Mildred rushes past Cooper, 38-14
By Raymond Linex II
LINDALE – When teams across the state think about Mildred, they likely think of a high-flying, pass-crazed spread offense that airs it out.
But the Eagles can run the ball. And well.
Mildred rushed for 356 yards and outslugged Cooper, 38-14, in the Region II-2A Division II area finals in Lindale. Draylon Sterling ran for 240 yards and four touchdowns and the Eagles (10-1), state semifinalists a year ago, are off and running in the 2012 playoffs.
“Just because we’re a spread team, we’re not finesse,” Mildred head coach Patrick Harvell said. “We’ve got some guys up front that get after it.”
Cooper, which ran for 243 yards, finished its season at 6-6. The Eagles are tentatively set to play Clarksville (8-3), which won Cooper’s District 8-2A DII, at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Royse City.
Jeremy Ballard added 106 yards on 11 carries for the Eagles, and quarterback Nic Shimonek had two big first down runs late, after the Sterling-Ballard combo forced Cooper to focus on the middle.
The Bulldogs kept that high-flying passing game in check, but the Eagles also didn’t do themselves any favors.
Up 17-8 late in the second, Jonathan Harrison had a ball he normally snares go through his hands on a slant in the end zone. The drive, set up by a 50-yard return by Ballard after his team-leading eighth interception, ended in a missed field goal.
Then, after Mildred came out and scored on a 37-yard Sterling run – his second touchdown run of the night – to open the third, they were driving to possibly take a 31-8 lead. Instead, another slant pass to Harrison went off his hands, and into Jermey Mims’ for Cooper.
Mims returned it 24 yards to the Cooper 28, and the Bulldogs mounted a 12-play drive to make it 28-14. Mims carried the final six yards.
Cooper squibbed the ensuing kickoff, and Mildred’s Mikey Muncey picked it up at the 35, went right, found a seam in the middle and returned it 24 yards to the Cooper 42. Two plays later, Sterling went for 37 yards and his third score, and Mildred was back ahead, 31-14.
Mildred led 10-0 after the first on a 33-yard Devin O’Sullivan field goal, and a 32-yard Harrison touchdown reception in which he took the ball from over the shorter defender.
After Cooper made it 10-8 on a Grant Sepulveda 1-yard run, the Bulldogs looked like they were going to get the ball back in good field position after Shimonek was sacked, then threw an incompletion on third-and-25 from the Eagles’ 17.
But, Cooper was called for roughing the passer, giving the Eagles new life.
“That was a huge call,” Harvell said. “In this game, you have to be lucky once in a while.”
Sterling followed with two carries and a first, then Ballard went for 15 and 35, weaving and fighting his way down to the Cooper 6 on the latter. It set up Sterling’s first touchdown from six yards out, making it 17-8.
With the end result already secured, the Eagles ended with an impressive goal line stand in the final three minutes. Cooper had two cracks on third and fourth downs from the 1, but could not get in. On the final play, Nic Stone and Hunter Freeman stoned Sepulveda, turning the ball over at the 1 with 2:24 to play.
Within two plays, Mildred was at the Cooper 20, and went into the victory formation for the final two plays.
“This gives me confidence that we can play against any style team,” Harvell said. “… We needed to play a team like that, that was big and physical up front. The last time (a 70-22 loss at Centerville), it was not positive against another team that has a tight end and a fullback and smashes it down your throat.”
Mildred 38, Cooper 14
Mildred 10 7 14 7 — 38
Cooper 0 8 6 0 — 14
M — Devin O’Sullivan 33 FG, 6:12
M — Jonathan Harrison 32 pass from Nic Shimonek (O’Sullivan kick), 2:36
C — Grant Sepulveda 1 run (Demarcus Robinson run), 8:05
M — Draylon Sterling 6 run (O’Sullivan kick), 3:32
M — Sterling 35 run (O’Sullivan kick), 10:14
C — Jermey Mims 6 run (run failed), 2:32
M — Sterling 37 run (O’Sullivan kick), 1:47
M — Sterling 18 run (O’Sullivan kick), 6:45
First downs 21 12
Rush-yards 35-356 52-243
Passing yards 109 42
C-A-I 10-14-1 1-4-2
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-0
Punts-avg. 0-0 3-36
Penalties-yards 8-57 5-65
Rushing — M: Draylon Sterling 15-240, Jeremy Ballard 11-106, Nic Shimonek 7-19, Raleigh Seilheimer 1-3, Team 2-(-12). C: Jermey Mims 15-51, Demetrius Wilkins 2-4, Demarcus Robinson 19-129, Grant Sepulveda 10-34, Colby Early 5-22, Tanner Phifer 1-3.
Passing — M: Shimonek 10-14-1-109. C: Leatherwood 1-4-2-42.
Receiving — M: Jase Butler 1-6, Raleigh Seilheimer 4-12, Muncy 1-26, Harrison 1-32, Sterling 3-33. C: Mims 1-42.