Photo: Eric Christian Smith, Contributor
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Manvel and Barbers Hill both brought their high-octane offenses to NRG Stadium as the teams combined to rack up 976 yards, but the day was always the Mavericks’.
Manvel (13-0) was lethal offensively through the air and on the ground in a 55-35 victory in Friday’s Class 5A Division II Region III semifinal.
Mavericks senior running back Donovan Eaglin sprinted his way to a striking afternoon, accounting for 288 rushing yards and five touchdowns on just 19 carries. Eaglin’s five touchdown runs were all at least 24 yards, including a 73-yard run in the first quarter. Manvel recorded 325 rushing yards as a whole.
“Our plan going in was to run the ball,” Manvel head coach Kevin Hall said. “Our offensive line played extremely well and allowed two really great running backs, Donovan Eaglin and Jordon Vaughn, to go off today.”
Vaughn added 36 yards of his own.
The Mavericks’ victory Friday was their ninth straight game with 40 points and they have averaged 52.2 points per game this season. Barbers Hill entered the postseason averaging a District 12-5A Division II-best 33.2 points per game and posted 42 and 47 points respectively in its first two playoff games.
The Mavericks entered the halftime break with a 41-21 lead which was propelled by a 27-point first quarter showing. Barbers Hill, whose season ended with a 12-2 record, recorded two touchdowns of its own in the first, but just two empty possessions in the first 24 minutes by Manvel was enough to create the Mavericks’ untouchable advantage.
On its two empty possessions, Manvel punted once but recovered a muffed Eagle return, while the other was a failed fourth-down attempt which led to Barber Hills’ third touchdown of the first half. The Mavericks pushed their way to a 24-yard touchdown by Eaglin on the ensuing possession of the muff.
Manvel senior quarterback Tucker Yarbrough, who led 5A Houston-area schools in regular season with 33 touchdown passes and finished second in passing yards with more than 2,300, lit up the Barbers Hill secondary with 247 yards and three touchdowns. Yarbrough was 14-of-24 on the day and tallied 207 of his passing yards by halftime.
Manvel junior Jalen Walthall, Manvel’s most productive receiver, soared downfield on multiple occasions as he caught six passes for 146 yards while scoring two touchdowns. Eaglin also caught two passes for 37 yards.
“I give it all to my O-Line, of course,” Eaglin said. “It means a lot for us to win round three after losing in round two last year. Everybody doubted us… I love my teammates will all my heart.”
Last year’s area-round loss to Huntsville was Manvel’s earliest playoff exit in program history. Now, the Mavericks have their eighth regional final berth since 2010, putting the program two wins from a third state championship game appearance since 2011.
With Manvel’s defense consistently pressuring Barber Hills quarterback Christian Kaopua, the senior only completed nine of his 20 pass attempts for 121 yards.
Although the passing game was a struggle for the Eagles, the running aspect was rather promising. Kaopua himself ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns, including a 63-yard touchdown carry in the third quarter. As a team, Barbers Hill had 283 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
It was Barbers Hill’s deepest playoff run since 2003.
“We accomplished quite a few goals,” Barbers Hill head coach Tom Westerberg said. “A goal was to win a district championship and to practice on Thanksgiving Day. We just ran into a little bit better team than we were.”