Four teams remain in the Class 6A Division II state playoff bracket: Katy, Cibolo Steele, Austin Lake Travis and Mansfield.
The first three teams are undefeated at a combined 42-0, and all three were in the top five of the final Associated Press regular-season state poll.
But Mansfield coach Jeff Hulme isn’t too focused on the numbers.
“We look at it one practice at a time, one day at a time. It starts with a process every day at practice and this team has done a good job at not looking ahead,” Hulme said. “We have great senior leadership that keeps the team focused at one game at a time.”
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The Tigers (12-2) meet Austin Lake Travis (14-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Waco ISD Stadium.
The Tigers are already into their deepest playoff run in school history, having an outstanding season after winning the District 8-6A title, a first in 42 years.
Now two wins away from its first state title, Mansfield may be the last team on the radar to still be in the hunt and it speaks volumes about this year’s bunch.
“It’s a tremendous amount of willpower from these kids and the belief they have in their teammates and in the program,” Hulme said. “I couldn’t be more proud of a team. They have gone far and beyond and have set the bar for Mansfield for years to come.”
“I hope it starts up a tradition for the next teams,” he added. “You look at Lake Travis and what they started in 2007 and Katy in the mid-’90s and some of these other teams, and that’s what this bunch is trying to do.”
No. 5 Lake Travis is back in the state semifinals after a rare second-round exit last year. The Cavaliers won five Class 4A (now 5A) state titles from 2007-11.
“It’s funny, as of late they’ve been a really good team, sort of new, they got going in 2007 and now for eight or nine years they’ve had a good blueprint, a football dynasty and personally as a head coach, I look at it and say they haven’t been doing it forever, but they’ve built on it and we’re trying to do that as well,” Hulme said.
This season, junior Charlie Brewer is leading the Cavs with 2,931 yards passing and 37 touchdowns to only two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 555 yards and seven scores.
Mansfield will attempt to limit Lake Travis’ offense.
“It starts with the quarterback; they’ve had good ones over the years and they have another good one this year — he’s the trigger man,” Hulme said. “We have to shut down the run game first, they have a good running back and Brewer can run too, so it starts there and we have to try to make them one-dimensional like we did against [Denton] Guyer last week.”
“They don’t have a lot of weaknesses, they’re a fundamentally sound team and if we can create some turnovers and three-and-outs, I’ll feel good about where we are,” Hulme added.
Kennedy Brooks continues to dominate on the ground for the Tigers, rushing for 190 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-7 rout of Guyer in the Region I final Saturday.
Brooks has hit the century mark in 13 straight games, and is up to 3,367 yards and 41 touchdowns. He’s averaging 241 yards, nearly three touchdowns a game, and 8.5 yards per carry.
Quarterback Dameron Smith is no slouch either, with 1,846 yards and 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He threw for 179 yards and two scores against Guyer.
“This time of year, you know who you are. We’re a good running team and acceptable passing team,” Hulme said. “Run game allows you to take advantage when they load the box up, and they start respecting that. Not a whole lot of change, we’ll stick to what we’ve been doing all year long, stick to the routine that’s been working.”
No. 2 Katy (14-0) plays No. 4 Cibolo Steele (14-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The two winners will meet for the 6A Division II title next week at NRG Stadium in Houston.