MANSFIELD — The Mansfield Tigers had their defense gashed in the first half on Friday night to the tune of 369 yards.

They rose to the occasion in the second half.

Mansfield blanked Melbourne in the final half and held on for a 27-20 win in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs in just Mansfield’s fifth home playoff game in history.

Mansfield (8-3) will travel to Osceola in the second round.

Despite the all the yardage Melbourne piled up in the first half, Mansfield still led, 21-20.

In the second half, Mansfield used a time-consuming, ground-chomping offense to keep the ball away from Melbourne.

It worked to perfection.

Mansfield used 41 plays in the final half with quarterback Ethan Stovall doing most of the damage, including a 44-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left for the 27-20 lead.

Stovall finished with 194 yards passing, completing 15 of 24 passes, and 171 yards on 21 carries.

“We challenged those guys at halftime,” said Craig Bentley said. “We said, 'Look, we’re playing with a lead. Let’s protect it. If we come out and make some adjustments, and do what we’re supposed to do then we’re going to win this ball game.'”

Melbourne still had one last shot, but Mansfield’s defense held for the fifth straight possession in the second half for the win.

Melbourne scored on its first two drives and had 41 plays for 369 yards in the opening half behind junior quarterback Gabe Lawrence, who threw for over 3,000 yards last year and went over the 2,000-yard mark this season on Friday.

Melbourne also used running back Noah McSpadden, who rushed for 202 yards last week against East Poinsett County. McSpadden had 119 yards in the first half but finished with 122. He ran for 125 in the second half.

“We haven’t seen a team like them really all year,” Bentley said. “Our conference is a lot of ground and pound. They do a great job of giving you a lot of motion and formations. It took us a half to adjust. By the time we adjusted, we came through and the kids did a fantastic job.”

McSpadden scored on a 1-yard run on the opening drive of the game for a 6-0 lead.

Mansfield answered with a quick, two-play drive. Stovall hit Tyler Holmes for 44 yards, and then Jaicy Griffin in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Max Schulz kicked Mansfield’s lead to 7-6.

Melbourne took the lead back with Lawrence’s 25-yard touchdown pass to McSpadden to cape a seven-play drive for a 14-7 lead.

Mansfield tied it at 14-14 on Stovall’s 3-yard touchdown run with 10:19 left in the first quarter.

Melbourne answered to take the lead again with an 8-yard touchdown run by McSpadden for a 20-14 lead with 6:42 left in the half.

Mansfield answered right back and took a 21-20 lead on Stovall’s touchdown pass to Holmes with 3:18 left in the second quarter. Schulz provided Mansfield with the lead with the extra point.

Mansfield’s defense made a stand to end the half. Melbourne drove to Mansfield’s 6, before the defense held to send the Tigers into the locker room with the lead.

Holmes provided an offensive spark in the first half but provided the defensive spark in the second half with two interceptions. Mansfield stopped Melbourne on two other drives on fourth down and yielded just 62 yards in the final half.