game.
Next Up: Winner vs. White Oak-Sunnyvale winner in 3A Division I quarterfinals, TBD