Football roundup: Panthers, Glads last 2 teams standing

MHS advances to third round for first time since 1988; Italy explodes past Alvord to avenge 2020 loss

Daily Light report
Midlothian's Austin Lowe (6) and De'ago Benson (7) told the area trophy after the Panthers beat Lubbock Coronado, 21-17, on Friday night at Abilene Wylie. The Panthers advance to the third round for only the second time in school history and the first time since 1988, and will take on rival Mansfield Summit in the Class 5A Division I region semifinals on Friday in Grand Prairie.

ABILENE — In spite of a huge game-saving stop, the outcome still hung in the balance as the Midlothian Panthers took over possession with Bradyn Smith’s fumble recovery on their own 14-yard line with 4:18 remaining and holding a 4-point lead.

But the Panthers closed out the game by doing what they do best: running the football and chewing up clock.

Junior running back De’ago Benson carried five straight times, including a fourth-and-1 run for a first down on an extremely gutsy call with 2:47 left. Teammate Kaden Smith’s 14-yard run for a first down iced the outcome and allowed the Panthers to hold on to a 21-17 victory over Lubbock Coronado in the area round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs at Hugh Sandifer Stadium.

The Panthers (8-4) are three rounds deep for the first time since 1988 and only the second time in school history, and earned a rematch against District 4-5A (I) rival Mansfield Summit in the Region I semifinals. The game will be played Friday night beginning at 7 p.m. at the Gopher-Warrior Bowl in Grand Prairie.

Benson finished with 95 yards on 17 carries, and Michael Garber added 84 yards and two early touchdowns for the Panthers, who totaled 301 yards on the ground. Quarterback Chad Ragle added a rushing score and completed two passes to Xavionte Jackson for 47 yards.

On defense, the Panthers shined, getting five takeaways, including two interceptions by Jackson and two total scoops by Bradyn Smith.

All of MHS’ scoring was done in the first half as the Panthers raced out to a 21-0 lead before the Mustangs rallied back to within a touchdown at halftime.

The Panthers will get another shot against Mansfield Summit (9-3), which defeated the Panthers, 42-21, on Oct. 29.

The Jaguars last year advanced to the 5A Division I state semifinals, after qualifying for the playoffs over MHS because of a district executive committee ruling that playoff teams would be decided on win percentage. Summit’s games against Colleyville Heritage and Burleson Centennial were canceled because of COVID-19 and were declared no-contests, while the Panthers played and lost both of those matchups.

Next week’s region final could be an all-4-5A affair as well. Colleyville (11-1) travels to Wichita Falls on Saturday to take on Amarillo Tascosa.

Italy quarterback Jayden Saxon fakes a handoff for a keeper during Friday night's Class 2A Division I area-round game against Alvord at the Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletics Complex. The Gladiators avenged last year's playoff loss, winning 56-21.

2A Division I: Italy 56, Alvord 21

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — The Italy Gladiators used a 35-point offensive explosion in the second quarter to take a commanding halftime lead and pulled away for a 56-21 win over Alvord on Friday night at the Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletics Complex, avenging last year’s postseason loss to the Bulldogs in the area round.

The Gladiators (10-2) will face Crawford (12-0) in the Region II semifinals on Friday at 2 p.m. in Alvarado.

Gared Wood opened the scoring for Italy with a 53-yard touchdown with 5:33 left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs scored twice to go ahead, but Jaiden Barr’s 75-yard fumble return for a TD knotted the score and set the stage for a huge Gladiator second frame.

Dredrick Owens broke a 74-yard TD run to put the Glads on top, then the Bulldogs pulled even one more time at 21-all.  A 32-yard run put Italy in the led for good, then Jayden Saxon scored on a 5-yard run, and Julius Williams’ fumble recovery set up Saxon’s pass to Barr on the final play of the half for a 41-21 lead.

Melissa linebacker Kale Brakebill (25) and defensive end Dylan Smith (99) sack Heritage quarterback Kaden Brown during Friday night’s Class 4A Division I area playoff game at Dragon Stadium in Southlake. The Jaguars ended their season with a 50-41 loss.

4A Division I: Melissa 50, Mid. Heritage 41

SOUTHLAKE — The Heritage Jaguars were in a good position with 10:23 remaining in the game after Ben Eskins’ recovery of a blocked punt for a touchdown gave them a 41-28 lead.

But the Melissa Cardinals possess one of the state’s most explosive offenses, and ended the night with 22 unanswered points. Sam Fennegan and Jacob Kusano connected for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Cardinals to a 50-41 win over the Jags in a Class 4A Division I area-round playoff game at Dragon Stadium.

Kaden Brown completed 18 of 26 pass attempts for 219 yards and four touchdowns for the Jags (8-4) and added 121 rushing yards and a score. Jason Barela, Xavier Moten, T.J. Pride and Stetson Sarratt each caught a TD pass from Brown.

Tied at 28 heading into the fourth quarter, Heritage scored twice in less than a minute to go up by 13 points. Brown first found Pride for a 25-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Temerick Johnson blocked a punt and Eskins returned it for a score.

However, Fennegan got Melissa (10-2) back into it with a touchdown pass to Matthew Sanford on fourth-and-goal. Melissa's Jayson Cave intercepted a pass on the next Heritage possession, and Fennegan found Kusano on a 55-yard rainbow 50 seconds later to tie the game at 41.

The Jags blocked the ensuing PAT attempt, but Melissa holder Walker Overman recovered the loose football and ran it into the end zone for a two-point conversation and a 43-41 lead.

Fennegan and Kusano added an insurance touchdown pass with 2:13 remaining on a fourth-down attempt.

The two teams had previously faced off during the regular season, with Melissa winning 48-28 at home on Sept. 17. The Cardinals advance to play Waco La Vega on Friday in the Region II semifinals at McKinney ISD Stadium, with the winner facing either Stephenville or Argyle.

The Palmer Bulldogs run off the field at halftime of Friday night's Class 3A Division II game against Dublin at Joshua's Owl Stadium. The Bulldogs rallied in the second half but their season ended with a 41-34 loss.

3A Division II: Dublin 41, Palmer 34

JOSHUA — Trailing 27-7 at halftime, Palmer’s offense woke up in the second half and the Bulldogs almost completed the rally. But Dublin’s halftime advantage was enough for the Lions to advance to the Class 3A Division II regional semifinals with a 41-34 win on Friday night at Owl Stadium.

Palmer ends at 8-2 overall, but not before winning its third consecutive district championship.

Dublin junior quarterback Chris Teten completed 19 of 26 passes for 406 yards and six touchdowns.

The win over Palmer marked the first area-round victory in the history of the Dublin program, which is significant considering the school has been playing football for more than a century.

The Lions (9-3) advance to face defending 3A Division II state champion Gunter in the regional semifinals on Friday afternoon at Pennington Field in Bedford. The Tigers (12-0) routed Millsap, 62-12, in the area round. 

Dublin scored on the final play of the first half to take a 27-7 lead into the locker room.