By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
The Midlothian Panthers are headed back to the football postseason for the second consecutive season following a tight home win Friday against Cleburne.
Midlothian needed a fourth-quarter flea-flicker to seal the 19-14 victory on the Panthers senior night at Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium.
“This is a special team and a special senior class,” Midlothian head football coach Doug Wendel said. “This was a special night out here tonight. We’ve talked about the seniors’ character all year, and how hard they work, how much they’ve invested in the program and how selfless they are and I am just so proud of our seniors. Everything they have worked for came to fruition tonight.”
As for the game, placekicker Shane Reasonover came up clutch for the Panthers with field goals from 32 and 30 yards in the second and third quarters, respectively.
Junior quarterback Nicholas De Los Santos paced the Panthers ground game with 19 carries for 64 yards, while Ethan Hill rushed 11 times for 37 yards and one touchdown.
De Los Santos completed four-of-his-7 passes for 17 yards, while Humphreys made the most of his trick play for a 61-yard touchdown Riley Angel with 6:17 to play in the fourth quarter.
JT Cavender led the Panther defense with 19 total tackles (11 solo) and two tackles-for-loss, while Kaleb Thompkins added nine total tackles (7 solo) and a game-high three tackles-for-loss and one of three Midlothian sacks. Both Cavender and Thompkins recovered a Yellowjacket fumble.
Angel and Humphreys both picked off a Cleburne pass.
“This defense is good,” said Wendel of the Panther unit that limited Cleburne to 254 total yards of offense and forced four turnovers. “Coach [Steve] Lemley and his staff work really, really hard. We put them in tough positions in practice and I think that helps make the games easy, because of how tough it is in practice. They just dominated tonight.”
The victory improved Midlothian to 7-2 on the season and 5-2 in District 5-5A Division II. It also locked the Panthers into the third seed in the district standings, meaning Midlothian will not face neighboring Red Oak in the first round for a second consecutive year.
Red Oak is currently standing alone atop the 6-5A standings and will face the fourth seed out of 5-5A. That spot, however, is still completely up in the air, as Cleburne, Everman and Burleson all sport 3-4 district marks.
Aledo (8-1, 7-0 in 5-5A) is still unbeaten in district play and will finish as the 5-5A champions with Burleson Centennial staked to the second seed with a 7-1 district mark and 9-1 overall record.
According to Wendel, the back-to-back playoff appearances for the Panthers marks the first such instance since 2003-04 and just the fourth time in program history (1963-64, 1981-82).
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports
Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith