By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
A pair of fumbles spelled disaster for the Midlothian Panthers in their upset-bid Friday night against top-ranked Aledo.
It ultimately took an 82-yard fumble returned for a touchdown in overtime for the Bearcats to continue their 86-game district winning streak with the 34-28 win against the Panthers. The streak began in 2007.
Neither team led by more than one score at any point in the ballgame, though the Panthers did hold a seven-point advantage at four different times.
Midlothian took an early 7-0 lead when Ethan Hill rushed in from 1-yard out with 3:33 to play in the first quarter. The rushing touchdown capped an impressive 15-play, 67-yard drive.
The Aledo offense needed just three plays to answer, as quarterback Jake Bishop completed a pass to Money Parks for a 43-yard score to tie the game.
Jeremy McCoy later added his first of two rushing touchdowns with 8:37 to play in the second quarter to give the Panthers a 14-7 lead.
His second rushing touchdown came with two minutes and change to play in the third quarter. The 3-yard touchdown run appeared to be the game-winner with Midlothian leading 28-21 as time continued to trickle off of the clock in the fourth.
Disaster then struck the Panthers sideline with under four minutes to play and the offense on the Aledo side of the field.
It was the first of two Midlothian fumbles and came on a carry with the Panthers attempting to convert a fourth-and-5 that would’ve sealed the upset.
The Bearcat offense capitalized eight plays later when Bishop again connected with Parks — this time for an 11-yard score — with 1:15 to play in regulation. The Micco Little extra-point kick was true and tied the game at 28-all.
The Panthers took the ball first in overtime and promptly marched inside the 15-yard line of Aledo on just three plays.
The fourth play, however, saw the football hit the turf and Aledo’s Nathan Fingar scoop-and-score 82 yards later for the 24-28 victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
The (4-1, 3-0 in 5-5A) Aledo offense was outpaced by (4-2, 2-2) Midlothian 338 total yards to 276 and 24 first downs to 15.
The Bearcats were also without the services of running back Jase McClellan, a University of Oklahoma-commit and five-star recruit in the Class of 2020.
Midlothian rushed for 275 yards on the evening, led by Hill’s 29 carries for 98 yards and one score.
Quarterback Nicholas De Los Santos rushed 17 times for 78 yards. He also completed both of his passing attempts for 63 yards, which included a 15-yard score to Nathan Humphreys. Darren Greeson caught the only other pass from De Los Santos for 48 yards.
McCoy (13-56, 2TD), Greeson (11-40) and Laine Martin (5-13) also contributed to the Panthers’ rushing attack.
TATER AND 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 offensive line is dominant. Midlothian has run the ball all game long and imposed its will against defenses all year long. And the Panthers are executing at a playoff level right now. Aledo, at times, had nine defenders in the box and could not keep the Midlothian offense from moving the ball.
2. The Panther defense held Aledo to 28 points in regulation, cutting the Bearcats average scoring output in half (56 ppg).
The Panthers defense was led by Dylan Seago’s continued pressure and one sack, as well as a tip-drill interception by Andrew Colman.
3. Next man up mentality: Nick De Los Santos stepped in and led the Panthers offensive attack. He made good decisions and some crucial throws. He also kept drives going with a few determined runs to move the sticks.
4. The Midlothian rushing attack continues to take it to opponents with pads low or coming with speed around the corner. The team is mixing it up inside and outside, keeping defenses on their toes. Ethan Hill and Jeremy McCoy both had great games Friday against Aledo, as both scored rushing touchdowns in the game.
5. The Midlothian coaching staff is getting the most of its players. Offensive coordinator Mike Crumbaker has called plays keeping teams off balance all year long, while defensive coordinator Steven Lemley has the defensive side of the ball looking as sharp as ever.
6. Head coach Doug Wendel has built something here. He has the culture transformed and has led the program back into the playoff picture. While the scoreboard was not in the Panthers favor Friday, his team sent a message that the Midlothian Panthers are for real and can no longer be overlooked in Texas 5A football.
Be sure and follow Tater and Todd on Twitter @mhspantherradio and tune-in on Friday nights at http://mixlr.com/mhs-radio–2/.
The Panthers will look to end a mini two-game skid at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Everman. The annual Midlothian Homecoming game will be held at MISD Multipurpose Stadium.
Travis M. Smith | @Travis5mith