As his Midway boys soccer team was kicking off its season at a tournament in Temple on Thursday, Patrick Posey was back in Waco, preparing for surgery.

Even separated by more than 30 miles, Posey was nevertheless not far from the hearts and minds of his players.

Posey, Midway’s head boys soccer coach since 2014 following a 10-year stint as an assistant under Tim O’Leary, is battling brain cancer, and his most recent surgery prevented him from being there to coach the Panthers in their season opener. Yet Posey still hopes to coach his team this season — a testament to his fighting spirit, said Midway athletic director Brad Shelton.

“No question, Patrick’s a fighter,” Shelton said. “He was out there coaching on Tuesday (in a Midway scrimmage) in Round Rock on the coldest day of the year, fighting that winter wind. He definitely wanted to be there (for the season opener), but some things are more important.”

Noah Rolf, Midway’s varsity soccer assistant coach, filled in for Posey as head coach in the Panthers’ 1-0 season-opening win on Thursday at the Temple Tournament, and Rolf is prepared to handle those duties as often as necessary. But he’s hoping he won’t have to fill that role often.

“My prayer is that the surgery goes awesome and that he recovers and gets back to it,” Rolf said. “The school district has done a phenomenal job of stepping up and taking care of him. He always calls it the Midway family, and it really is true.”

As is the case at many high schools, Midway’s coaches consider themselves something of a family. So when one hurts, they all hurt. And perhaps just as importantly, when one fights, they all fight.

“That was evident at the 5K we had for Patrick (in August), as all the coaches and the coaching families were there in support,” Shelton said. “You saw people from the community, former players, everyone rallied around to help. And Coach Posey is just a great man, been in the school district a long time, first as an assistant to Tim O’Leary and then later when he took the head job, and he’s impacted a lot of kids.”

Under Posey, Midway has continued the long string of soccer success that began under O’Leary. Last year, the Panthers went 10-10-2 and made the Class 6A playoffs but ran into a formidable Duncanville team in the bi-district round and bowed out.

Midway will have to replace several key players who graduated, including Super Centex defender Tanner Daniels. But expectations never seem to descend at the Panther soccer pitch, and there is still plenty of talent on hand. The team is led by sophomore midfielder Arturo Ponce, a first-team Super Centex performer and the District 8-6A midfielder of the year last year as a freshman, when he tallied eight goals and 10 assists.

“We’ve got a younger team, with a fair amount of sophomores, but they’re really talented,” Rolf said. “It’ll be interesting to see them find their form and see how the season takes shape. We’re pretty excited about it.”

The Panthers’ deepest hope is that Posey returns to the sideline soon. But even if his time away is extended, he is still with the team.

“We actually took a picture wearing beanies that said Posey on them, ‘Posey Strong,’” Rolf said. “All the guys wore their beanies in the picture today. They’re really great and supportive of Coach.”

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