This is probably Midlothian’s last season to compete in class 4A as the Blue Crew can expect to move up to class 5A next season.
The Panthers began last season with a 26-6 loss to the Poteet Pirates and hope to repay the favor in the season opener for both schools at 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Midlothian hopes to establish a powerful running game behind the running of Caleb McEachern.
In order to do so, the Panthers will have to open up some holes with their big offensive linemen - Preston Thigpen (6-1, 220) at center, surrounded by Clint Mentzel (6-5, 285), Allen Hale (6-4, 290), Garrick Smitherman (6-3, 300) and athletic tight end Caleb Russell (6-3, 245).
Junior Bryce Petty is back at quarterback, but is faced with an inexperienced set of receivers.
Russell is a capable pass catcher, but the slot receivers and wide outs need to assert themselves.
On defense the Panthers return nine starters from last years’ unit.
Michael Autwell, Kalen Jenkins and Justin Horton will man the front. Linebackers Landon Freeman and James Jackson are the workhorses of the Panther defense and will unload on the opposing offense in a hurry.
The secondary is led by Dante Floyd, Ross Knight and Brandon Reichenau.
Head coach Robby Clark and defensive coordinator Craig Carpenter are in their second season at Midlothian and have high expectations.
Mesquite Poteet is coming off an 8-3 season, in which they 5-2 in tough District 10-4A, but were hard hit by graduation.
The Pirates need to fill a lot of offensive skill positions early this season.
The only experienced running back returning is junior Chris Bibins, who had only 14 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown last season.
Bibins has decent size (5-9, 185) but is very quick at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Andrew Maddox moves to quarterback from safety. He has not thrown a pass as a varsity quarterback and will need to assert himself quickly.
The leading pass receiver returning for the Pirates is Josh Preston, who had only six catches for 56 yards in 2006.
Linebackers Marvin Gunnells and Dustin Wardell are very active. The defensive line with Kensley Sewell, Dale Dalida, Aaron Hutchins and Colby Tolbert are stout against the run and provide good pass rushing skills.