Written by Corbett Smith
Smith: Mansfield, FM Marcus can join area elite with defining wins Friday
FLOWER MOUND — Perceptions can be altered by a single win.
That’s why this week could be transformative for Mansfield and Flower Mound Marcus.
Both teams are among seven unbeaten area Class 5A teams, in the mix with some of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s biggest football powerhouses: Euless Trinity, Southlake Carroll, Allen, Skyline and DeSoto.
Both host their district’s behemoth Friday. Marcus plays Allen, the state’s No. 1 team, while Mansfield faces Cedar Hill, winner of four district titles in the last five seasons, as well as a state crown in 2006.
And both are trying to make that jump into the area’s elite.
A win would provide not only the inside track to a district title, but the knowledge that their teams can beat, not just compete, against some of the state’s best. That is, if either can seize the moment.
“That’s the next step, trying to get the Mansfield Tigers to be talked about in the same breath as your Southlake Carrolls and your Cedar Hills, and teams like that,” Mansfield coach Jeff Hulme said. “I think over the last two years, we’ve taken some steps to get there. Now, it’s just a matter of sustaining.”
For Flower Mound Marcus coach Bryan Erwin, it boils down to the mantra he’s used dating to the off-season: “Good to great.” In the first round of last year’s playoffs, Marcus just missed converting a potential game-tying touchdown in the final seconds, losing to Denton Guyer, 35-28. Marcus went home, while Guyer went on to the 5A Division II final, narrowly losing to Cibolo Steele.
There is no question that Flower Mound Marcus has been good during Erwin’s tenure — coming to the school after winning his second 4A Division II state title at La Marque in 2006.
In his five years at the helm, Erwin has won nearly 70 percent of his games at Marcus. Despite being a 5A finalist in two of three seasons in the mid ’90s, winning the title in 1997, Marcus hadn’t had a winning season in five years before his arrival.
And yet …
“We’ve always had these games where we’ve played great teams, in a big atmosphere, and we always come up a little bit short,” Marcus linebacker Joe Sikes said.
This year’s incarnation prides itself on toughness. Its dual-running back attack of Harvey Giddens and Jeff Smiley has done well filling the shoes of Rufus Mason and Dagan Newsome, while a switch to a four-man defensive line has made Marcus the second-stingiest area 5A team against the run.
Mansfield is also somewhat of an anachronism, relying on a “shutdown defensive end” in Texas pledge Hassan Ridgeway, and grinding it out with its running back Kenneth Burks. Burks — who has 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns this season — is the third 1,000-yard back for Hulme in his four years in Mansfield, including Iowa’s Damon Bullock and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor. The lone season without one, Mansfield went 1-9.
A win over Cedar Hill would put Mansfield one step closer to its first district title since 1973.
Both coaches said that their teams are poised for success, not only this week but in the playoffs, because of the possibility of a more balanced offensive approach. Marcus quarterback Cole Erwin, the coach’s son, and Mansfield’s Jerod Evans have the ability to make plays when their teams need them, they said.
Friday will be that time.
“It’s going to be a heck of a Friday night game, I can tell you that,” Hulme said.
Undefeated area 5A schools
Five-year records of the seven area 5A unbeaten schools: