Exclamation point: MHS seniors go out with rout

Mirror report

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — The Midlothian Panthers entered Friday night’s season finale against the Richland Royals knowing this would be their playoff game.

Mansfield Summit’s Thursday night win over last-placed Birdville eliminated the Panthers from playoff consideration — even though the Panthers had defeated the Jaguars the week before rather convincingly.

The District 4-5A (I) executive committee ruled that winning percentages would determine the playoff seedings in the district, and Summit had two no-contests declared against top teams Colleyville Heritage and Burleson Centennial.

So the Panthers had a little incentive to go out with a bang — and that they did as they routed the Royals, 68-30, at Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletic Complex.

Senior Laine Martin rushed for 130 yards and four touchdowns in his final high school game and senior quarterback Nick de los Santos bowed out with 201 passing yards and three TDs as the Panthers (6-3, 4-3) romped to 572 total yards and scored on their first seven possessions of the night.

Senior Riley Angel caught four passes for 145 yards and two scores; and Ethan Hill and Vincent Rabozzi each ran for a touchdown in their final high school football game.

The night belonged to the seniors, but several underclassmen played well also. Especially sophomore Xavionte Jackson, who caught a 29-yard touchdown pass to open the game and also added two interceptions, including an 83-yard pick-six in the third quarter.

De los Santos’ toss to Jackson with 7:27 remaining in the first quarter started the onslaught. The Royals answered with a 70-yard run by Dominique Johnson and added a 2-point conversion to briefly edge ahead 8-7, and kept it close for most of a high-scoring first 12 minutes.

But with the passing game clicking, Midlothian’s triple-option offense was unstoppable. De los Santos hit Angel for a 56-yard score, then Richland fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Martin scored the first of his four markers from the 22 on the next play, and the Panthers were off and running.

Richland struck again to close to within 20-15, but four consecutive TDs by the Panthers turned the game into a blowout. Martin added TD runs of eight, two and 17 yards, and de los Santos and Angel connected again, this time from 42 yards out, for a commanding 48-15 halftime lead.

In the second half, Jackson’s second interception of the game was returned for a touchdown, Hill added a 7-yard run, and Rabozzi’s 6-yard run ended the scoring.

A whopping 42 MHS seniors bade farewell in Friday night’s game, but a number of promising underclassmen are expected to return to the squad in 2021.