When a swarm of Mansfield defenders dragged down Arlington Lamar’s Rashad Polk 17 yards short of the goal line at AT&T Stadium last Saturday night, history was made. It meant for the first time in Mansfield High School’s lengthy history that its football team had advanced to the fourth round of the playoffs.
The tackle halted Lamar’s fierce rally and put an exclamation point on the Tigers’ 34-29 victory in their 6A Division II regional matchup, setting up a quarterfinal meeting with 2013 4A state champion Denton Guyer on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Dragon Stadium in Southlake.
Twice before Mansfield has reached the third round of the playoffs, most recently in 2011 when it lost to Abilene at Shotwell Stadium. The first trip was in 2008 when the Tigers lost to Cedar Hill 41-35 at Texas Stadium.
Ironically, Cedar Hill was one of the Tigers’ victims this season on their march to the district title – the school’s first in over four decades.
“They’re all about making history,” coach Jeff Hulme said. “We won the district for the first time in 42 years and now we’re going to the quarterfinals for the first time ever, so we like where this team is at right now.”
The Cedar Hill victory on Oct. 29 not only clinched the Tigers the District 8-6A title, it gave this confident group an extra shot in the arm.
“I think once we had the three straight games of DeSoto, South Grand Prairie and Cedar Hill, I think those are the three games that we knew we had a team that was very special and could do something great for the community and for Mansfield High,” senior safety Sean Shanklin said.
“Once we won district it was kind of like, ‘OK, now we know what we’re capable of and what we can do,” junior running back Kennedy Brooks added. “If we keep doing this we have a great chance of going to state.”
The team was very aware of what was on the line prior to Saturday’s kickoff.
“We knew we could make more history and that was definitely a goal in the back of our minds,” Shanklin said.
“Having your senior year go as long as possible is always great because it could always be your last high school game to play ever,” he added. “So, it’s definitely an awesome feeling and I don’t want it to end.”
While Brooks and other underclassmen still have another year remaining, it takes nothing away from this special season.
“It’s really a great experience,” Brooks said. “I love these guys and we have a close bond. Some of the people [on this team] have been together since middle school and it’s really fun to see.”