By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
Any doubt surrounding just how dominant a defense the Midlothian Panthers deploy on Friday nights was surely erased in their District 5-5A opener against Joshua.
Those potential doubters or skeptics should rest assured though — there’s plenty of room on the Panthers bandwagon following a 65-7 drubbing of the visiting Owls at Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium in the KBEC Sports Game of the Week.
Midlothian head coach Doug Wendel told KBEC Sports after the game that the coaching staff was impressed with the Panthers preparations leading up to kickoff and even more so after the first play.
“We have done what we needed to do and the most important thing is that we have improved each week. This was a big week for us, playing our first district ball game, and I thought we kept our focus and started fast,” Wendel said. “We did have a turnover to start the game with, and outside of that, I thought our defense played really, really well.
“They (Joshua) came out and lined up in a different formation than what they had shown and I thought we adjusted well. Our offense responded well after that first turnover and we improved this week and that is what we are supposed to do.”
Riley Angel spearheaded the Panthers efforts on both sides of the football during the victory, as the junior defensive back and wide receiver hauled in a 47-yard Tate Corbin touchdown pass to kick off the scoring with just under seven minutes to play in the first quarter.
Angel then intercepted a Landon Gest pass on the Owls second snap from scrimmage on the ensuing drive. The turnover eventually led to a 4-yard Laine Martin touchdown run to cap a four-play, 40-yard drive that put Midlothian up 14-0.
The Panthers went on to hang 49 points on the Owls in the first half and cruised to the district-opening win in the second half.
Angel finished the game with two interceptions, three pass breakups, two tackles, one tackle-for-loss and did not allow a single completion on any of the seven times Gest and the Owls offense targeted a receiver in his direction. He even completed a pass for a two-point conversion in the first half and led the Panthers receivers with two catches for 83 yards.
The “Island Boys” — a moniker the Panthers secondary has gone by for the past two seasons — finished the game with four interceptions and one fumble recovery while limiting Gest to 11-of-30 passing for 129 yards.
Midlothian has outscored its first three opponents 146-27 — with 19 of those points scored by the opposition in the fourth quarter and after the game was already well in hand, as the Panthers have outscored opponents 146-8 in
Statistics like those are what have Wendel ready to label this Panther unit as one of the best the program has ever seen.
“We have better players, more mature players with more experience and it’s all made this the best defense that I have ever been a part of since I have been here,” he told KBEC Sports on Friday.
The Panthers offense bruised its way to 420 rushing yards while quarterbacks Tate Corbin (6-7, 132 yards, 2 TD) and Nicholas De Los Santos (2-2, 22 yards) combined for 154 passing yards to help Midlothian outpace Joshua 574 yards to 263.
To take it a step further: The Midlothian offense averaged 19.3 yards per completion and 9.8 yards per carry.
Jeremy McCoy led the way in the rushing touchdown department with two scores on his four carries for 35 yards, though it was Darren Greeson (5-111) and Dawson White (8-75) who paced the backfield. Ethan Hill (5-38), Colton Sessums (4-36), Laine Martin (5-31) and Jake Peters (2-31) each scored a rushing touchdown, respectively.
The Panthers continue their District 5-5A slate with a road tilt against Arlington Seguin at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We were really pleased with our improvement and our focus throughout the week,” Wendel added. “We just have to keep that up. We are on a journey, but we need to try and enjoy that journey and keep building each and every day and get better as a team.”
Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith