Ground-pounding Panthers hold off Red Oak
Benson rushes for 188 yards and 3 TDs to keep MHS in playoff picture; homecoming next
RED OAK — The game hung in the balance in the fourth quarter as the Red Oak Hawks pulled to within a touchdown of Midlothian on Friday night. But the Panthers did what they have done all year — put the game in the hands of De’ago Benson and the Panthers’ defense.
Benson ran for 188 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, including a momentum-changing 76-yard run at the end of the first half and a crucial one-yard plunge to open up some daylight in the final stanza as the Panthers went on to a 42-27 District 4-5A (Division I) win at Billy Goodloe Stadium, keeping the Panthers in the thick of the playoff hunt following last year’s disappointment.
All of the Panthers’ 337 offensive yards were gained on the ground as they attempted just five passes, four incomplete and one intercepted. Jordon Richburg and Kaden Smith ran tor a touchdown apiece and quarterback Chad Ragle added 55 rushing yards.
For good measure, Tylor Knighton recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown that finally put the game away for the Panthers (4-3, 3-1). Knighton also saved two onside kick attempts on the MHS “hands” team.
In a close game throughout, Red Oak pulled to within 28-21 in the fourth quarter when Jaylon Robinson completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jace Wyatt to cap a 97-yard drive.
But a short kickoff and return by Knighton gave MHS excellent field position, and they pounced. Ragle’s 28-yard keeper took the Panthers to the red zone, and four Benson rushes later they widened the advantage. Immediately afterward on the ensuing kickoff, the Hawks fumbled the ball in the end zone and Knighton jumped on it, making it a 42-21 lead.
The Hawks added a score in the final seconds on a Robinson 20-yard run. Robinson finished 18 of 29 passing for 271 yards and a score for Red Oak (1-6, 1-3), adding 60 yards and two scores on the ground.
The first half ended in a 14-all deadlock. Benson’s 5-yard run opened the scoring at the 5:05 mark of the first quarter, but Robinson kept for a 3-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to pull the Hawks even. The Hawks then took a 14-7 lead on a short Chris Martinez run before Benson ended the half with his 76-yard breakaway.
Midway through the third quarter, the Panthers mounted an 84-yard drive aided by a pair of Red Oak defensive penalties, and Richburg closed it out with a 6-yard run to give MHS the lead back. After holding the Hawks three-and-out, the Panthers went on the move again, and Smith this time did the honors on a 5-yard run to make it a 28-14 game.
Sophomore Zachary Smith had 11 tackles and senior Zachary Allen added 10 tackles to lead the Hawks defensively. Doderick Peoples intercepted a pass.
The Panthers return home on Friday to host Mansfield Legacy for homecoming at MISD Multipurpose Stadium, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. The Broncos notched their first win of the season two weeks ago at Birdville, 41-21. The Hawks, meanwhile, will travel to Mansfield Summit.