Photo: Patrick Dove/San Angelo Standard-Times

MANSFIELD, Texas — In Texas, to be playing football in the state playoffs and eating Thanksgiving dinner at the same time means that your team has been battle tested.

For the teams involved, there are two scenarios that take place: One prepared to make a long road trip — possibly getting together to give thanks in a city far from home — while the second got to sleep in their own beds, eat good home cooking, and make a short ride to a nearby stadium for the game. This weekend two teams are taking two different journeys and meet at Vernon Newsome Stadium as the Mansfield Tigers take on the San Angelo Central Bobcats.

Mansfield (10-1) comes in as the district 4-6A champs and San Angelo Central (11-0) are the 2-6A districts champs. Central has won the district title the last 6 of 7 years and are winners of five straight 2-6A district titles.

San Angelo is in the heart of West Texas and the district that the Bobcats play in was once known as “The Little Southwest Conference,” featuring traditional powers Odessa Permian, and Midland Lee. Mansfield comes into this matchup as one of the hottest teams in the state of Texas, having battled thru a treacherous district in the DFW Metroplex that featured powerhouses Arlington Martin and Arlington Lamar High Schools.

Here’s how both teams matchup:

WHEN SAN ANGELO CENTRAL HAS THE BALL

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San Angelo brings a potent spread attack on offense that comes in averaging 39 points a game, led by junior quarterback Maverick McIvor.

McIvor is a dual threat, able to make the deep throw and escape would be defenders and make defensive players miss tackles in the open field. He has passed for 2,996 yards and rushed for 833 yards.

In a bi-district win over El Paso Pebble Hills 35-20, McIvor passed for 267 yards and four touchdowns while completing 61percent of his passes. At receiver, the Bobcats have the speed to burn in Henry Teeter, Jesse Scott Jr., and Jaden Coates. Teeter has a monster game against Pebble Hills with 14 receptions for 129 yards averaging 9.2 yards per catch with a touchdown.

Scott Jr. is a big body on the outside at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds that makes the highlight reel catches and can go the distance for a score. Jaden Coates had a big bi-district round catching seven passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns against Pebble Hills.

Running back Demarcus Cobb is a home run threat in the Bobcat backfield. Against El Paso Pebble Hills, he had a 60 yards touchdown run. Multiple weapons on offense make San Angelo a dangerous team.

WHEN MANSFIELD HAS THE BALL

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Mansfield has a balanced attack that can hit big plays on the ground and thru the air.

Led by senior signal called Shawn Hartsfield, the Tigers dominated Keller Central 42-3 in their first-round matchup. The Tigers offense has 492 total yards (233 passing, 259 rushing) last week. Mansfield’s ground-and-pound running game is paced by running back Theo Owens and Avery Chatman.

Chatman led the Tigers last week with 99 yards and a score, while Owens had TD runs of six and one yard. Owens has a nose for the end zone and came into the Keller Central game with 12 touchdowns.  At wide receiver, Mansfield has one of the fastest wideouts in the state in Jackson Gleeson.

Gleeson had touchdowns of 40 and 32 yards against Keller Central and is a proven deep threat. In the bi-district round, Gleeson had six receptions for 112 yards. Junior tight end Adam Strawn knows how to get open and helps the Tigers move the chains for first downs.

On the offensive line next to Strawn are standouts Willis Patrick, Lee Williams, Austin Melton, and Grayson Schramme, who helped open running lanes against Keller Central. The Tigers offensive line paved the way for 259 yards rushing and dominated the line of scrimmage. The Mansfield combination of speed and power have been a major factor why the Tigers average 34.7 points a game.

THE PREDICTION

The key matchups in the game are on the defensive side of the ball. The Mansfield Tigers defense comes in giving up only 10.5 points a game in 2017 led by ball-hawking safety Cam’Ron Jones.

The Tigers defense rallies to the ball well and doesn’t make many mistakes. Cornerback Corbin Fredrick, defensive end Brian Otowri and CB Miles Williams pace are always around the football.

The San Angelo Bobcat defense can put the clamps on any offense, is allowing less than twenty points a game. In 2017 the Bobcats have been led on defense by linebacker Noah Gatton (127 tackles), free safety Jakobe (112 tackles) and rush end Nick Hernandez who had nine sacks entering the playoffs. The Angrycats defense can turn out the lights on any opponent.

This will be one of the top matchups this Thanksgiving weekend and expect Newsome Stadium to be rocking. Both fan bases travel well, with the Bobcat faithful making a 4-hour trip to the Metroplex.  Both teams matchup offensively, but this game could be decided by a field goal. Mansfield has an experienced kicker in junior Jarret Holman, which could be the difference in the outcome of this heated matchup.

FINAL SCORE:  Mansfield 24, San Angelo Central 21

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