Anyone familiar with Mansfield football knows the Tigers offense is built on its run game. With a history of workhorse backs – Kennedy Brooks among the latest – coach Jeff Hulme makes no secret of his ground-and-pound approach.
But few teams can find extended success without complementing the strength of its offense. Mansfield knew it could use a more potent passing attack this season, and Hulme thinks they’re well on their way.
“I’ve got total confidence in what we’re doing on offense and how we’re spreading it around,” he said. “We’re still chewing up the clock and we’re throwing it. When people think we’re going to run it and they’re packing the box a little bit, we’re making some good throws. I think we’re throwing the ball very well right now.”
In 11 games last season, Mansfield totaled 1,391 passing yards, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram statistics. So far through six games this year, the Tigers already have 848 yards through the air. Hulme said they’re about 250 yards ahead of where they were this point in 2014.
“Obviously that has to do with Dameron throwing the ball well, and we’ve got some great receivers that are making good catches and making yards after the catch,” Hulme said.
Hulme is referring to senior quarterback Dameron Smith, who took charge of the position in the Tigers’ second game of season – a 45-44 victory over Waco Midway in which he went 11-of-21 with three touchdown passes. Now through six games of the regular season, Smith is completing more than 60 percent of his pass attempts and has 11 TDs compared to just two interceptions.
An effective running game can be any quarterback’s best friend, and in addition to the production of Brooks (averaging 191 yards per game), Hulme is quick to point out the job his offensive line has done.
“I really think our offensive line learned a lot from the Marcus game and they’ve continued to do well and are getting better ever since,” he said.
Wide receiver production is obviously up as well. Saiid Adebo was the Tigers’ leading wideout a year ago, grabbing 25 catches for 567 yards and six TDs. So far this season he has 18 catches for 294 yards and has already surpassed his 2014 total with seven scores.
Many teams talk about wanting to be balanced, and with this developing passing game, Hulme thinks Mansfield can be just that.
“Being balanced isn’t being 50/50 [run and pass]. Being balanced is being able to throw it when you want to and being able to run it when you want to,” Hulme said. “I think that’s what we’re capable of. We’re having some fun out there offensively and it’s showing.”
The Tigers will likely need offensive balance if they’re to accomplish something they haven’t done before – beat DeSoto in district play. Some would contend the Eagles are having a down year given their 2-3 record, but Hulme is quick to counter that they’re still one of the best teams in the state.
“Their non-district schedule was unbelievable,” Hulme said. “They deserve the respect we’re going to give them.”
Hulme also adds, though, that his Tigers are up for the challenge.
“By the same token, I feel like we’re in a good place with what we’ve been doing the last three weeks.”
DeSoto, which had a bye last week, comes to Vernon Newsom Stadium for a Thursday matchup with Mansfield. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.