At arm’s length: MHS ground game powers past Forney
Panthers rack up 400 rushing yards in first home appearance of new season
There was no stopping the Midlothian Panthers on the ground during Friday night’s home opener against Forney at MISD Multipurpose Stadium.
The Panthers racked up exactly 400 rushing yards and finished with 465 total yards of offense and the defense pitched a first-half shutout in a 42-13 victory over the Forney Jackrabbits.
“What a great time we all had being back in a packed MISD Stadium,” head coach Doug Wendel said in his weekly newsletter. “The team fed off the energy in the crowd! Our focus all week was on improvement within each position group and it showed up.”
LJ Adineran carried 12 times for 127 yards and a touchdown, and De’ago Benson, Jordon Richburg and Kaden Smith each added a scoring run. Quarterback Chad Ragle was an efficient 6-of-9 through the air for 65 yards and two TDs, both to Xavionte Jackson.
Defensively, Marcus McLemore returned an interception for a TD that was nullified by a penalty and Carsen Bates also picked off a pass for the Panthers.
In fact, the only fly in the ointment for MHS was penalties — the Panthers were flagged nine times for a total of 142 yards.
After holding Forney three-and-out to start the game, the Panthers (1-1) went 59 yards on 11 consecutive run plays, with Benson punching it in from a yard out. The first of six perfect Tyson Williams kicks made it 7-0.
The Panthers punted on their second possession, but got the ball back and went on the move again, this time mixing in a couple of passes to devastating effect. After a Ragle throw to Jackson put MHS in the red zone, the two hooked up from 8 yards out for the score, making it 14-0 with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter.
MHS was pinned deep by a Jackrabbit punt at its own 4-yard line, but two-way player Bates uncorked a 44-yard run to get the Panthers out of the hole. Three plays later, Adineran scored on a 7-yard run to make it 21-0.
Forney was knocking at the door in the final seconds of the first half when McLemore stepped in front of a pass by Forney’s Jake White at the goal line and returned it all the way, but a block in the back brought the ball out to the Forney 24 with 6 seconds left. But no matter, because on the final play of the half, Ragle threw to Jackson for a 13-yard TD, and the Panthers went into the locker room up 28-0.
In the second half, Bates’ interception at the Forney 27 set up a quick drive, with Richburg doing the scoring honors this time for a 35-0 lead with 4:35 to go in the third.
The Jackrabbits (1-1) finally got on the scoreboard later in the quarter as White sneaked in from the 1. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Jackrabbits saw the end zone again as White connected with Zachary Fuller on a 4-yard toss. But MHS' Smith ended the scoring with 1:45 left on a 12-yard run.
The Panthers travel to Wichita Falls’ Memorial Stadium this Friday night to take on the Rider Raiders. Last year’s game was called off two hours before kickoff because of discovery of a positive COVID-19 test within the MHS program. Friday’s kickoff is set for 7 p.m.