Mineola's offense is a simple shell game.

Shell A is sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Crawford with Shell B sophomore running back Chantz Perkins.

The ball automatically goes to Crawford on the snap, much like how you are shown the ball is under one of the cups as the shell game commences.

Crawford then bellies the ball toward Perkins.

Does the ball stay with Shell A (Perkins) or move to Shell B (Crawford)?

Were you paying attention?

The Shallowater Mustangs made the wrong choice numerous times, enabling Crawford and Perkins to combine for 465 yards rushing and six touchdowns in their 42-37 win.

Shallowater shouldn't beat themselves up about it.

Only one team, Pottsboro in the quarterfinals, has been able to limit Crawford and Perkins, and that was only for a half. The two sophomores took turns moving Mineola en route to two second-half scoring drives in that 14-7 victory.

"Me and Jeremiah, I don't know if you can find a better duo," Perkins said. "If you try to stop him, I am out the back gate running on you, and if you try to stop me, he's out the back gate running on you."

Added Crawford: "A lot of people call us the dynamic duo. We run a lot of reads, so if anybody decides to take me then he's gone around the edge. But if they decide to take him, then I'm up the middle or around the edge. You've got to take one of us. And when you take one, the other one is gone."

Perkins finished with a season-best 360 yards and three touchdowns against Shallowater while Crawford delivered 105 yards and three scores.

"They started taking Chance in the beginning," Crawford said of Shallowater's game plan. "Then they switched to me after I (had success), and Chance busted out with 60- and 70-yard runs.

"You can't stop it. Well, you can stop it; it's just hard."

Crawford enters this state final matchup against Cameron Yoe with 227 carries for 1,737 yards and 24 touchdowns. Perkins has carried 238 times for 2,075 yards and 22 TDs.

The shell game is made all the more difficult for defenders because of the guys protecting Crawford and Perkins.

Even if the opposition chooses right, it still has to contend with Mineola's mammoth offensive line — a group that would be impressive by Class 6A and 5A standards. It starts with junior tackles Austin Anderson (6-4, 280) and Riley Anderson (6-4, 270) and continues with senior guards Matt Smith (5-10, 210) and Dalton Dupont (6-2, 240) before finishing with sophomore center Luke Bowden (5-10, 220).

"I've got a lot of big boys on the front line," Crawford said. "Our O-line is great. I (push) them to work hard every practice and they work really hard during the game."

On that rare chance that Crawford is tackled at or near the line of scrimmage, defenders then have to contend with bringing him down. Last week against Shallowater, Mineola was faced with a second-and-8 from its own 42, leading 14-7. Crawford kept it himself and looked to be stopped for a 3-yard gain, but refused to go down. More and more Shallowater tacklers tried to stop him, but not before Crawford had drug them the eight yards needed for a first down.

"I just wasn't going to go down for anything," Crawford said of the play. "I think I had eight guys on my back."

Crawford said his work in the weight room, mainly with lower body on squats, has helped give him the strength to power for extra yardage.

While Crawford uses power and speed to break tackles, defenders find it difficult to catch Perkins to tackle him. On two separate plays last week, Perkins raced around the edge on off-tackle runs for touchdowns covering 75 and 69 yards.

"Chantz is just so fast. He runs a (4.3-second 40-yard dash) and his feet move like a jackrabbit," Crawford said of his teammate. "He can give you a little inside move and then cut it back out and you won't ever catch him."

Perkins credits running backs coach Kyle Little with improving his form and giving him the tools to succeed.

"Coach Little teaches me so much," Perkins said. "He can't really show me because he's kind of old, but he's always (talking to me)."

The Yellowjackets, who haven't played any of their regular-season or playoff games in a stadium with a seating capacity over 10,000, now will step into the spotlight in the same venue where the Dallas Cowboys will be facing the Indianapolis Colts three days later. Mineola also will have to contend with a Cameron Yoe defense that is allowing 187.6 yards rushing and 25 points per game.

Perkins can't wait.

"Two years ago I was going to the state games with my family and I just never envisioned myself playing," Perkins said. "This is just such a blessing and I am just so thankful to all the guys on my team."

Crawford believes he will be very emotional if Mineola is able to complete the journey and knock off the defending state champion Yoemen and capture their own state glory.

"I am probably just going to cry all the way home," Crawford said. "We've put in so much work; it will be a pleasure to see it go our way. I think we have a good chance of winning state."

 

Sports Reporter

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