By Raymond Linex II
After opening the playoffs with wins of 24 and 30 points, respectively, things must be just about perfect in Mildred, right? After all, this is a team that was a touchdown away from playing for a state title a year ago after opening with 19- and 8-point wins.
But the Eagles can get better in at least one area: This team has been heavily penalized in two playoff games.
Sometimes that comes with playing full-speed, but head coach Patrick Harvell would like to see him team a little more disciplined. The Eagles (11-1) were flagged 11 times in Friday’s 44-14 win over Clarksville for 106 yards in markoffs.
It was the only disappointing aspect of the game, Harvell said Saturday.
“To me, you get this late in the year and it’s all about your effort level, limiting your mistakes and taking advantage of opportunities,” Harvell said. “With the exception of penalties, we did all three.”
Mildred faces undefeated Nocona (12-0) in the Region II-2A Division II championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Aledo’s Bearcat Stadium. The winner gets a berth into the state semifinals, and will be a win from playing in Cowboys Stadium for a state title.
After closing the season with just a handful of penalties, Mildred has committed 19 in two playoff games. In Friday’s 44-14 win over Clarksville, the Eagles had season highs with 11 for 106 yards. Here is a look at the team’s penalties this year:
Games No.-Yds. Avg.-Yds.
First 7 in regular season 52-481 7.4-68.7
Last 3 in regular season 8-103 2.7-34.2
First 2 playoff games 19-163 9.5-81.5
Season totals 79-747 6.6-62.3
In two playoff games, the Eagles have been penalized 19 times for 163 yards. It’s uncharacteristic for a team in the three games prior to the playoffs was flagged a total of eight times. Granted, in those three games, the Eagles won 79-0, 72-0 and 83-0 and each second half including a running clock, cutting down on the plays, and the number of opportunities to offend.
Against Cooper, Mildred had two false starts and a delay of game in the first two drives. The Eagles ended with eight penalties.
In the entire 10-game regular season, Mildred averaged 6.0 penalties per game. They are averaging 3.5 more in the playoffs.
By comparison, in the first two games of the playoffs last year, the Eagles were flagged a total of seven times, for only 50 yards in losses.
But while they are perhaps lacking in that area, they are making up for in effort and being opportunistic.
Twice Friday Mildred had penalties you could classify as “awful,” perhaps a little stronger if you are a coach. A roughing the kicker penalty against middle linebacker Devin O’Sullivan kept a late second quarter Clarksville drive alive, giving the Blue Tigers a first down at Mildred’s 30. Early in the third, a roughing the passer call against Thomas Finigmow on a second-and-13 incompletion gave Clarksville a needed shot in the arm after Mildred had gone up, 30-6.
But neither penalty hurt the Eagles on the scoreboard. They stiffened on the second quarter drive and Clarksville turned it over at the 23. On the third quarter drive, Clarksville ended up punting.
Notes: Mildred will be visitors and wear white for the third straight game Friday ... Mildred made the most of two field position nightmares last week. After Jonathan Harrison made an ill-advised kickoff return out of the end zone in the second quarter, and with a block in the back on the play, the Eagles started at their 3, but reeled off a 10-play, 97-yard touchdown drive. In the third, up 30-6, Clarksville forced a second punt — the second since Oct. 9 — from Mildred’s 20, and Nic Shimonek booted a 57-yard punt and the Blue Tigers started on their own 23. Four plays later, Jeremy Ballard picked off his 10th pass of the year ... Ballard had three interceptions overall, and has 11 for the season ... RB Draylon Sterling has 1,784 yards going into Friday’s game, but he remains 620 behind Brandon Minatra’s school-record 2,404 set in 1992. Minatra did it in 11 games, and was held to 67 in a 52-16 first-round playoff loss to Valley View.