This was supposed to be the year the Mansfield football team could potentially challenge the supremacy of powerhouses Cedar Hill and DeSoto. But after Mansfield lost to Summit on Sept. 11, the Tigers sat at 1-2 and most were convinced the program still wasn’t in the same discussion as its fellow District 8-6A rivals.
However, after six consecutive wins, including victories over both those teams, the Tigers have clinched the prized 8-6A title and have thrust themselves firmly into that conversation.
“We don’t talk about being the best in the state,” coach Jeff Hulme said. “There’s only one or two teams that do that every year. We just talk about getting into the conversation. We want to be one of those programs that they talk about in the Metroplex, and to do that you’ve got to beat teams like Cedar Hill and DeSoto and South Grand Prairie.”
The district title, wrapped up when Mansfield defeated No. 3 Cedar Hill 46-43 last Thursday, is the first for Mansfield in 45 years. Hulme says it’s an added bonus the Tigers are taking with them into the playoffs.
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“The goal is to get in the playoffs,” Hulme said. “If you win district, that’s great. That’s icing on the cake.”
So following this Friday’s season finale against Midlothian, the Tigers are off into the postseason, where they admittedly haven’t produced much success.
“When you haven’t had a lot of success in the playoffs you can be unsure of yourself,” Hulme said. “So we talk all the time about how the competition we play in non-district and the competition we play in district is supposed to get us ready for the playoffs. But then you’ve got to go out there and perform. Then you’ve got to do something in the playoffs. That’s the goal.”
Last season, the Tigers looked to be on the way to an upset of Southlake Carroll in the bi-district round, but ultimately lost to a late Dragons surge. Hulme feels every year and every team is different, but there are players on this year’s squad that can certainly draw lessons from that game.
“I think what’s going to help is that those kids who were on the field last year, and even the younger kids that didn’t get on the field last year, they’re going to remember it in a way that tells us we have to finish the game,” Hulme said. “We were in complete control and then in the last six minutes of the game we didn’t finish. I think that’s the part they can learn from.”
Mansfield will also learn its bi-district opponent on Friday. The Tigers will face the winner of Richland vs. Colleyville Heritage. But don’t expect the team to be looking beyond Midlothian.
“Something I really like about this bunch this year is they have been excellent at focusing on one game at a time and not looking ahead,” Hulme said. “We’ll practice the same and get after it the same. We want to finish 6-0 in district. I think that’s a huge accomplishment in this district.”
So back to that 1-2 start … did Hulme honestly believe his team would be in the final week of the regular season with an opportunity to run the table in 8-6A?
“If I’d told you I really thought we’d be 6-0 [in district] or district champion, I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve had confidence in my team all year, but to go undefeated in this district is almost impossible to do. That we have a chance to do it this week is really something special.”
▪ Interesting notes: Mansfield has defeated Cedar Hill three of the past four seasons; Cedar Hill has been to three consecutive state championship games, winning the last two.
Mansfield’s two losses this season – to Summit and Flower Mound Marcus – have come against teams that are a combined 17-2.