MANSFIELD -- Brad Fry wore a black cowboy hat and a bright red Mansfield shirt that read "Hit 'em hard" while watching Mansfield play Charleston.
"We've taken a lot of whippings from them," Fry said shortly before kickoff Friday night. "It's time to turn it around."
Consider it done.
Jaicy Griffin caught a short pass and went 88 yards for a touchdown, and Ethan Stovall scored on two short runs to give Mansfield a 22-10 victory over Charleston in 3A-1 Conference play. The win kept Mansfield (6-0, 3-0) undefeated and gave the Red Tigers their first victory over Charleston (3-3, 1-2) since 2010.
It was a signature win for Mansfield, which won only two games last year and lost 35-6 to Charleston in the process. The celebration started shortly after the horn when Stovall rushed over and hugged Craig Bentley, the Red Tigers' third-year coach.
"We've worked so hard since I've been here," Bentley said. "These kids have stuck with it, and they've worked their butts off. At the end of the day, you'd like to see it pay off with some wins. And, by gosh, that's happening."
The most exciting play of the game came in the second quarter when Griffin took a short pass and went 88 yards to give Mansfield a 16-7 lead following another two-point conversion. Griffin, 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, showed his athleticism with his speed and ability to kick out of two tackle attempts down the home sideline.
"He's a playmaker," Stovall said of Griffin, who also caught a long pass in the second half to set up a score. "That's Jaicy for you. He's got 4.53 (40-yard dash) speed, and that's what he does. He makes plays for us."
A large home crowd was surprisingly subdued until sophomore Randall Claude sacked Charleston quarterback Brayden Ross for a 10-yard loss 3 minutes into the game. The play woke up the crowd, which became even more energized when Mansfield used two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions to take a 16-7 lead.
Brayden Ross had a 2-yard touchdown run for Charleston, which had won six of the past seven championships in the 3A-4 Conference before it moved to the 3A-1 this season. Charleston threatened late in the second quarter, but the Mansfield defense made a goal-line stand to thrill the home side and allow the Red Tigers to keep the momentum heading into the halftime locker room.
"We made huge stops all night," Bentley said. "Backed up on our own goal line, so I was very proud of them."
Charleston is a team in transition following a loss to Greenland in the conference opener and a close win over Ozark, when the Tigers used four laterals on the final play of the game to escape with a 20-19 victory. Ross essentially switched positions with senior Brayden Caudle, who moved to receiver and showed good hands on a few receptions from Ross on Friday. Caudle also threw a long pass on an end-around in the first quarter but did not connect.
Charleston will host Paris next week before challenging Booneville on the road Oct. 19.
Mansfield is proving doubters wrong with its best start since the 2010 team won 10 games. But the competition doesn't get any easier for Mansfield, which plays at Booneville next week before returning home to face Lamar. Both teams were 5-0 heading into Friday's games.
"We'll enjoy it (Friday), and we'll enjoy it tomorrow," Bentley said of the victory over Charleston. "But we'll come back on Monday and get ready for Booneville."
Sports on 10/06/2018
Print Headline: Time to believe in Red Tigers, now 6-0 after win over Charleston