Missed opportunities cost Panthers

MHS loses standout RB Benson for night in loss at Wichita Falls Rider

Mirror report
A swarm of Midlothian defenders tackle a Rider receiver during their matchup on Friday, September 10, 2021 at Memorial Stadium.

WICHITA FALLS — The Rider Raiders made big plays when they had to on defense Friday night at historic Memorial Stadium to keep the Midlothian Panthers out of the end zone.

The Panthers were stopped four times inside the Rider 25-yard line, including twice inside the 15, and the undefeated Raiders slipped away with a 33-27 non-district win.

MHS (1-2) lost junior running back De’ago Benson to an apparent ankle injury after scoring on a 7-yard run on the game’s opening possession. Benson returned to carry the ball three more times before leaving the game for good, finishing with 90 yards on nine carries.

Even without Benson for most of the night, the Panthers still managed 357 yards on the ground and 472 yards total. Michael Garber had 94 yards on 15 carries and Kaden Smith and Caleb Fasoranti scored touchdown runs. Quarterback Chad Ragle was 6-of-16 passing for 115 yards, 51 of which came on a deep pass to Bryant Wesco for the game’s final TD with 5 seconds left.

Rider quarterback Jack Pitts completed 14-of-20 passes for 282 yards and three TDs. Tailback Anquan Willis added 128 rushing yards and two scores, including a 28-yard run with 3:57 remaining in the game that gave Rider a winning cushion.

The Panthers took the opening kickoff and scored on Benson’s run to cap a 75-yard drive, but Benson came down awkwardly as he crossed the goal line and had to be helped of the field.

Rider (3-0) scored twice to take a 14-7 edge on Pitts completions to Xavier Banks for 33 yards and to Reese Frantom for 48 yards with 31 seconds to go in the opening quarter.

The Panthers tied it at 14-all on the second play of the second quarter as Brown broke a 47-yarder, then answered Pitts’ third TD pass of the game to pull even again at 21 with 1:36 left before halftime on a 1-yard plunge by Fasoranti after the Panthers recovered a Rider fumble.

The Raiders, though, had time to regain the lead before halftime, and Pitts hit Tobias Oliver on a 65-yard pass to the 1, where Willis took it in with 46 seconds to go to give Rider a 27-21 halftime lead.

After a scoreless third quarter in which MHS had two touchdowns nullified by penalties, the Raiders finally opened up some daylight on Willis’ 28-yard run late in the fourth.

The Panthers have a district-wide open date this Friday and return to action on Sept. 24 with their District 4-5A (Division I) opener at Birdville’s Fine Arts / Athletics Complex at 7 p.m.