MAYPEARL — The Maypearl Panther’s 38-24 win against Rio Vista High School on Thursday night at W.G. Roesler Stadium marked its 10th straight win, ensuring an unblemished finish to the season.
The win was only the third game where the team allowed more than 12 points. Though that fact may be eye opening, a more impressive statistic may be that this is the second year in a row a Maypearl junior varsity team has gone undefeated.
“Almost every kid on that team is impressive at every position,” said Maypearl Panthers head coach Tal Sanders about his 20-win team. “They play so team-oriented. They never get upset with each other and pick each other up. It’s as good of a team concept as I’ve seen in a long time.”
That team concept was bolstered by the arrival of two new players, one a transfer student from Red Oak High School and the other from Arlington.
Sophomore running back and free safety Jagger Dixon came to Maypearl by way of Red Oak to find playing time and an atmosphere that embraced the game of football rather than glamorized it. Dixon said he gladly travels the 30 or so minutes to to Maypearl because of the winning atmosphere created by Maypearl ISD, Sanders and his teammates.
“I wanted be in a smaller school, like Red Oak (High School) used to be,” Dixon said. “In Maypearl, everyone knows each other. Here, the players are more serious about football instead of playing just to wear a jersey.
“We’re all proud of what we’ve done. No matter what the game is like, we trust each other and we don’t have to worry about if the guy on my left or my right is going to do his job.”
Maypearl newcomer Lonnie Brooks Jr., too, embraces the je ne saisquoi that makes this team special. Brooks said in Arlington students were forced into cliques, but at Maypearl it’s much, much different.
“Coaches didn’t really talk to you if they didn’t know you,” Brooks Jr. said about day-to-day life at Arlington High School. “Coaches here actually take the time to have a conversation with you.”
Brooks Jr. said trust and respect were born out of those interactions, a level of comfort that left both he and Dixon hopeful going into varsity next season.
“We want to get ready for college and going to state,” the boys said unison.
“It’s what I have in my future for me,” Brooks Jr. continued. “My dad, Lonnie Brooks Sr., was offered a spot at Florida State (University), but didn’t get to go because he got hurt his senior year. I look up to my dad, but I also think I want to be better than him. The only way to do that is play football.”
Sanders said the Panthers’ future is bright with the amount of young talent sitting in the classrooms and walking the halls of Maypearl High School and this junior varsity team is one of the most fun teams he’s had the pleasure of leading in 27 years of high school football.
“This was a really fun team to coach,” Sanders said. “Their attitude and their character is exemplary. You ask them to do something, they’re doing it as hard as they can and as best as they can. You say go through the wall, they’re running through it.
“When you start building confidence and you win, you start beating teams you’re not supposed to because you believe you’re supposed to win.”