MIDLOTHIAN — Midlothian may be third in the District 10-5A soccer standings behind Mansfield Lake Ridge and Waxahachie High Schools, but the optics of how it's won games may say otherwise.
The Panthers' nil-nil draw with cross-county rival Waxahachie High School, the one-loss holder of the district's second seed, on Friday night at M.I.S.D. Multi-Purpose Stadium only furthered that claim.
The (12-3-2, 6-2-2) Panthers are the highest goal scoring group in the district this season, nailing 29 to the back of the net at an alarming three goal per game average. Mansfield Summit, which is nine behind with 20 and in fifth place in the district, is the next potent goal scorer.
Head Coach Austin Guest and Midlothian have also only allowed eight goals this season — third lowest in the district. The other two top-three teams, Mansfield Lake Ridge and Waxahachie, have allowed five and four goals against each.
Two of those goals came in the Jan. 31 2-1 loss to Waxahachie during the first round of the Panthers' district schedule.
"We've been fairly successful both attacking and defending," Guest said. "I think where we have to focus is being more consistent at both. As the season rolls on, the players develop a better understanding of each other which helps. However, you also deal with players who drop into and out of the lineup due to knocks, injuries, illnesses and other factors."
He credited Seth Riley, the sideline general standing across the field from him for fielding an organized defense that limited shots to a struck crossbar and a called-back goal. Guest noted the lack of goals had more to do with not executing as well as they hoped to.
Much like their basketball counterparts, the Panthers and Indians are among the best 5A boys' teams in the district, state and region. According to MaxPreps standings and statistics, Waxahachie is the No. 20 team in the state behind Katy's Seven Lakes, Houston's Dobie and Carrolton's Turner High Schools and ahead of Frisco's Wakeland and Liberty and Dallas' Hillcrest High Schools.
Midlothian is 59 spots lower at No. 79 but is the 27th best team in a Region II that contains the likes of The Woodlands (No. 1), Waxahachie (No. 5), Naaman Forest (No. 13) and Mansfield Lake Ridge (No. 19).
The Panthers' seating in the both the district and the state, however, could change after their 7:30 p.m. Tuesday matchup with Mansfield Lake Ridge. Per Texas Association of Soccer Coaches pre-season school rankings, the Eagles were No. 3 in 5A boys' Region II.
The lessons learned and limitations faced against Waxahachie, Guest said, may fuel his team past the district's leader with four games remaining on the soccer season's regular schedule.
"We were forced to play without one of our top defenders and had to make some adjustments that dropped some of our players a little deeper than we would have preferred," he said. "The guys did a great job keeping their shape in the back and Cody Wann was super in goal. He got a great deal of help from a solid back line that forced Waxahachie to take most of their shots from outside the [18-yard line]. Lake Ridge is a great team that has been at the top of this district for a long time, but we'll get on the bus with plans to use what we learned Friday against Waxahachie. Hopefully, we'll execute a little better and ultimately improve how and where we'll finish this season."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.