Carroll’s 10-0 football season has included some trying moments. The Dragons won four games that were decided in the final two minutes or in overtime.
Mental toughness is an element you can’t calculate. But you can’t underestimate its importance when it comes to the playoffs. The Dragons open their quest for a ninth state championship against Mansfield (7-3) in the Class 6A Division II bi-district playoffs at 9 p.m. Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington (KWRD 100.7 FM; pregame 8 p.m.). This is the first time these programs have ever met.
Coached by Jeff Hulme, the Tigers were in the playoffs in 2013. Like the Dragons, they are a run-heavy team. Mansfield’s play selection is nearly 74 percent on the ground between sophomore Kennedy Brooks (1,040 yards) and senior Emmanuel Esukpa (740).
Carroll has faced plenty of quality running teams throughout the season. But what catches your attention is that the Tigers won at Cedar Hill, 49-34, the week after Cedar Hill defeated DeSoto in a nationally televised game.
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“You just have a lot of great teams in that area between Mansfield, Cedar Hill, DeSoto and South Grand Prairie,” Carroll coach Hal Wasson said. “Mansfield has a pretty well-coached system. They’ll lull you to sleep with the running game and that’s an issue, because their quarterback is pretty solid.”
Tigers quarterback Aaron Funk completes only 54 percent of his passes. But he’s considered a solid game manager because he doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s only thrown three interceptions.
However, that doesn’t mean that Carroll has to suddenly scrap everything in order to prepare for the Tigers. This is the time of year where efficiency and execution dictate how long the playoff run lasts.
“We don’t change,” Wasson said. “It’s not like we’re saying, ‘Gosh, we’re playing an athletic team, we have to do a lot of things differently.’ For us, it’s about playing at a high level. If we don’t, we’re not very good.”
The winner faces the winner of Denton Guyer-Plano in the area round.
Junior wide receiver Zach Farrar returned to practice last week but did not go through any contact drills because of his undisclosed injury. Wasson was hoping he would receive word this week if Farrar would be cleared to play against Mansfield. That was the thinking two weeks ago.
At 6-3, Farrar presents a big target in the passing game who can also stretch the field. Farrar missed the last four weeks of the regular season. Even with his absence, he remained third in receiving yards with 373.
Still, it would be another option to go with Parker Fentriss, Ryan McGiboney and Tariq Gordon. Carroll has been pretty vanilla with its offense for the last two weeks, as it didn’t have to be creative to beat Haltom and Hurst L.D. Bell.
“It would mean a lot to our offense because Ryan [Agnew] has a big option to throw to,” Wasson said.
No one will confuse Haltom and L.D. Bell with Mansfield’s defense. However, Agnew got into a better rhythm in the last two weeks, completing 28 of 37 attempts for 441 yards with six touchdowns and one interception.
Carroll’s offensive line continues to play better but still is not where it needs to be as far as Wasson is concerned. “I’ve seen some good things,” he said. “We’ve been able to hold up for 10 games.”…Wasson had no concerns about the 9 p.m. Friday kickoff. He said he preferred this over a late kickoff either Thursday or Saturday.