Back in the fall of 2008, Midway’s current seniors were probably more focused on what happened on the latest episode of iCarly than what their high school brethren were up to.
But for people like John Hubert and Zach Northern and Todd Glaesmann — men now in their late 20s — the ache of 2008 still throbs. The pain particularly flares up whenever someone brings up the word “Longview.”
When Midway meets Longview in the Class 6A Division II state semifinals on Saturday, it will mark the third meeting between the two teams in their long histories. The first two produced a pair of epic playoff classics that won’t soon be forgotten by the participants on either side.
The initial Midway-Longview clash came on Dec. 6, 2008 at Texas Stadium, in the state quarterfinals in Class 4A Division I.
“It was a tremendous football game between two great teams,” said Kenneth Wiethorn, a Midway assistant coach at the time. “We were really loaded that year. You look at all the D-I commitments that Midway has now, but we had a ton that year, too. Of course we had John Hubert (Kansas State), but there was also Ty Horn with TCU, Trey Graham with Texas, Zach Northern went to Baylor. Todd Glaesmann played pro baseball, our quarterback Corey Holmes is still playing pro baseball. On defense, we had Beau Blackshear, Ahmad Dixon and Lee Bristow, who all went to Baylor.
“We had some pretty good athletes. We sure got to be a lot better coaches when we had those kids.”
The game’s heart-pumping conclusion is what lingers the most. But even the 48-plus minutes of game action prior to that delivered plenty of drama. The Lobos pushed out to a 21-7 lead by the half, flashing their East Texas speed in cutting off Midway’s running angles.
Longview couldn’t shut down the Panthers forever, though. Behind a steady diet of Hubert runs, Midway punched its way back. The Panthers pulled to within 35-34 when Glaesmann flung himself over the goal line on a 1-yard dive with seven seconds left in regulation. The plan at that point on the Midway sideline was clear: Let’s go for two and win this baby.
“We were getting tired; it was a physical game,” Wiethorn said. “Our thought was, ‘Let’s go win this thing right here.’”
So Midway lined up for the two-point conversion. Longview called timeout. When the Panthers returned to the field for the conversion, the officials forgot a key duty, Wiethorn said. They forgot to reset the play clock.
The Panthers ended up getting flagged for a delay-of-game penalty. “We started going berserk on the sideline, because we knew it wasn’t a delay,” Wiethorn said. “But nobody caught it, nobody reset the 25-second clock. We were screaming, but we got penalized.”
Backed up five yards, Midway opted to kick the extra point instead of going for two, tying the game at 35 and sending it to overtime. In the extra period, the Panthers scored first when Hubert squirted free on a 9-yard yard TD run. The ensuing PAT gave Midway a 42-35 lead.
Longview responded. After picking up a critical third down, the Lobos cracked the end zone on running back Tyler McCray’s 12-yard run. Then it was the Lobos’ turn to try for two and look for the escape hatch.
Longview quarterback Aaron Johnson darted around the left side of his offensive line, then Midway’s defense began pulling him to the turf inside the 2-yard line. Johnson lunged for the goal line, stretching the ball out, as everyone held their breath. Was he in? Or was he down?
The side judge shot his arms into the air, signaling that Johnson had broken the plane for the score. Pandemonium broke out on the Longview sideline. Midway’s players, meanwhile, sank to the turf in dejection.
In the aftermath, the late Kent Bachtel, Midway’s head coach at the time, handled the defeat with his usual grace. “Tough call,” Bachtel told the Tribune-Herald after the game. “It came down to them stretching out.”
To this day, Midway’s players and coaches from that 2008 team still insist that Johnson’s knee was down before he extended the ball. But it wasn’t easy to tell even on field level, with the mass of bodies surrounding Johnson. It was going to be a soul-crushing call for one team or the other. And of course, instant replay in high school football wasn’t a thing then and still isn’t today.
Wiethorn said that Midway’s offensive line coach at the time had a brother-in-law who served on the chain gang with that same officiating crew the next week.
“He said that the officials were in the dressing room talking before the game, and the head referee said, ‘Fellas, we’ve got to be on tonight, because we screwed up big-time last week,’” Wiethorn said. “The chain gang guy said, ‘Oh yeah, what happened?’ And the referee said, ‘We made a couple of big blunders. The first one was probably the biggest, we didn’t reset the 25-second clock. The second one, we thought the guy got in, but he may have been down.’”
Wiethorn added with a laugh, “Then the guy said, ‘Yeah, my brother-in-law is an assistant coach at Midway.’ Those officials couldn’t get out of that room fast enough.”
A year later, Longview and Midway met again in the playoffs, this time in the second round. And again, the Lobos sent the Panthers home crestfallen, stuffing a late two-point attempt by Midway to preserve a 14-13 victory.
“It was the same play we ran (with Hubert) the year before,” Wiethorn said. “Longview slanted the right direction, and nailed us at the 2-yard line. That one stung too, but the 2008 game, I’ll go to my grave with that one.”
Almost a decade later, Midway is just two wins away from the program’s elusive first state championship. The Panthers are 14-0 — the first time they’ve ever reached that record — and Jeff Hulme’s team has seized the hearts and attention of Midway Nation, including those 2008-09 guys.
“They actually remind me a lot of our 2008 team,” said Wiethorn, who now serves as a Baylor track and field volunteer assistant coach. “They’re tough mentally, they’ve got some outstanding athletes. Anytime you’ve got a quarterback like Tanner Mordecai, that gives you a great chance. They’re a fun group to watch.
“I’ve seen Longview — I still get on Hudl and watch film — and they’re a typical East Texas team, big, strong, fast and well-coached. But if I were a betting man, my money would be on the Panthers.”
A Midway win wouldn’t completely erase the memories of those earlier losses to Longview. But it might help a little.
“Some of us were talking about the game on Facebook, and Todd Glaesmann said, ‘I hope we get Longview, that game still eats at me,’” Wiethorn said. “And John Hubert said, ‘It sure does!’ Hopefully Midway can win this one, because there’s a bunch of guys from 2008 that deserve to smile. It might ease our suffering a little.”