Midway is moving on in the playoffs, but the Panthers players took time to enjoy the moment on Friday night.
Panthers quarterback Tanner Mordecai passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns and the Midway defense came up with the big plays it needed to grasp a 46-18 victory over Grand Prairie at Panther Stadium.
Following the win, the Midway players held up the bi-district gold ball and chanted with the student section, then the players got together for group pictures on the field before leaving their home turf for the last time this season.
Meanwhile, the Midway coaches huddled around a smartphone to see who their next playoff opponent would be. Soon after the Midway game ended, Trophy Club Byron Nelson finished off a 28-24 victory over Denton Guyer.
So the Panthers (11-0) will face Byron Nelson at 8 p.m. on Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Midway has had plenty of playoff success in recent years, but it’s been since 2015 that the Panthers won a playoff game. Cedar Hill defeated Midway on its home turf to start the playoffs last season.
“The hardest playoff victory is the first one because if you don’t get it there are no second chances,” Midway coach Jeff Hulme said. “Once you get this first one, you can maybe get on a roll. We took that first step tonight and now we’re going to try to take step two next week.”
Mordecai threw a 23-yard arrow to wide receiver Demarcus Degrate for a touchdown that gave the Panthers a 40-9 lead with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
That essentially iced the victory for Midway, but the Panthers had a little fun in the fourth quarter when defensive lineman Jaxon Player got a handoff and scored on a three-yard touchdown run.
Midway running back James Fullbright did most of the damage on the ground as he rushed for 155 yards and two TDs on 19 carries.
Midway wide receiver C.J. Williams caught eight passes for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Before all of that, though, Grand Prairie shocked the home crowd when running back Tylexis Straughter broke through the initial wave of Midway defenders and found open field on the game’s first offensive play. Straughter motored 75 yards for a touchdown that put the Gophers ahead, 7-0, just 14 seconds into the contest.
The Gophers then recovered the ensuing kickoff when Midway failed to field it cleanly. Grand Prairie linebacker Tredon Moore fell on the loose ball at the Midway 42.
But the Panthers defense kept a bad start from getting worse by forcing Grand Prairie to go three-and-out.
When Midway finally got its offense on the field, the Panthers quickly found their rhythm.
Mordecai ran 17 yards on Midway’s first offensive play. Four plays later, Mordecai went deep to find Williams for a 42-yard gain to the Gophers’ 13.
Fullbright capped the 84-yard touchdown drive with a four-yard scoring run, tying it at 7.
“What I love about this team is we’ve had adversity all year and we haven’t panicked I don’t think and we didn’t panic tonight,” Hulme said. “Once the offense started scoring a little bit, the defense settled down and everything worked out.”
Panthers defensive back Parker Nall went up to grab an interception of Grand Prairie starting quarterback Leo Rodriguez to stop the Gophers ensuing possession. That gave Midway the ball at the Grand Prairie 36 and a wave of momentum.
Mordecai connected with wide receiver Demarcus Degrate on a crossing pattern that gained 26 yards to the Gopher 10. Three plays later, Mordecai followed a convoy of blockers into the end zone on a five-yard touchdown run.
The Moredcai-to-Williams pipeline kept cranking out big plays for the remainder of the first half. Early in the second quarter, the Panthers QB converted a fourth-and-13 by hitting Williams for a 16-yard touchdown.
Williams’ first score of the night gave Midway a 21-7 lead with 10:36 left in the second quarter.
Midway defensive back Trevius Hodges came up with a key tackle for loss when he dropped Gopher running back Adrion Taylor for a 1-yard setback on third-and-4 from the Panthers’ 12. That forced a Grand Prairie field goal attempt, which banged off the left upright and fell away no good.
Midway’s offense took over at its own 20 with 39 second left before halftime, but that only allowed the Panthers to flex.
Mordecai dropped off an underneath pass to D’Ante Thomas, who turned it into a 31-yard gain. Then Mordecai tossed to Williams for 42 yards to the Gopher 7.
Midway called timeout with 16 seconds left in the second quarter. The Panthers called Williams’ number again and Mordecai found him for the seven-yard score with 12 seconds left before the break.
“I saw the safety over the top of me and whenever they switched I knew I was going to be wide open,” Williams said. “Tanner just threw a dart at me and I had to catch it.”
Mordecai passed for 218 yards in the first half, going to Williams four times for 107, leading the Panthers to a 28-7 halftime lead.