MIDLOTHIAN — Though it’s early, Midlothian is an unofficial 1-0 in 2017.
According to Head Coach Doug Wendel, Midlothian High School’s first football victory in the new season was about more than the 14-0 finish fans witnessed Saturday at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium.
It was about the three turnovers they forced from Carrolton Creek View High School’s offense, tough yards after contact they gained and lessons learned during the home scrimmage.
“The first-team defense went out the first 15 plays of the first quarter and didn’t allow a first down. They also forced three turnovers,” Wendel chuckled, his Oklahoman accent adding a tint of color to every syllable. “It’s good. It means we’re all running to the ball.”
To Wendel — despite various correctable mistakes – the Panthers did their job. They played the type of physical defense needed to sustain his newly-emplaced 3-4 scheme and newly-hired Defensive Coordinator Steven Lemley, as well as support the triple-option offense he plans to batter 10-5A defenses with in the coming season.
He noted the fluid transition of linebacker John Rodgers’ practice ethic to the football field, as well as the play of sophomore Tate Corbin and junior Austen Thomas and the district Creek View plays in.
“Johnny had a great day offensively and defensively, which I knew he would,” he said. “He’s been our hardest worker all two weeks of practice. he’s been tremendous. Both quarterbacks protected the ball and managed the offense well. We’re tackling a lot better than we have in the past and our outside linebackers really had a pretty good day today. [Creek View] is in a pretty tough league, too. Other than that, we still have a long way to go at a lot of positions.”
Health and conditioning, especially along the offensive line, has been an issue during the preseason for a team that is “light” depth-wise.
Both Jadon Bly and Chris Dickert, the starting left and right tackles and important components in zone-option run plays, didn’t take part in scrimmage action because of injuries.
“We got to get a lot better, healthier at some positions and in better shape [before the season begins],” Wendel continued. “Special teams wasn’t a big part of today’s scrimmage but it’s a big part ball games — especially early September football.”
The UIL’s 14-5A features the likes of Prosper and The Colony, two teams that finished 6-1 in district respectively and another in McKinney North that finished 5-2. The top four teams finished with at least five four wins and made it to at least the bi-district round of the playoff.
The Colony, the best team in regards to playoff success, reached the area round in 2016.
Per Wendell, what fans and the Mustangs defense saw Saturday — designed power runs between hulking guards and tackles and the outside-of-the-pocket mobility of Panthers’ signal callers — was a good representation of what the offense will look like when Midlothian takes the field against Mesquite Poteet High School on Sept. 1 at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.
Creek View, despite a rigorous schedule, is not in earshot of the rough-and-tumble ranks of District 10-5A, he said. He hinted at the possible NCAA DI secondary talent lurking at Waxahachie, Mansfield Lake Ridge, and Mansfield Legacy High Schools.
“Our running back play is important for us to be a successful football season,” Wendel said. “We didn’t block them very well and have to get better at that. We’ll play probably 10 DI safeties [this season]. No disrespect to them, these guys didn’t have that.”
While playing a defensive role Saturday, starting running back Landry Songer was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Wendel said he had spoken to the trainer about the full prognosis, saying he thought it was a “tweak” and that he was told Songer could have finished the game. As of the Mirror’s 1 p.m. deadline, Midlothian ISD hadn’t released additional information about the injury.
Songer was responsible for the bulk of the Panthers’ offense in 2016, running for 838 yards on 137 carries (6.1 YPC) and scoring 11 of the team’s 31 rushing touchdowns. He also caught five balls for 30 yards.
A prolonged absence could thrust junior running back Nolan Samek, brother of former lead running back Dalton Samek, into an increased role within the offense.
Bly, who is recovering from a foot injury suffered during the 2016-17 basketball season, is not expected to be back by the season opener but the coaching staff is hopeful they will have Dickert back by week one. According to a Wednesday morning report from Wendel, Dickert (bruised knee) returned to practice Tuesday.
Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.