The Midlothian Panthers varsity football team closed out their 2014 campaign Friday night against the Mansfield Tigers at RL Anderson Stadium in Mansfield. The Panthers fell to Mansfield by a final of 62-37, but the team was eliminated last week from postseason play. The Tigers had already secured their playoff spot and were coming off two straight district wins, including last week’s drumming of the nationally ranked Cedar Hill High Longhorns, 49-34.
Midlothian's head coach Lee Wiginton said he was excited for his team to finish the season against Mansfield.
“People asked if we would start some of the younger players tonight but what I told our men was that we were playing to win. We will play this game as if it were our state playoff championship.”
Wiginton said the team was prepared and had an aggressive game plan in place.
Midlothian won the toss and deferred to Mansfield, but the Panthers caught Mansfield off-guard when they opened with an onside kick and recovered the ball at their own 47 yard line. However, their drive stalled on four straight incomplete passes from senior quarterback Jimmy Fouse (No. 7) and Mansfield took over on downs.
The Tigers senior quarterback Aaron Funk began his first drive with a 11-yard pass to sophomore receiver Saiid Adebo, followed up with a 10-yard run by sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks got the ball twice more for runs of nine and 23 yards, eventually he put the ball in the end zone for the first score of the evening and the Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
Midlothian went three and out again on their second possession, ending with a 32-yard punt by Fouse that came to a stop near the Mansfield 42 yard line.
Funk began the second drive with another pass to Adebo for a huge 38-yard gain to drive Mansfield down to Midlothian's 20 yard line. The Panthers could not stop the Tigers rushing game, which powered its way across the goal line from a yard out. Mansfield’s lead stood at 13-0 after an unsuccessful point-after touchdown.
Midlothian’s offense finally found traction on their third drive of the night when the Panthers' Fouse completed a pass to freshman Jarreth Sterns (No. 4) for a 13-yard gain. Fouse then targeted Adam Schroeder (No. 8) and Caden Sterns (No. 15) for passes of eight and ten yards. Two plays later, Fouse connected with Sterns for the first Midlothian touchdown of the night, this one on a 16-yard pass.
Midlothian attempted a second onside kick, but the Tigers were prepared this time and recovered the ball at in Midlothian territory. Mansfield answered just one play later when Funk found Adebo for another touchdown pass, which put the score at 20-6, Mansfield.
On Midlothian's next offensive drive the team went three-and-out for the third time and were forced to punt the ball, which pinned Mansfield on their own 4 yard line. Funk dug his team out of the hole without worry on a 67-yard bomb to Brooks. Two running plays would be all Mansfield would need to punch it in again for the first score of the second period, which extended the Tigers' lead to 27-6.
The Panthers would score two more times before the half on drives of 68 and 50 yards, using only a five minute span. The teams headed to the locker room at the half with the Tigers in the lead 34-20.
In the last half of play Midlothian drove the ball 64 yards on their second drive, but were unable to convert a third-and-seven from 12 yards out. The score was cut to eleven points after Midlothian's kicker Garrett Wolf (No. 64) put the ball between the uprights.
At the 2:24 mark of the third quarter, Mansfield's offense exploded and sent the game out of the Panthers' reach, with a 48-23 lead.
Fouse did end up scoring two more Panther touchdown's after finding his target Sutton for a 42-yard and 67-yard passing score. These were Sutton’s 12th and 13th touchdown receptions on the year. Despite the two scoring drives from the Midlothian offense, Mansfield matched the points with a pair of touchdowns of their own, one to Adebo and the other to Ashmeet Sing.The game ended and gave Midlothian one more loss on the season, 62-37.
Midlothian posted a 1-5 record in district play, while Mansfield finished 4-2, good enough to land the Tigers a post-season run.
Mansfield will face Southlake Carroll Nov. 14 at AT&T Stadium (also known as Cowboys' Stadium).
Next season the Panthers will replace their two-year starting quarterback Jimmy Fouse, as well as their leading rusher, Najee Mustafaa (No. 28), who nearly tallied up 1,000 yards this season.
Freshmen brothers Caden and Jarreth Sterns have shown early promise and top receiver Keion Sutton will be back for his senior year. The defensive secondary will certainly a focus of the coach staff as well. A change of district is on the horizon for the Panthers since a second high school (Heritage High School) is new to the town this year. Unfortunately the Panthers will remain in the tough, CLass 6A Region I District 8 at least two more years.