By DR. DAVID DAVIS
The No. 2 Class 5A state-ranked Manvel Mavericks (11-0) continued their undefeated season with a 51-26 win over the Nederland Bulldogs.
The game lacked a smooth flow by both teams, but eventually the Mavericks produced enough big plays to pull away with the win to advance to the 5A Region III Div. I semifinals where they will face Cedar Park (10-1) on Friday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Waller ISD Stadium.
Two former state champions faced one another with Cedar Park edging Ennis 17-14 for the right to face the Mavericks.
Manvel jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead and it looked as if the Mavs would run away with the game, but they hit a momentary wall as they only scored two points in the second quarter leaving the score at 23-6 at intermission.
“I thought we let our guard down a little bit when we got up 21,” Manvel head coach Kirk Martin said. “I felt like we had a lull. We can’t do that. We have to keep pressing and keep getting after it.”
“I think we have a really good defense. We showed that at times. They’ve been really poisonous all year and we gave them (Nederland) a short field a time or two.”
The Mavs scored quickly in the opening period when Jalen Preston hauled in a 33-yard scoring pass from QB Kason Martin on the sixth play of the contest for a 7-0 lead with 10:34 showing on the clock.
Manvel struck again at the 5:31 mark when Warren Laster caught a 16-yard pass from Martin for a 14-0 advantage.
With 2:06 left in the period, Kam Scott found the pay station on a laser from Martin covering 14-yards and a 21-0 lead.
Nederland finally found the end zone early in the second quarter when Devon Simmons caught a 28-yard pass from Blaysin Fernandez.
However, Manvel blocked the PAT and Brian Johnson picked up the ball and rambled 89 yards giving the Mavs two-points making the score 23-6 at the 10:03 mark of the second quarter.
That would be all the scoring for the two teams in the opening half.
Nederland scored first in the third quarter when Simmons scored on a 5-yard run to cut the lead to 23-13 with 8:01 left.
After the two teams traded punts, Manvel took advantage of their punt as Preston caught the ball and outraced the Nederland coverage for a 65-yard touchdown giving the Mavs a 30-13 cushion at the 5:18 mark of the third.
But Nederland wasn’t going away and they added another touchdown on the final play of the third period as Simmons found the end zone for the third time on a 1-yard plunge to close the gap to 30-20.
“We knew they (Nederland) weren’t going to stop fighting,” Manvel’s Preston said. “We went away from what was working and let them stay close in the third quarter.”
The fourth quarter belonged to the Mavs as they outscored the Bulldogs 21-6 down the stretch.
“We came back in the final quarter running and pounding the football,” Preston said. “I fumbled the ball twice and I was like man, I have to do something for my team. The momentum came back to our team and we took command and started scoring more.”
“I have the most fun winning on the football field. I like receiving and having the ball in my hands.”
Preston got the fourth quarter scoring started when he snagged a 28-yard scoring strike from Martin to give the Mavs some breathing room at 37-20 at the 11:09 mark.
With 9:08, Nederland scored their final touchdown as Fernandez ran 2-yards for the touchdown making the score 37-27.
The Mavs added two more scores on a 4-yard run by Garrison Johnson making the score 44-27 and then Texas A&M commit Deneric Prince put the nail in the coffin with a 53-yard scoring dash to post the 51-26 final score.
Martin finished the game hitting 11-of-18 for 229 yards and four touchdowns.
Prince had six carries for 86 yards and one TD.
Preston had six catches for 141 yards and two scores plus a 65-yard punt return for a TD.
“Our offense is really explosive,” coach Martin said. “We can run the football and we can throw it too. We’ve got some guys to throw it to. I can’t tell you that we have one real strength.”
“We’re pretty balanced, good on offense, defense, and special teams. We just have to keep it rolling, stay healthy, and keep getting better.”
Manvel has been playing on Thanksgiving week for the past eight years which is quite an accomplishment for a young school. This will also be the Mavs eighth consecutive appearance in the regional semifinals.
The Mavs won the 4A Region III Div. I crown in 2011, but fell to Aledo 49-28 in the state title game. That is as close as Manvel has been in winning their first state championship.
Martin hopes this will be the year to grab the 5A Div. I state crown.