MIDLOTHIAN — Midlothian High School received its first test in the University Interscholastic League (UIL) 5A class during a test of one of last season's best.
The Panthers (0-1) faced head coach Kody Groves and the Mesquite Poteet High School Pirates on Friday at MISD Multipurpose Stadium, losing 32-16 to one of the two Region 2 semifinal qualifiers.
"We had about an eight and a half minute drive to start the game but couldn't score and didn't get in. I think that deflated us a little bit," said Doug Wendel, the MHS head football coach. "Three plays later they went about 85 yards on a busted coverage play and scored a touchdown — a 14-point swing. I think if we punch it in by the middle of the second quarter, at worst it's a 7-7 tie and we are right in the ball game at halftime."
Last season Mesquite Poteet, which finished with a 9-4 overall and 6-1 district record, held four of its seven district opponents to 16 or fewer points. All of those games ended in victory.
The Pirates also came within four games of the UIL 5A state championship last year. They lost to current Texas Tech University quarterback Jett Duffey and championship runner-up Mansfield Lake Ridge High School 69-40 in the regional semifinal round.
Midlothian's second-half rebound came after a 22-0 start through two quarters and behind the strength of 5- and 10-yard Landry Songer touchdown runs and a 22-yard field goal from Nolan Samek.
Songer finished with 145 yards rushing (6.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns — more than half of the Panthers 249 total rushing yards. He not only led all rushers regardless of team, but he was also 26 yards shy of outgaining Mesquite Poteet's five running backs (180 yards).
"We came out [in the second half] knowing we had nothing to lose," Songer said about outscoring the Pirates 16 to 3 in the final two quarters. "We were firing and playing football let me know how to play. Mostly, we got rid of all the nerves and just had fun with it. Coach said forget about everything around us and just focus on the task and play at hand. I think we did that. If we had gone into the first half with the same mentality there's no doubt that the score would've been different."
The Panthers running back committee of Songer, Chris Gomez Patrick Mills and JT Cavender battered senior linebacker Byron Law (15 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss, 1 forced fumble) and the Pirate defensive front, helping MHS total 15 first downs and a collective 4.2 YPC.
Quarterback Jarreth Sterns finished 1-for-5 passing for 28 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and 20 rushes for 36 yards.
"The wheels kind of fell off for a couple of minutes, but take away those three minutes you have a different ball game," Wendel said. "I think we played well against a very good football team. We're disappointed with the outcome, but we needed to play a team just like that because of the teams in our district. [Mequite Poteet] plays a similar offense to just about everybody we'll see and I think everybody will have that type of speed.
"I think five weeks from now, we'll be better prepared and suited for an offense like that instead of playing it for the first time. We did a lot of growing up and we're anxious to get back into practice and grow some more."
MHS will look to win their first game of the season against Richardson High School (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Eagle-Mustang Stadium.
Marcus is the sports editor for both the Waxahachie Daily light and Midlothian Mirror. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI. Contact the sports desk at 469-517-1456 and on Twitter by using #WDLsports and #MirrorSportsNB in tweets!