HORSESHOE BAY, Texas — Within the 53.85 square miles that make up the city limits of Midlothian, Texas, there is constantly evolving battle between an established powerhouse and an upstart and new-look institution.
They rarely mix — except in the case of wrestling and the joined 4A and 5A competition — because of different UIL classifications and consistently wage a silent war for which school holds city supremacy.
The upstart's appearance in the University Interscholastic League 5A Golf State Tournament at Apple Rock Horseshoe Bay Resort and sixth-place team and third-place individual finishes, though, helped blur lines and brought the city under a single banner, if only temporarily.
"It's a huge deal to me and each of the five guys that went down there because I had three seniors and two juniors that played for me at Midlothian High School," said Brant Bennett, the head golf coach at Midlothian Heritage High School. "The two juniors had played for me as freshmen and my three seniors played for me as freshmen and sophomores, too. Luke and Will (Traylor) played for me four years on the varsity level. It's kind of a unique situation and we have a lot of loyalty toward Midlothian because we were there. I worked there for nine years and these guys played half their career there. They still wear their Midlothian hats to practice sometimes. It's an awesome situation because it may say Midlothian Heritage in the record books but it's really a Midlothian and Midlothian Heritage accomplishment."
Luke and Will and their sisters Anna and Caroline Traylor — affectionally referred to as "The Quad" —played for Bennett for in Midlothian blue and white and Midlothian Heritage blue and red.
Despite closing its second year as a high school in the city, Midlothian Heritage has accomplished things more a stab list schools have not — a basketball state tourney berth, football and girls soccer regional quarterfinal appearance and back-to-back baseball playoffs appearances. Unlike those successes, the Jaguars' state golf berth was done with talent born at one school and cultivated at the other.
Luke and Will were freshman standouts as Panthers and Brad Needham, Dawson Sanders and Will Welch helped make this year's Jaguar team one of the most successful boys' teams in Midlothian history. Bennet, a longtime MISD employee, said Will stepped in the familiar shoes of another boy he coached to state.
"He's our leader and he tied a kid I had at Midlothian High School named Cody Taylor. Those two both finished third in the state and that is definitely the lowest boys' individual finish in MISD history," Bennett continued. "The third place is awesome, but Will got to do something Cody didn't. He got to play with his team at state and finish top 10 with them. He was the low guy on our team and the kid that won it was by himself. It says a lot in the sport of high school golf when you take a team to state. The team always takes precedence over the individual."
Will's talent doesn't begin or end on the green, though. He played basketball with Head Coach Andy Slye last year during the basketball team's inaugural season but decided to focus on golf during his final high school season.
The fruits of his labor — grueling days of carrying a 40 to 50 pound kit of clubs akin to the physical exertion he felt on the hardwood — were top 10 individual and team finishes.
"You don't get perfect weather all the time," Will said. "If you want rain, just schedule a high school golf tournament. It was a lot of rolling hills at Horseshoe Bay and large terrain changes in the Hill Country. Lubbock is Lubbock and we've had some crazy weather conditions there in the past. We're not playing in the summertime, in 90-degree weather and no wind. The wind at regionals was gusting between 30 and 40 MPH."
During the state tournament, the five boys scored a collective 658 strokes, which was behind only Argyle (1st, 633), Fredricksburg (2nd, 646), Monahans (3rd, 649), Robinson (4th, 649) and Texarkana Pleasant Grove (5th, 654) High Schools. The Monahans won a sudden-death playoff to claim third place in the tournament.
The team also claimed a third finish during the regional meet, their second of back-to-back district championships, two season tournament championships and eight top three finishes in 2016 and 2017.
Will, who earned the first golfing state medal in MHHS history, finished third behind Brownwood's Jaryn Pruitt and Madisonville's Sam Bennett after earning 77 strokes on day one and 74 strokes on day two in Horseshoe Bay. His two-day total (151) was only five strokes behind Bennett (146) and 10 strokes behind Pruitt (141), the 4A state champ.
"I felt like we had a really good chance at getting top three as a team after the first day, so it wasn't like I was doing it all on my own," Will said. "We were doing as a team and that helps with the pressure when you know you've got backup and didn't feel like you have to do it all by yourself and, as a team, we could make it into the top three."
The Jaguars were four strokes behind fourth-place Monahans and Pleasant Grove with 334 strokes after one day of tournament play. They trailed Argyle's Cole Wilson, Logan Diomede, Will Gilster, Parker Love and Luke Griggs and were 22 strokes away from first place.
Will and the Midlothian Heritage fivesome weren't the only success in the city, either. Less than a week before junior female golfer Jasmine Zhang and Hall of Fame Head Coach Laura Hargrove lit Bastrop, Texas on fire with a fifth-place finish during her first state tournament.
The Lady Panther's success, as well as that of the Jaguars, may be evidence of the rivalry-erasing talent that lies buried underneath the surface in Midlothian.
Though one school's secondary color is white and the other's primary is red, they are inevitably linked by the hue of blue.
While it was the last medal he will claim before he makes the trek to either Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma or Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, Will said the foundation he and his teammates carved into the earth made sure that it won't be the last either school sees in the future. He also noted the sixth-place finish, rather than the medal, was the true cap to a long journey through the courses of Texas and the sport of golf.
"When I started playing, I only played because it was something I did with my dad," Will said. "We did little tournaments here and there, but I never thought then, I'd be where I am now — a member of one of the best golf teams in Texas."
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI