Mildred's state championship championship dreams crashed into a hump the Eagles just couldn't get over Thursday night in Cowboys Stadium.
That hump -- the East Bernard Brahmas -- included a dominating defense and an efficient offense that frustrated the Eagles from start to finish, the end result a 56-14 loss for the Eagles in the Class 2A Division State Championship Game played in front of 6,591 fans in Arlington.
Mildred (13-2) had a 12-game winning streak snapped while East Bernard finished off a perfect 15-0 season. The Eagles still had their best season ever, making it to the state finals for the first time in school history. They've played 31 games the last two seasons.
Mildred's high-powered offense that came in averaging 54 points per game didn't produce any points in the first half. The Eagles had 47 yards on 36 plays and East Bernard crushed two Mildred drives with key sacks on two promising drives.
Once the Eagles got some comfort level on offense in the second half, it was too late, despite two touchdown passes by senior quarterback Nic Shimonek, who finished with 99 for his career. He passed for 163 yards.
"They dominated us on both sides of the ball up front," Mildred coach Patrick Harvell said. "They were big, fast and physical."
East Bernard's defense frustrated the Eagles, starting with the opening possession of the game. The Brahmas sacked Shimonek four times in the first half and six times overall, including on the third play of the game for a 13-yard loss at the Mildred 3. Two of the sacks stalled Mildred drives in East Bernard territory.
Trailing 7-0, Mildred moved from its own 34 to East Bernard's 26 as Shimonek converted twice on third down. But on third-and-six, Shimonek was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Brahmas defensive lineman Justin McGuire. And a fourth-down conversion was foiled with another six-yard loss.
"You could tell on film they were fast," Shimonek said. "You can't tell how fast until you're out there. They flowed to the football. I made some mistakes."
East Bernard quickly scored as quarterback Ty Slanina scored on a 35-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead with 4:50 left in the first quarter. The Brahmas' rushing attack was impossible to slow down as they had 514 yards and averaged 14.3 yards per carry.
Mildred then had its first three-and-out of the first half and East Bernard had another drive going, but the Eagles were able to come up with their one big play of the first half as Draylon Sterling picked off his fifth pass of the season.
Mildred went three-and-out again and East Bernard scored on its first offensive play of the drive as Cedrick Perkins became the third Brahma to score in the half as he broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage and had a 47-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead with 9:49 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles then put together a 13-play drive, getting down to the East Bernard 35 before another sack of Shimonek, this one for a 10-yard loss, forced Mildred to punt.
East Bernard capped a huge first half by driving 92 yards on nine plays. Slanina hooked up with tight end Nathan Hlavinka in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 28-0 lead with 1:29 left in the first half.
Mildred did finally score in the third quarter, that after a mistake from the officiating crew cost the Eagles a turnover. Sterling stripped the ball from Slanina at the Mildred 2 with the Brahmas runner still clearly moving forward, but the officials said his forward progress had been stopped and the play was over before Sterling's strip.
"I had the ball before I heard the whistle blow," Sterling said. "It was a clean strip."
Slanina scored on a 2-yard run on the next play for a 35-0 lead with 8:56 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles responded with a nice drive, capped by Shimonek's 6-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Harrison to make it 35-7 East Bernard with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
The momentum was short lived for Mildred. Slanina showed his speed with a 76-yard touchdown run for a 42-7 lead with 2:20 left in the second quarter. It was Slanina's third TD run of the game.
Mildred again scored as Shimonek tossed a 18-yard touchdown pass to Raleigh Seilheimer to make it 42-14 with 21 seconds left in the third quarter. Mikey Muncy had the big play on the drive with a 54-yard reception.
The Eagles were able to find some rhythm on offense, but by then it was too late.
"We were able to hit some quick passes," Shimonek said. "And I was able to hit a pass down the field to Mikey and the 18-yarder to Raleigh."
The Eagles didn't expect to have their season end like this, but there was still a lot of pride as they received their medals and got one last post-game speech from Harvell.
"I'm proud of the kids," Harvell said. "I'm proud of our coaches and proud of our community. It was a tough way to end the year."
Class 2A Division II State Final
East Bernard 56, Mildred 14
East Bernard 14 14 21 7 — 56
Mildred 0 0 14 0 — 14
EB — Garrett Polak 7 run (Derrick Rucka kick), 10:05
EB — Ty Slanina 35 run (Rucka kick), 4:14
EB — Cedrick Perkins 47 run (Rucka kick), 9:49
EB — Nathan Hlavinka 20 pass from Slanina (Rucka kick), 1:29
EB — Slanina 2 run (Rucka kick), 8:56
M — Johnathan Harrison 6 pass from Nic Shimonek (Devin O'Sullivan kick), 4:08
EB — Slanina 76 run (Rucka kick), 2:20
M — Raleigh Seilheimer 18 pass from Shimonek (Rucka kick), :21
EB — Perkins 39 run (Rucka kick), :06
EB — Slanina 12 run (Rucka kick), 7:44
First downs 22 15
Rush-yards 36-514 38-64
Passing yards 47 163
C-A-I 4-7-1 16-27-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Punts-avg. 1-41 5-36.4
Penalties-yards 7-74 4-28
Rushing — EB: Ty Slanina 7-176, Cedrick Perkins 5-139, Joc Richardson 13-106, Garrett Polak 5-46, Grant Aschenbeck 2-29, Nick Mica 4-28. M: Jeremy Ballard 6-56, Draylon Sterling 16-34, Raleigh Seilheimer 1-2, Nathan Children 1-2, Mikey Muncy 1-1, Nic Shimonek 12-(-31).
Passing — EB: Slanina 2-2-0-32, Aschenbeck 2-5-1-15. M: Shimonek 16-27-0-163.
Receiving — EB: Nathan Hlavinka 1-20, Victor Pettit 1-12, Justin McGuie 1-11, Trevor Long 1-4. M: Muncy 4-75, Seilheimer 4-31, Will Burnham 3-24, Johnathan Harrison 2-15, Sterling 2-13, Ballard 1-5.
The Associated Press
CLASS 5A DIVISION I
Allen (14-1) vs. Houston Lamar (15-0), 8 p.m. Saturday, Arlington's Cowboys Stadium
CLASS 5A DIVISION II
Cedar Hill (11-4) vs. Katy (15-0), 4 p.m. Saturday, Arlington's Cowboys Stadium
CLASS 4A DIVISION I
Denton Guyer (13-2) vs. Georgetown (15-0), noon Saturday, Arlington's Cowboys Stadium
CLASS 4A DIVISION II
Lancaster (14-1) vs. Cedar Park (13-2), 8 p.m. Friday, Arlington's Cowboys Stadium
CLASS 3A DIVISION II
Gilmer (14-1) vs. Navasota (15-0), 4 p.m. Friday, Arlington's Cowboys Stadium
CLASS 2A DIVISION I
Daingerfield (12-3) vs. Cameron Yoe (14-0), noon Friday, Arlington's Cowboys Stadium
CLASS 1A DIVISION I
Stamford 35, Mart 28
CLASS 1A DIVISION II
Munday 42, Tenaha 14