Written by Tommy Cummings
Scouting report pays off: Mansfield's defense returns two INTs for TDs in 35-24 win over Duncanville
DUNCANVILLE — Going into the game, the Mansfield coaching staff noticed that Duncanville quarterback Jeremiah Drake had a tendency to look for wide receiver Devante Smith over the middle of the field.
That scouting report paid off Friday night.
Justin Middleton and JT Ibe each returned interceptions for touchdowns to spark unranked Mansfield to a 35-24 District 7-5A victory over No. 18 Duncanville at Panther Stadium.
“We knew their quarterback looked for No. 7 if he was coming over the middle, so our linebackers adjusted and made some plays,” said Mansfield coach Jeff Hulme. “Our defense bailed us out with a pick six. And I think that got the momentum there.”
Middleton’s return with just two seconds before halftime put Mansfield ahead for good. Ibe’s return with three minutes gone in the second half gave Mansfield a 21-7 lead.
Drake, who had a season-high three interceptions and season-low 50 yards passing, didn’t return. But he wasn’t the only quarterback who had a hard time. Mansfield starter Caleb Evans also was benched after fumbling and throwing an interception.
When Evans left, Mansfield junior running back Julius Lewis shouldered the offensive load. Lewis finished with 233 yards rushing on 35 carries.
With 6:40 remaining, Lewis scored on a 43-yard run right up the middle of the Duncanville defense after the home team had pulled to 28-17.
Duncanville backup quarterback Mike Myers directed three scoring drives in relief of Drake. Myers connected on 11 of 18 passes for 191 yards, including a 51-yard strike to Xavier Brown late in the game against a brisk chilly wind.
“We just didn’t make the plays tonight,” Duncanville coach Jeff Dicus said. “We’re just going to have to get better. We’re in one of the toughest districts in the state.”
Both teams are 4-3. Mansfield is 3-1 in district while Duncanville is 2-2.
In the beginning, it looked like Duncanville’s night.
Kevin Bell Jr. returned a kickoff 56 yards to put Duncanville at the Mansfield 22. Five plays later, Derrell Haynes scored on a two-yard run only 67 seconds into the game.
Mansfield responded with a 71-yard drive in nine plays without facing a third down. Lewis scored on a two-yard run with 7:16 showing in the first quarter.
At about that time, Drake’s and Evans’ games started unraveling.
Drake’s fumbled ended one Duncanville drive. Evans fumbled and threw an interception to end consecutive Mansfield drives.
Aaron Funk came in for Evans and scored on a 1-yard run to give Mansfield a 28-7 lead, its largest advantage, with 3:51 showing in the third quarter.
Follow Tommy Cummings on Twitter at @tommycummings.
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