ROCKWALL – Heading into the postseason, Lone Star head coach Jeff Rayburn knew the path to state meant going through a gauntlet of juggernauts in Class 5A Region II first.
That included beating Highland Park for a second time, which the Rangers did last week, and then taking on another state-ranked foe in Lancaster Friday in the regional finals.
Behind a history-making performance from senior wide receiver Marvin Mims and a suffocating defensive effort, Lone Star is headed to the state semifinals for the first time since 2015 after dismantling the Tigers, 38-20.
“It’s unbelievable the quality of football in this region,” Rayburn said. “We definitely earned getting through this region, but we’re not done yet.”
Identical to this year’s ball club, the 2015 squad also had to deal with Lancaster in the fourth round of the playoffs before defeating Lake Dallas the following week.
Besides having immense talent, every team that makes it this far in the postseason has to contain a special quality that Rayburn believes both this year’s team and the 2015 crew possess – leadership.
“People ask all the time how this team compares to other teams, but every year it’s different,” he said. “One of the biggest things we had on that 2015 team that we have on this team is leadership. When you have that leadership and accountability, you have something that you can work for.”
That unique trait was on full display Friday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium, as Mims led the way against a stout Tiger defense that had made a habit of locking down opposing team’s No. 1 receivers in the playoffs.
Going up against Lancaster cornerback and LSU commit Lorando Johnson, Jr. from the very first play of the game, Mims had his hands full against the four-star recruit.
But that still didn’t stop the Oklahoma pledge from burning Johnson and the rest of the Tigers secondary for an 85-yard touchdown strike on just the second play of the game.
That monster play helped set Mims up for another sensational performance in which he hauled in 10 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
“That was a huge energy boost,” he said. “We love to start the games like that and to do that against them was a real back-breaker to them.”
Going into this showdown, Mims needed 156 yards to surpass the single-season state record of 2,427 yards set by Stephenville’s Cody Cardwell back in 1998.
Mims’ second touchdown grab of the night not only gave Lone Star a commanding 31-13 advantage early in the third quarter, but the 62-yard bomb also put him ahead of Cardwell in the record books.
“It wasn’t really on my mind until last night, and I had no idea about it before then,” he said. “It means a lot on how hard I’ve worked in the past and how hard we’ve worked as a team.”
Despite the Mims touchdown right off the bat to begin the contest, the Tigers were able to respond right back with a successful 11-play drive that was capped off by a Tre Bradford touchdown run.
The four-star recruit ran wild on the Rangers in the first half and found the end zone a second time soon after an 8-yard touchdown catch by Lone Star junior wide receiver Trace Bruckler to pull Lancaster to 14-13 early in the second stanza.
However, the bulk of Bradford’s game-high 120 rushing yards were behind him from that point on, as the Lone Star defense allowed just seven more points the rest of the way.
“Holy cow, our defense answered the bell time and time again, and there is not a better defensive coordinator in the state than Darren Kight,” Rayburn said. “Our kids turned it up a notch in the second half and really got after it.”
In fact, both defenses picked up the pace in the fourth quarter with neither side being able to produce any points until the Rangers delivered the knockout blow with 2:17 to go.
Just two plays after junior linebacker Blake Gotcher intercepted Lancaster sophomore quarterback Glenn Rice, Jr. deep in Tigers territory, Lone Star senior running back Jake Bogdon blasted through for the 29-yard score to put things away for good.
“This is a true team and a true family,” Rayburn said. “They are going to have each other’s backs through thick and thin and don’t blink.”