ALEDO — For the second game in a row, oh, so close.
The Midlothian Panthers had the state’s No. 1 Class 5A Division I team on the ropes on Friday night on the road at Bearcat Stadium.
But Aledo forced overtime on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 left in regulation; then cornerback Nathan Fingar's 82-yard fumble return in overtime gave the defending Class 5A Division II state champions a 34-28 win against the upset-minded Panthers.
Their second-straight walk-off loss leaves the Panthers (4-2, 2-2) with little room to slip up in the chase for one of four District 5-5A (II) playoff slots, with nine teams vying for them. The Panthers had lost the week before on a Burleson Centennial field goal at the final horn.
The Panthers shortened the game to their benefit with a running attack that produced 275 yards, led by Ethan Hill’s 29 carries for 98 yards and a TD. MHS attempted only two passes and both were completions, including a 15-yard go-ahead touchdown throw from Nicholas de los Santos to Nathan Humphreys right before intermission.
But the two late-game fumbles by the Panthers told the tale.
MHS took a 28-21 lead on Jeremy McCoy's 3-yard run in the third quarter, his second score of the night; and the game plan seemed to be working in the Panthers’ favor until a fumble gave Aledo life with less than two minutes remaining. The Bearcats (4-1, 3-0) drove 68 yards on seven plays to tie it on Jake Bishop's scoring pass to Money Parks.
Playing without Oklahoma five-star commit Jase McClellan, the Bearcats were held to just 110 yards on the ground.
Midlothian never trailed in regulation and traded volleys with the Bearcats all night, with Aledo answering each time the Panthers found pay dirt.
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead on Hill’s 1-yard touchdown plunge, and McCoy’s first TD run put MHS on top again at the 8:37 mark of the second quarter. Then after Aledo pulled even again, de los Santos’ pass to Humphreys with just 16 ticks left on the clock sent the Panthers into halftime up 21-14 — and the upset watch was on.
The Panthers will be looking to end the slide with homecoming festivities at MISD Multipurpose Stadium on Friday night, with Everman as guest. The Bulldogs (1-4, 1-2), who are coming off a bye, opened district with a 44-6 rout of Arlington Seguin but have dropped their most recent pair, losing by 12 to Centennial and by 29 to Aledo two weeks ago.