DESOTO — Except for a pair of five-minute stints in the first and second halves, senior goalkeeper Cody Wann had a chance to look at the game as a spectator for the best seat in the house.
The defense, which held a fast Bryan Adams High School Cougar team to a single goal during Friday's 3-1 win at DeSoto Eagle Stadium, was one factor that moved Midlothian High School into the regional quarterfinal round.
"We started almost every first half of the season slow but the boys stuck it to them and held the back line like I've never seen them do before this time," Wann said with a smile and as cacophony and cheers from Panther fans danced around the stadium's limits. "We were clicking like crazy. They listened to me talk and made it easy for me in net. Getting our center back, Justin Bannick, back made a huge difference, too. They held those quick players and connected and helped us move on in the playoffs. When you have a defense if front of you like that, sometimes it's too easy."
The defense was one factor. Scoring, especially from Midlothian's side of the pitch, was the other. Behind a 38-minte goal by Garrett Stagner and a 19-minute mark goal from Bannick on a deke of the Cougars' goalkeeper, the Panthers were in the driver's seat going into the halftime break.
Midlothian nearly pushed the score to a 3-0 lead on a sliding kick by Maycol Reyes that was deflected by Bryan Adams' veteran keeper and what would have been 4-0 at the 34:17 mark of the second half after Stagner's cross to Zach Thibodeau nearly skirted through the grip of the Cougar netminder.
Despite the amassed momentum, Bryan Adams eked back into the game with a single goal on a breakaway sprint down the left sideline. It was the first goal on five attempts and the only one of three that neared Wann's waiting airspace.
"We didn't exactly play the game we wanted to, but they did a good job covering for each other," Panther Head Coach Austin Guest said, "They held up against pressure, kept their composure and beat a good team. Every team that's in the playoffs at this point has a very good side and it takes a lot of discipline and hard work to move on in the postseason. We weren't at our best compared to where our ceiling is, but we were the best in the opportunities we had."
The (16-4-3, 8-3-3) Panthers entered the game the only Ellis County boys soccer team still in the playoffs outside of Ferris High School's boys team. They also scored the most goals in District 10-5A play (43) and were ahead of Waxahachie (38), Mansfield Summit (32) and Mansfield Lake Ridge (28) High Schools.
The 4A YellowJackets fell to Carrolton Ranchview High School 3-2 Friday.
Each of those 5A teams — including undefeated district champion Waxahachie — were eliminated from the UIL 5A playoffs in either the area or bi-district rounds.
Bannick's score with 12:28 left in the game pushed the lead to an insurmountable 3-1 advantage. It also ensured the Panthers wouldn't join their district foes in the offseason and would survive to face Dallas Conrad High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kincaide Stadium.
"It was a big venue on a big stage under bright lights and Justin stepped up and scored two big goals," Guest said. "I think we got a little bit of the worry out and now they know what the big stage is going to look like in the near future. I also think facing Bryan Adams helped prepare us for later rounds, too. I think, generally, the DISD teams are undervalued. They weren't a team that was on a lot of people's radar but they were a good side that could beat any team in the state. We were fortunate to take advantage of a couple mistakes."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.