Seventy-six days. That’s how long it had been since Mildred last faced a bare-knuckle test on the football field. Patrick Harvell knew Cooper would show something Friday the Eagles haven’t seen since a 70-22 drubbing in Centerville.
And that was way back on Sept. 7.
“Just about every team in our district is a spread team, with a few exceptions,” Harvell said Monday. “The last time we played a team with a tight end and a fullback who liked to ground and pound you was Centerville.
“I wanted to see how we would hold up, because we didn’t at the first of the year.”
After the game, Harvell said it gave him confidence his team could play against any style and be successful. It’s something that it has proven over the course of 25 games — 14 in last year’s semifinals run, and 11 so far this year.
In Clarksville (8-3) Friday, the Eagles (10-1) will face a team that runs out of multiple formations and likes to throw and run. Kickoff in the Region II-2A DII regionals is set for 7:30 p.m. in Longview.
In Mildred’s closest five games the last two years, including the two losses, teams in the vein of Cooper have given the Eagles the most trouble. They were are all big, physical up front, and liked to run, run, run. Mildred fared best against Cooper, scoring a 38-14 win.
The game played out just like most of the other four. Centerville was the one anomaly on several fronts.
In the other loss, 35-28 to Cisco last December in the semifinals, the Eagles ran 15 less plays than the Loboes. Cisco ran 60 times for 405 yards, and had three rushers top the 100-yard mark.
In the closest two wins last year, 21-12 over Buffalo in the regular season and 21-13 over Hughes Springs in the playoffs, the Eagles ran less plays, and each team ran the ball at least 60 times. Cooper ran only 56 plays Friday, but 52 were on the ground for 243 yards.
At Centerville, Mildred actually had the plays edge, 67-55. Unfortunately, it did little to dictate an end result.
Primarily, that’s because Centerville scored early, often, and quickly. Centerville had two nine-play touchdown drives among its 10. The Tigers also had two one-play drives, another of two, and one more of just three plays.
Centerville’s average scoring drive took only 4.7 plays.
“In the last 10 years, spread offenses have become en vogue,” Harvell said. “... Occasionally, you find an old school Wing T or offenses with a fullback that like to grind out five yards a play.”
It makes for difficult adjustments when they’re not familiar sites. And, those schemes can be hard to simulate in practice.
And the defense gets pounded on. Cooper’s offensive line averaged more than 220 pounds per man.
Yet late in the game, after 50 rushing attempts, Mildred’s front seven said no more. The Bulldogs had a first and goal at the 8, and had two cracks at the end zone from a yard out with less than three minutes to go and were denied.
“What that showed me is regardless of what the score is, there is no quit in our kids,” Harvell said.
Slugging it out
In the last two seasons, Mildred’s two losses have come against teams that prefer to mash with the run, a lot like Cooper last week. Here is a look at the Eagles’ closest five games the last two seasons:
Date Opponent, Result No. Plays Opp. Rush
11-23-12 Cooper, W 38-24 M-49, C-56 52-243
9-7-12 Centerville, L 70-22 M-67, C-55 50-378
12-9-11 Cisco, L 35-28 M-55, C-72 60-405
11-25-11 Hughes Springs, W 21-13 M-55, HS-76 61-332
9-16-11 Buffalo, W 21-12 M-54, B-64 60-286