Before the 2019 season started, the Sr High Mansfield Tigers knew their goal. They also knew what obstacles lied ahead of them. In a division loaded with powerhouse teams that could be compared to the SEC West, making the Playoffs wouldn’t be a cakewalk. But on Friday, November 8th the Tigers achieved their goal by defeating the Paris Eagles 41-28 earning their second consecutive State Playoff berth.
Mansfield started their game like every other game this season by putting the first points on the scoreboard when Ethan Stovall slung a pass to Tyler Holmes for a touchdown coupled with an extra point kick from Randy Claude to put the Tigers up 7-0. But Paris wasn’t just going to walk away and jumped right back into the game with back to back touchdowns to take the lead 14-7. With the best arsenal of Wide Receivers in the state at his disposal, Stovall struck again, this time to Layton Howard to tie the game up at 14-14 after a Claude kick. Jaicy Griffin picked off a Paris pass to give the Tigers the ball right back, but Paris was able to stuff Mansfield’s offense and score again.
As the first half continued, Paris looked to play the spoiler as they jumped ahead of Mansfield again by two scores. The Eagles and the weather had the odds stacked against Mansfield. Every hit stung the Tigers to the bone and their lungs crystalized with every sprint downfield. It was Layton Howard who turned the heat on with a scorching 80-yard kick return for the score along with another successful Claude kick bringing Mansfield back to life. That thawed out the sidelines and sent the Tiger offense on the field with a bonfire of purpose. Stovall was able to connect with Holmes for a score closing the gap to a 28-27 tally as the Tigers shivered into halftime.
Nobody knows if it was coffee, hot cocoa, or a riveting Coach Cothran halftime speech that got the Tigers fired up for the second half, but when they came out of the locker room, they dropped a nuclear heatwave on the Eagles. The Mansfield defense that struggled in the first half laid the wood down on the Eagles. Huge hits by Claude, Isaac Cothran, and Blayne Bryant were absolute head hunters as they piled up blue jerseys on the ground. Bri Sanderson and Cody Fudge melted the Paris offensive line as they destroyed any attempt the Eagles made to finish off the Tigers.
With a RED sea crashing down on them, the Eagles were grounded and didn’t score for the rest of the game. With the Tiger defense stepping up, their offense had to capitalize. Mixing things up with the run game, the Tigers caught Paris off guard with a counter pass as Stovall zipped a lightening rod pass to Howard for a touchdown. Tyler Holmes gave the Tigers the ball back again with a “Mansfield Sweetest Play of the Ice Bowl” when he came down with an interception. To close things out, it was Ethan Stovall who set the field and stands on fire with an immaculate run to score the game-winning touchdown.
The victory secured Mansfield’s place in the State Playoffs and ended their regular season with a 7-3 record. Those who doubted the Tigers have been silenced yet again as they have achieved another winning season. This group of young men have shown the definition of teamwork and heart throughout the year and have earned the right to call themselves one of the best teams in Mansfield history. The Tigers will travel to Harmony Grove on Friday, November 15 in round one of the State Playoffs.