They were two quarters away.
If Mansfield Legacy could have just held on to the 21-7 lead it built against Aledo midway through the second quarter of the Class 5A Division II state semifinals last December, the Broncos would have played for their first-ever state championship.
It didn’t work out that way, though, as the Bearcats took their first lead with 1:48 left in the game to escape Legacy’s stranglehold on the game.
“We have a bad taste in our mouth, but we’re hungry,” 4-star safety Jalen Catalon said. “We’ve been working every day and when the season comes, we’re going to be ready. We’re going to show everyone that we’re the real deal and show them that we’re a state championship team.”
While Legacy didn’t get the storybook finish it was hoping to write, it still managed the school’s best-ever playoff run.
But that was then. The Broncos are only focused forward from here on.
“We’re coming back with vengeance,” 3-star defensive tackle Taurean Carter said. “You can’t walk away from high school football and say we lost three years in a row when we could’ve had it. We have to finish and execute and that’s what this season is all about.”
To get that state championship, the Broncos will lean heavily on one of the top defenses in the state.
Catalon, who was voted Associated Press Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, is ranked as the No. 13 safety in the nation. He holds 23 offers and projected to commit with Texas, per 247Sports.
He’s a major reason why the Broncos have made program history the past two years, and why they’ve turned into one of the best defenses in the state.
Oh, and they’ve also welcomed in perhaps the best corner in the state in 4-star Jeffery Carter, who transferred in from Aledo - of all places - last month.
“Jeffery has a great ability to make plays on defense,”coach Chris Melson said. “He’s an All-American and we’re thrilled to have him. He will help us tremendously.”
Jeffery and Taurean are cousins and have played on the same team all their lives with the exception of the past three years.
“I’m real excited to come here and play,” Jeffery said. “You can’t take this for granted because you never know when the last time you’ll play with your family. It’s not a lot of times you can say you played alongside your cousin. You just have to enjoy it day by day.”
“It feels good that we’re playing together again,” Taurean added. “It’s a blessing to have him here.”
Jeffery Carter is ranked as the No. 11 corner in the nation. His college choices are down to Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
“There’s going to be mismatches every play and every game,”Jeffery said. “We’re going to be the best defense in the state and one of the best in the nation.”
He was recently named a preseason All-American by MaxPreps.
“Jeff is one of the best corners in the nation,” Catalon said. “Knowing he’ll be out there is great and we’re excited. We’re going to be stacked at the DB core and I don’t think a lot of teams are going to throw onus.”
The Broncos were reclassified into District 6-5A Division I along with Highland Park, Timberview, Lancaster, Dallas Adams, Samuell, Sunset and Wilson.
“Our kids are really good high school football players and one day will be great college players,” Melson said. “We’re real excited about the season.”
Legacy’s fourth defensive back is senior Jadyn Ishmael, who started all 15 games and recorded 28 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.
“We feel really good about our secondary,” Melson said.
Hopper, who’s a 3-star prospect, has eight offers and projected to commit with Colorado, per 247Sports. He had three INTs last season.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t shut everyone down,” Hopper said. “We have one of the best secondaries in the state and our defensive line is ferocious.”
Up front are Taurean Carter (6-3, 260) and Jackson (6-0, 290). The two combined for 116 tackles, 31 for loss and 11 sacks in 2017.
Jackson, who moved from Stillwater, was voted district defensive MVP.
“Texas high school football is the real deal. It’s no joke. You have to ball out every game,” the 3-star recruit said. “Our defense is crazy. We fly to the football and play hard. We never take a play off. It’s eat or be eaten.”
“Enoch was huge for us,” Melson added. “We didn’t know much about him, but he was still an impact player in the middle and made a big difference.”
Jackson is the ranked as the No. 88 overall player in the state. He will announce his commitment to Arkansas, Texas Tech or Clemson on Aug. 5. Taurean Carter, who’s ranked as the No. 71 overall player in Texas, is considering Arkansas, Texas Tech and Michigan State.
“These kids love to play football,” Melson said. “They love to hit and be physical and it’s going to be exciting to watch. They say defense wins championships and we feel like our defense can be really good.”
“Our defense is going to be unstoppable and having Jeff here – it’s going to be shutdown nation,” Taurean added. “It’s going to be hard to score on us. It’s going to be something to see on Friday nights.”