Jalen Preston wears many hats for Manvel

The multi-talented Jalen Preston wears many hats for the state-ranked Manvel Mavericks.

No. 5 might line up at wide receiver, slot receiver, running back, take direct snaps at quarterback or return kicks. Preston doesn’t have a preference.

“I have the most fun winning on the football field,” said the Texas A&M University commit. “I like receiving and having the ball in my hands. It doesn’t really matter where I play.”

In Manvel’s 51-26 area-round playoff victory over Nederland at NRG Stadium, Preston started the game’s scoring with a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kason Martin.

Before the game was over Preston would cross the goal line two more times, but it was another facet of his game that concerned him afterwards. For the first time this season he fumbled twice in the same game.

“I made a couple of mistakes today but it happens to the best of us,” Preston said. “I have to take better care of the football moving forward.”

Even with the rare mistakes, Preston proved to be a difference maker in the contest.

When Nederland crept within 28-14 in the third quarter, Preston broke off a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown to restore order.

“That punt return stopped the bleeding for us,” said Manvel head coach Kirk Martin. “We had been anemic on offense the last two drives before that. Then he returns the punt for a touchdown and that really sparked us.

“I really believe that was the difference in the game,” Martin said. “I don’t remember how many other touchdowns he had receiving but he blocked great and he’s a special kid. We’re sure going to miss him.”

Preston tacked on a 28-yard TD pass from Martin at the 11:09 mark of the fourth quarter as the Mavericks advanced to play Cedar Park this week in the Class 5A Division I regional semifinals in Waller.

“We went away from what was working in the first half,” Preston said. “We came back in the second half running and pounding the ball along with throwing short passes. The momentum came back to our team and we started scoring again.”

Manvel has disposed of both Houston Madison and Nederland through the first two rounds of the 2017 high school football playoffs. Yet their sights are set much higher.

The 2016 season ended in the state semifinal round.

“We let our guard down a little bit after we got up by 21 points (against Nederland), Martin said. “I felt like we had a lull and we can’t do that. We have to keep pressing and keep getting after it.”

Manvel is loaded with playmakers on both offense and defense.

In addition to Preston and quarterback Kason Martin, the coach’s son,

Terrence Norman Jr., Brian Johnson, Charles Reed, Kam Scott, Deneric Prince and Depriest Taylor can all make a key play for the Mavericks.

“We’ve got a really good defense and we showed that at times tonight,” Kirk Martin said. “We’ve got an explosive offense too. We can run the ball and we’ve got people we can throw the ball to.

“I don’t know if we have a one real strength on this team,” Martin said. “We’re very balanced. We’re good on special teams and we’re good on offense and defense. We just have to keep it rolling, stay healthy and keep getting better.”