By Matt Vines, DeSoto Parish Journal
STERLINGTON – The Mansfield High football team traveled across the state, got off the bus, and delivered the first blow to a Sterlington program that raised a state championship trophy just two years ago.
The No. 18 seed Wolverines traded punches with the No. 3 Panthers throughout the first half Thursday, but Sterlington found its footing in the second half en route to a 35-15 win in the second round of the Division III Non-Select playoffs.
Mansfield’s TJ Pegues plunged in from one yard out to knot the score at 15-15 with just two seconds left in the first half, but Sterlington created distance in the second half by scoring all 20 points.
“We just went out and played hard, kind of punched them in the mouth in the first half,” said Mansfield coach Darrell Barbay. “I’m super proud of our kids’ great effort in playing probably the best team in the state in Division III.”
Sterlington running back Trammell Colvin accounted for four touchdowns as the Panthers reeled off a series of explosive plays to keep pace with and then pull away from Mansfield.
The Wolverines (6-6) struck first thanks to a 64-yard Rykelon Vanzant run on fourth down to set up a 1-yard Pegues touchdown run to give Mansfield an early 7-0 edge.
Colvin responded with a 39-yard scoring gallop, and a two-point conversion handed the Panthers an 8-7 lead.
Mansfield lumbered down the field on its second drive, getting all the way to the Sterlington 7 before missing a fourth-and-six conversion.
Sterlington’s Hagen Herring did the honors on the second possession, scoring from 39 yards to hand the Panthers a 15-7 advantage.
But Mansfield wasn’t going away.
Pegues pushed his way into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run, evening the score at 15-15. That last yard propelled Mansfield to 210 rushing yards in the first half.
The senior had two rushing touchdowns in his final game.
But Sterlington made defensive adjustments in the second half, and Colvin scored three second-half touchdowns to advance the Panthers to the quarterfinals.
“Sterlington kept moving the ball the way they had been all night, and we didn’t move it as well,” said Barbay of a Mansfield offense that chewed up chunks of clock in the first half. “We didn’t keep the ball away from them, and we had a tough time blocking their interior guys in the second half.”
Mansfield’s six wins this season is the most since logging eight in 2018, which is also the last time the Wolverines won a playoff game before the first-round victory against Marksville this past week.
The Wolverines started the season 0-4 against top-notch competition before winning six of its last eight contests.
“A lot of building a program is getting kids to trust us as a coaching staff and buying into the program,” Barbay said earlier this week as his second season in Mansfield neared its end. “Our kids work hard and do what we ask of them at practice every day.
“That’s really all you can ask of them – to keep working and get stronger. Our administration has backed us and helped us get the things we need to get better. Our principals, school board and superintendent have been outstanding in this process as well.”