By DR. DAVID DAVIS
For the past three years, the biggest hurdle for Manvel to clear has been the Katy Tigers who beat the Mavericks in the Class 6A Region III Div. II finals three consecutive years.
When Manvel dropped down to Class 5A after the realignment by the University Interscholastic League, Katy would no longer present a problem for the Mavs seeking their first-ever state football title.
However, once the playoffs began, Manvel saw they would more than likely have to face the Class 5A Div. II defending state champion Cedar Park Timberwolves who ran the table last season for a perfect 16-0 mark and they entered their battle with Manvel with a perfect 12-0 mark for this season giving them a 28-game winning streak.
Manvel was also 12-0 for this season in their quest to grab the 5A Div. I championship, but they would have to defeat the Timberwolves.
Cedar Park had posted six shutouts this year and they had a very good defense.
On the other had, the Mavericks have a pretty salty defense of their own with a very aggressive and fast offense, something Cedar Park had not seen in 2016. Plus — they also had a victory over another defending state champion, 6A Div. I North Shore, who eliminated Katy this past Friday night with a four-play goal line stand to hold on for a 20-17 win.
Manvel showed why they have such a potent offense in the opening quarter as they did what no other team has been able to do and that is put 21 points on the board while holding the Timberwolves to one score.
But it was not going to be a walk in the park as the Timberwolves are good as advertised.
The Mavs scored the first two touchdowns on a 1-yard run by Deneric Prince at the 9:16 mark of the first and a 1-yard plunge by Sam Smith for a quick 14-0 lead.
But Cedar Park answered with a 3-yard scoring run of their own to close the gap to 14-7.
Manvel would add another scored before the end of the opening period when Keylon Stokes snagged a 18-yard slant from QB Kason Martin for the 21-7 advantage.
The touchdown was set up by a 38-yard kickoff return by Kam Scott set the Mavericks up at their own 46.
The offensive fireworks continued in the second quarter as the Mavericks outscored the Timberwolves 19-14.
Both team traded scored scores as Caleb Jolivette grabbed a 19-yard scoring pass from Martin to give Manvel a 27-14 lead following a missed PAT.
Cedar Park answered with a 9-yard scoring pass from QB Mak Sexton to Omar Alzer to cut the lead to 27-21.
But Manvel struck again quickly as Keylon Stokes scorched the Cedar Park special team with a 66-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that gave the Mavs a 34-21 lead.
But Cedar Park wasn’t going to throw in the towel as they marched down the field capped off with an 18-yard scoring pass from Sexton to Drew McDaniel to cut the margin to 34-28 just before intermission.
With only two seconds remaining before halftime, Manvel had the ball at their own 47.
That’s when lightning struck for the Mavs as Martin rolled out and dumped the ball on a short pass to Preston, who turned what was supposed to be a half-ending play into one of the most spectacular plays in Manvel’s football history that will be talked about for years to come.
Preston evaded seemingly everyone, backtracked and then outran everybody to the opposite side of the field where there was nothing but green grass for a sensational 53-yard touchdown with no time left on the clock.
Preston’s score gave the Mavs (13-0) a 40-21 halftime lead and even though Cedar Park scratched, clawed and made this a game in the second half, it felt like the Mavs had finally cleared one of the hurdles needed to claim a state title.
Cedar Park outscored Manvel 14-7 in the second half. But it wasn’t enough to undo Manvel scoring in three of its first four drives with 14 points off turnovers – Brian Johnson’s interception and a Derrick Tucker fumble recovery.
Free safety Tucker, who is a 2017 Texas A&M pledge, also had an interception. J.J. Joseph’s interception gave the Mavs’ defense a fourth turnover. Both of those stunted Cedar Park’s attempts to comeback.
Manvel scored only once in the second half when Martin found a streaking Arik Bennett across the field for a 39-yard score to make it a 12-point lead with 10:10 remaining. Cedar Park had closed in on the Manvel lead at 40-35 before that big scoring pass.
The Mavs can’t spend too much time admiring this victory considering a tough Temple team looms this Saturday, December 3 at AT&T Stadium at 8:00 p.m. in Arlington.
“There were highlight-reel plays out there in this game,” Manvel head coach Kirk Martin said. “Preston, (Keylon) Stokes, the deep ball to (Arik) Bennett. Kids all over the field played great.”
Martin finished the game hitting 25-of-39 passing for 390 yards and four touchdowns and one INT.
Smith had six carries for 32 yards and one TD while Jolivette had seven totes for 27 yards and Prince had four carries for 28 yards and one TD.
Preston had five catches for 110 yards and two scores while Stokes had 10 grabs for 107 yards and one TD. Jolivette had two receptions for 85 yards and one score. Bennett had two catches for 48 yards and one TD.