Nearly four decades ago the greatest season in Midlothian football history was played.
Whatever the outcome of Friday’s home game against Aledo (6 p.m. at Midlothian ISD Stadium), the Panthers will either set a record for most victories in a season or end the 2022 campaign having matched the most wins ever.
With all due respect to the 1984 Panthers, who finished 12-1, this year’s group would just as soon have the record all to themselves.
Of course, comparisons are being made between this year’s squad and the 1984 team.
“This team is proportionately bigger,” said James Smith, an assistant coach in 1984.
“The 1984 team was a lot of small, quick guys. This team has a little more size to it. The momentum just built and built, in both situations the kids have come together, the community has come together, it’s great for the community.
Sensational Running Backs
Both teams were and are led by sensational running backs. Dennis Washington, who put together back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons, is in the Midlothian Hall of Honor, as is the 1984 team. Deago Benson, who has 1,075 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing this season (3,050 yards, 35 TD in career) appears to be headed there with this year’s team as well.
“That 1984 team was pretty dang good. It was Dennis Washington left, Dennis Washington right,” recalled Tater Beard, who broadcasts Panther games.
The 1984 team was eliminated by another historical program, the Daingerfield Tigers, who had a three-year run of dominance with one of the best defenses ever nationally.
Aledo holds the state record with 10 state championships, including nine since 2009.
Either Aledo or the team that ousted them from the playoffs, has won state 12 times in the past 13 seasons. Therefore, things bode well should the Panthers emerge victorious Friday.
“I’ve seen some interesting things happen in the playoffs,” Smith said. “If we get by Aledo, we definitely have a chance to win state.”
A Special Season For More Than Record Wins
This season has also been special for Panthers coach Doug Wendel for a couple other reasons. The 56-28 second-round playoff victory against Amarillo last week was his 100th career victory as a head coach, 52 of those in Midlothian.
Also, on the team to help celebrate that moment are his sons Beau, a freshman linebacker and junior quarterback Drew.
“I enjoy going to practice every day and seeing them on the field. I enjoy seeing them be a part of the program,” Wendel said. “It’s not going to last forever.”
Though Wendel wasn’t around when the 1984 team was making program history, he does know some folks connected to those days.
“Through our youth league football camp I’ve gotten to know some of those guys. They’re cheering for us,” Wendel said.
The Panthers are also playing for late assistant coach Clif White. He lost his battle with a rare form of bladder cancer recently. Despite his condition, White continued to show up for work up until his death.
He helped the Panthers get off to a 7-0 start before passing away.
“He loved the Panthers as much or more than anybody ever has,” Wendel said, adding that White’s son Maverick still comes into the locker room to visit the team.
History of close contests
This will be the first meeting between Midlothian and Aledo in the postseason. The Panthers lead the all-time series, which dates to the mid-1940s by a 6-4 margin.
The series has featured many close games, with Aledo holding an all-time 160-158 scoring advantage.
The last time the teams played was in 2019. The Panthers came extremely close to ending what was then an 85-game district winning streak for the Bearcats (now 111 straight), falling 34-28 in overtime.
Most are expecting Friday’s game to be another close one in the series.
“Each of the last three weeks we’ve improved,” Wendel said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best game.”
Game Preview: Aledo Bearcats (10-2) vs. Midlothian Panthers (12-0)
6 p.m. Friday, Midlothian ISD Stadium (Tickets for the Panther game will be released at midnight tonight at www.misd.gs/tickets)
Winning streaks: Aledo 10, Midlothian 12.
State ranks: Aledo No. 3, Midlothian No. 5.
Aledo in playoffs: Defeated Killeen Shoemaker (8-3) in bidistrict, 37-0; defeated Lubbock
Cooper (9-3) in area, 56-28.
Midlothian in playoffs: Defeated Justin Northwest (6-5) in bidistrict, 51-34; defeated Amarillo (6-6) in area, 56-28.
Aledo offensive leaders: QB Hauss Hejny, 1,425 yards, 15 TD, 4 interceptions passing, 69 carries, 913 yards, 11 TD rushing; RB Hawk Patrick-Daniels, 152 carries, 1,086 yards, 16 TD rushing, 6 catches, 88 yards, 1 TD receiving; WR Jalen Pope, 38 catches, 722 yards, 10 TD.
Midlothian offensive leaders: QB Chad Ragle, 1,192 yards, 17 TD, 2 interceptions passing, 138 carries, 1,001 yards, 8 TD rushing; RB Deago Benson, 110 carries, 1,075 yards, 15 TD rushing, 12 catches, 207 yards, 4 TD receiving; Bryant Wesco, 58 catches, 1,132 yards, 17 TD.
Aledo defensive leaders: LB Dahvon Keys, 56 tackles, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries; DT/DE Ansel Din-Mbuh, 3 tackles for loss, 3 sacks; CB Jaden Allen, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery.
Midlothian defensive leaders: DB Carsen Bates, 70 tackles, fumble recovery; LB Ny’tori
Burnett, 69 tackles, 6 for loss, DT/DE Bryce Starlin, 6 tackles for loss, 4 sacks.
Aledo-opponents scoring: 46.3-15.9.
Midlothian-opponents scoring: 45.1-18.2
Aledo turnovers-takeaways: 13 turnovers, 19 takeaways.
Midlothian turnovers-takeaways: 8 turnovers, 12 takeaways.
So, make plans to pack the stadium this Friday as the Panthers have a chance to make history.