By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
Coaching from hindsight is even easier than doing so from the couch. This is important to remember before reflecting on the heartbreaking loss suffered by the state-ranked Midlothian Panthers at home Friday night against district-foe Burleson Centennial.
The (4-1, 1-1) Panthers defense blocked the initial Spartan field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter, only to have Josh Garcia get a second shot just two minutes of game time later. Garcia’s second attempt was true, sending the Panthers and their faithful home with a 23-21 loss.
The Panthers and their extremely physical, fast and disciplined defense dominated the first half Friday night at Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium.
Their play also allowed for Tate Corbin and the Midlothian offense to build a 14-0 lead late into the second quarter. The Panthers struck first on a 3-yard touchdown run by JT Cavender (0:35, 2Q) and then again when Corbin capped a 7-play, 62-yard drive with an 8-yard rushing score.
Centennial fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which set the Panthers offense up at the 32-yard line of the Spartans with under one minute to play in the first half.
Four plays later, disaster struck for Midlothian in the form of fumble returned 79 yards by Centennial’s Chase Phillips to cut the Panthers lead in half, 14-7, with nine seconds left on the first-half clock.
The offensive possession would also be the last for Corbin on the evening, as he spent the remainder of the game in a walking boot. His exit moved Nicholas De Los Santos under center.
Centennial then struck twice to open the second half — once following a Panther punt and the second time by returning a fumble 10 yards for a score — to take a 20-14 lead. The two touchdowns came at the 6:58 and 5:37 mark of the third quarter and the score held as the game turned toward the final 12 minutes.
Each of the next four possessions ended with punts — two for both sides.
The series of exchanges led to the Panthers taking possession at the 44-yard line of Centennial with seven minutes and change to play. Seven plays later, Cavender found paydirt for the second time to put Midlothian on top, 21-20, with 5:36 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Centennial offense then ran 10 plays — nine on the ground — to move inside the Panthers 10-yard line and set up a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Avery Gibson came from the left side of the Spartans line to block the Centennial kick with 2:16 to play and up 21-20. Thompkins recovered the loose ball and the Panthers offense needed just one first down to seal the victory.
Cavender picked up eight yards on second down and De la Santos moved one-yard from the line-to-gain on a quarterback sneak to the Panthers 29-yard line.
Midlothian head coach Doug Wendel elected to punt and give his defense another opportunity to win the game.
Centennial took over at the Panthers 39-yard line following a decent punt return and with 22 seconds to play.
A short completion had the Spartans near the 30-yard line of Midlothian with 17 ticks on the clock, only to have a pass interference call put the football on the 17-yard line.
The 33-yard field goal attempt into a stiff wind split the uprights as the clock hit all zeroes and gave the Spartans the 23-21 win.
BY THE NUMBERS
Midlothian outgained Centennial 326 total yards to 157, including 17 first downs to the Spartans 10.
Angel led the Panthers ground game with seven carries for 54 yards, while Ethan Hill had 13 totes for 45 yards and Cavender rushed four times for 38 yards and two scores.
Laine Martin (11-36), Darren Greeson (4-32), Jeremy McCoy (6-16), De Los Santos (5-15), and Corbin (5-14) also helped the Panthers offense to its 248 rushing yards.
TATER & TODD’S TAKEAWAYS
Tater Beard and Todd Hemphill serve as the play-by-play and color commentators for the Midlothian Panthers. The two will provide insider insight following each Panther football game this season.
1. The Panther defense is for real! They only allowed 10 points on the night, along with a massive goal-line stand. The group will continue to impress as a unit with outstanding play by Dylan Seago, Riley Angel and Nick Pollard. The Blue Storm is week-in and week-out causing headaches for offensive coordinators.
2. Banged and bruised a little, the Panthers carried on. Quarterback Tate Corbin fought to stay in the game but ultimately came out at half in Friday’s competition. The Panthers will look forward to his return along with Nathan Humphreys and Jake Peters in the coming weeks.
3. The Panthers motto this year is “Pound The Stone.” They will need to exemplify this in the upcoming week against Aledo. The Panthers are at 4-1 on the season with big district games upcoming.
4. This team has no quit. Despite some unfortunate turnovers, the Panthers kept pressing and fought the entire game. The continued to attack relentlessly on defense and kept pounding on offense.
5. J.T. Cavender is a beast. The senior linebacker was not only a standout on defense all night, but was a force on offense as well — scoring two touchdowns and contributing some crucial yards on the ground. On the defensive side, Cavender worked from sideline to sideline and brought pressure up the middle as well as stuffing the run. He is an underrated talent in 5A football.
6. The Panthers have players on the rise. Names to look for are sophomore guard Brock Cavender, sophomore wide receiver Ruhat Suddle and junior running back Darren Greeson on the offensive side, and junior defensive back Andrei Fuentes and sophomore linebacker Andrew Colman on defense. This group of young players is stepping up to the challenge each week.
Be sure and follow Tater and Todd on Twitter @mhspantherradio and tune-in on Friday nights at http://mixlr.com/mhs-radio–2/.
Midlothian will now travel to Bearcat Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday against No. 1 Aledo.