It’s a big deal for a high school football team to play in December. Midway understands that. But the Panthers don’t want to just play one game in the final month of the year. In order to keep the season going, Midway has to take down Mansfield.
That narrative sounds like a regular Friday night in Texas. A high school football team wins while the other loses. But what’s special about the meeting taking place at 7 p.m. under the lights of Baylor’s McLane Stadium is that Midway’s coach Jeff Hulme also coached at Mansfield.
Hulme took the helm at Mansfield in 2008 and led the Tigers to their first playoff win in his first season. Mansfield advanced to the playoffs in seven of the eight years Hulme was there. In 2015, Hulme led the Tigers to the 6A Div. II state semifinals, the deepest run in playoff history.
After that historic run, Hulme took the job at Midway, becoming only the third head football coach for the Panthers in 30 years. He’s in his second year at Midway and has the Panthers in the regional semifinals and ranked in the top-10.
This is just your second season at Midway. Have things gone the way you thought they would when you took the job?
That’s a good question. When you come into a program, you have certain expectations for how you want to build things. The first year went pretty good. I thought we did good job of building up the hype in the offseason and the summer. The kids responded really well. I’ve been extremely proud of our players and our coaches.
We’ve talked about it off and on all season, but what is it about this team that makes them so special?
The camaraderie these kids have for each other. I just left the team dinner now. They like being around each other. They hang out, laugh, play ping-pong. They have a good time behind around each other. When teams understand that, understand that team concept, whatever their role is they embrace it and have a great season. That’s what these young men have done. Everyone has embraced their role. It’s just fun to watch.
Do you get in on the ping-pong action?
I did today. Tanner beat me. I’m not real happy about it. I beat him the first time. He got me today. I’ll have to get him back.
What’s it like for you taking on Mansfield this weekend?
Well to be honest, it’s just another team we’re playing. Some people may not believe that. I’m focused on Midway. It’s a great community, great school. We love it here. I love it here. My daughter loves it here. My wife loves it here. We want our kids to win the next game. And Mansfield is the next game, so we have to beat them. I still know a couple of the players and the coaches. That’s all it is.
How would you describe your time there?
We went to the playoffs seven of the eight years. We did have some successful runs there. I think I did a great job of building the program to where it is now. It’s one of those things where I wanted to leave the program better than I found it. I think that’s certainly the case, and those kids and coaches continue to build on it. We had a great stint when I was there. We had a lot of fun.
What is it about Midway that drew you to the job?
It’s funny because it goes all the way back to when I was in high school at Georgetown. I noticed Midway way back then. I liked how they’re a one-school town. My freshman coach in high school, Mike Horn, was a Midway kid. He played at Midway. He’s in the hall of fame at Midway. He talked about it and how great it was. It’s a school I kept my eye on in my coaching career for a long time.
How special is it for you to still be playing in the month of December?
That’s what you live for. You always say you want to practice on Thanksgiving and play in December. That’s what we get to do. It tells you one thing. It tells you we’re a pretty darn good football team. Not many teams get to do it. We’re excited to be one of those teams this year. I want the kids to enjoy it. But we don’t want to just play one game in December.
What do your guys need to do well on Friday to keep this thing going?
We just have to play Midway football. On defense we have to play physical and aggressive. We have to continue to create turnovers. On offense we have to do what we’ve been doing all year. Our playmakers have to continue to make plays. Our offensive line has to continue to play strong.
What do you expect the crowd will be like on Friday at McLane stadium?
I think it will be electric. I thought we had tremendous crowd last week at AT&T Stadium. Our fans travel well. Byron Nelson was about 30 minutes away, and I thought we had more people there. I expect our crowd to be loud. Mansfield travels well. It’ll be a lot of in. They’ll wear a lot of black and gold. We’ll wear a lot of red, white and blue.