Tanner Mordecai completed a pass to C.J. Williams down the home sideline. After Williams ran a few steps, he flipped the ball back to Kaitori Leveston. The senior offensive lineman made it all the way down to the 30-yard line for the 17-yard gain.
That play set up a 14-yard touchdown pass to Williams, his third of the first half, as Midway dominated Harker Heights, 42-9, Friday night at Panther Stadium.
“We’ve been working on that for a few weeks,” Midway coach Jeff Hulme said. “He’s a senior. He does great for us. We wanted to throw him a bone a little bit.”
The Panther faithful, of course, went wild after the trickery late in the first half. But it wasn’t the only time the home crowd leapt to their feet as Midway hit Harker Heights for big play after big play.
Overall — with “big plays” meaning run plays of 12 or more yards and pass plays of 20 or more yards — the Panthers finished with eight against the Knights.
“I thought our offense did great,” Hulme said. “We came out firing on all cylinders in the first half.”
It started the first snap of the game when Mordecai hit Williams for the 36 yard gain. Mordecai added a 20-yard run before a 17-yard gain by the senior quarterback put the Panthers on the board.
Two drives later, Midway needed only three plays to score from its own 29-yard line. Mordecai completed a 40-yard pass to Demarcus Degrate before James Fullbright took over. The junior running back ran for 13 yards before the offensive line cleared the way to the end zone for an 18-yard score.
The biggest play of the night came later in the second quarter. Williams sped past his defender down the left side of the field, and Mordecai hit him in stride for a 65-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 28-3 advantage.
Williams finished the night with six catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Mordecai had 256 passing yards and completed 13 of 22 pass attempts for four touchdowns. James Fullbright balanced out the air attack with 77 rush yards and a touchdown.
While the offense rolled, the defense stepped up as well. After allowing 91 yards to Harker Heights in the first quarter — 80 of which belonged to running back Jameel Hodges — the Panthers gave up only 23 in the second quarter.
“We finished tackles,” Hulme said. “We had guys there in the first quarter. Number 20 is good. He slipped through us a few times. We did a better job of wrapping up and finishing the tackles, really.”
The Knights threatened to even the score halfway through the first quarter. A 32-yard carry by Hodges set Harker Heights up at the Midway 3-yard line. The Panther defense answered as the Knights had to settle for a field goal. The biggest stop of the series came on third down as Harker Heights lined up on the one-yard line. Jaquan Tillis took the handoff and was stuffed by Xavier Abalos for a two-yard loss.
The defense continued its solid play as Jaxon Player recovered a fumble on the Knights’ first play merely 14 seconds into the third quarter. Midway’s offense took over from there as Mordecai completed a 15-yard pass to Degrate for the touchdown a minute later.
“When you get up that big, it’s hard sometimes to keep your focus in the third quarter,” Hulme said. “We went down and scored and did what we needed to do. That allowed us to play everybody. Everybody out here practices their butts off. Tonight to be able to get them all in was a big plus.”
Harker Heights didn’t find the end zone until the fourth quarter. Marcel Ramirez launched a pass that was just out of reach of a pair of Midway defensive backs but landed in the hands of Jaquan Tillis at the one-yard line. Two plays later, Tillis bounced off the defensive line in front of him, rolled to his left and sprinted past everyone for the score. The Panthers blocked the point after attempt.
“I thought it was a great bounce back from Copperas Cove,” Hulme said. “I thought our defense really stepped up. The way Harker Heights runs the ball, they present a lot of problems. I think that got our defense’s attention this week in practice. We had a great week of practice. It showed tonight.”
The win moved Midway to 6-0 on the season. Two games into district play, Hulme still sees areas his team needs to improve.
“I still think we have a lot of improvements on defense,” Hulme said. “The first quarter we were there. We just have to finish tackles. I think I saw some hiccups on special teams tonight. We’ve got to eliminate penalties. I bet we’re the most penalized team in the district. We have to eliminate that.”