It wasn’t the script the Tigers had written for themselves to start the year. Following a summer in which high school football media put Mansfield in the conversation with perennial powerhouses Cedar Hill and DeSoto, the Tigers stumbled out of the gate, dropping the opener 27-17 to Flower Mound Marcus.
“I don’t know if slow start is accurate,” head coach Jeff Hulme said. “I would say terribly slow start, to be honest with you. When you have one first down in the first half, that’s not a very good start.”
Indeed, the Tigers offense struggled to get on track, punting seven times in the first half en route to a 17-0 deficit. Hulme felt several factors likely played into his team’s early sputters, admitting that some of that media hype factored in.
“You’ve got high school kids that read about how good they’re going to be and this and that, and they think they can just show up and run the ball really well and throw the ball how we want. They figured out you can’t do that,” he said.
“Marcus came out and hit us in the mouth and sort of stunned us,” he added. “They out-physicaled us, which is something that we pride ourselves on. We try to do that to other teams, but they did that to us. We didn’t respond very well in the first half. They whipped us up front and we put our defense in a big bind with field position. It was just tough to overcome.”
It was also the varsity debut of sophomore quarterback Corbin Frederick, and Hulme said he showed some nerves early on.
“He played much better in the second half. A lot of people may not have seen it, but he never came off the field defensively. He started at safety. I think for a sophomore playing both ways in his first game against a very big, physical team, I was real pleased with Corbin,” Hulme said. “I think once he got hit a few times and ran the ball a few times, he settled down.”
The running game is and has been a vital key to Mansfield’s success under Hulme. Nothing about that was expected to change this season, but the ground attack left plenty of room for improvement after Week 1.
“The bottom line is that at the line of scrimmage we’ve got to push forward, we can’t get pushed backward. And that’s what happened. There were several times we were lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage,” Hulme said.
“That is a point of pride for us, running the ball. We feel like we’re good at it. We want to run the ball; it takes a lot of pressure off our defense. We just broke down [Friday] night offensively. But that happens. We’re not going to panic over one game. We did some good things, but we did some things we need to correct and get better.”
Overall, Hulme was pleased with the defensive performance, especially given the field position Marcus enjoyed most of the first half. He said the most disappointing thing was the 49-yard screen pass for a touchdown his Tigers surrendered in the fourth quarter to effectively put the game out of reach.
He pointed out that Marcus had only 205 total yards of offense on the night, with about a quarter of it coming on that single play. Linebacker Jaelon Rainey had 13 tackles while defensive tackle Caleb Thomas was impressive with 11 stops.
Ultimately, the loss doesn’t damage the Tigers’ hopes for accomplishing any of their goals, but the performance illustrated there is plenty of room for improvement.
“We hope this is a wake-up call,” Hulme said. “If not, it’ll be a long year.”
Mansfield hosts Waco Midway on Friday at Newsome Stadium.