District 7-5A Coach: Jeff Hulme
Last season: 7-5 (4-3 in District 7-5A), bi-district champions
Key players: RB Julius Lewis (6-0, 170); OL Hunter Ponder (6-5, 270); C Sean Gil (6-0, 240); S JT Ibe (6-0, 190); DE Blake Shipman (6-0, 205); CB Nick Hall (6-0, 190).
The big picture: Things did not get off to a good start for Mansfield in 2012, as the Tigers dropped their first two district games to South Grand Prairie and Mansfield Timberview. The Tigers rallied to win four straight, including a 27-20 upset of eventual state-runner up Cedar Hill in week nine. Julius Lewis (1,175 yards, 12 TDs) leads a potent ground game for the Tigers, while JT Ibe anchors a secondary on one of the area’s top defenses. While Mansfield returns only four starters from last year’s team, coach Jeff Hulme said that he is confident his team will once again compete in a tough district. “The big question for a lot of people that follow us is how do we replace nine starters on both sides of the ball,” Hulme said. “I don’t really have an answer for that. You just have to go out and play football. We’ve got some good young kids that are stepping up and have a lot of guys that got a lot of varsity experience from last year.” DeSoto and Cedar Hill are going to be favorites in 7-5A, but the district is fairly wide open beyond that. Aaron Funk and Caleb Evans are both vying for the starting quarterback position on an offense that is based out of the I, but will set up in multiple formations. For the Tigers to earn a postseason berth in 2013, they will have to step up and knock off a team they are not expected to beat ... and maybe two.
Quotable: “We’re a run-first team. I don’t think that’s a secret to anybody. We like to run the ball first and try to wear people down in the third and fourth quarters and see what happens.” — Coach Jeff Hulme
Notable: In their 11 games between Sept. 28 and Dec. 15, 2012, Cedar Hill went 10-1 en route to its state championship appearance. The Longhorns’ one loss during that span came at the hands of Mansfield. Both Ibe and Hunter Ponder are committed to Rice next season.
— John English
Special to S-T
Mansfield’s Julius Lewis.
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