This time last year, the football field at Mineola High School was empty. No one was lacing up their cleats, or putting on their pads. Instead the Yellowjackets were trying to figure out how they fell one game short of the state championship, after an undefeated season up to the state semifinals.
"Came up against a great Brock team, we played them four quarters and they just came out with a win. It's tough to lose a game like that," said Noah Sneed, senior corner and tight end.
"That feeling you get in coming so close to being back to where we were sophomore year, is just the worse feeling in the whole world. We just used that feeling this year to drive us and it's pushed us to where we are," said Chantz Perkins, senior running back.
Fast forward to the start of 2016, Mineola had a huge question mark by their name. Could they overcome the loss of two Division One lineman in the Anderson twins and bounce back to be great, or would the haunting thoughts that they missed their moment force them into a state of mediocrity?
"Everybody came out and worked their butt off. We came out here and knew that we didn't have Austin and Riley anymore, we got to make up for people on the line so we got to work harder. I believe that work ethic that we put in out here on this practice field made us who we are playing on Friday nights," said Jeremiah Crawford, senior quarterback.
Running the table in district and entering the playoffs on an eight game winning streak, it became clear the Yellowjackets were still on a mission. But no one could predict the type of playoff performance this team would put on display, outscoring their past three postseason opponents 117-18.
"It's such a blessing to have played as well as we did. Our defense is showing out like I've never seen them shown out before. Every single time they are doing every single thing right. Our offense is finally connecting, getting back in the flow like we were the past two seasons," said Perkins.
For the second time in three years, Mineola is just four quarters away from bringing home the programs first ever state championship title. But unlike two years ago, the bright lights of AT&T stadium won't outshine these now experienced athletes determined to make history.
"Obviously we got to be a little bit more confident about things. We are going to be a little bit better prepared I'll tell you that. They know what to expect, we as coaches no what to expect. That way we don't get real anxious if we get delayed or anything of that nature. So hopefully things will go smoother as far as that goes," said Joe Drennon, Mineola Head Football Coach.
"We're two years older, we're bigger, we're stronger, we're faster. Since my freshman year I think this is our 47th game. That helps a lot, a lot of teams, a lot of football," said Michael Drennon, junior middle linebacker.