As Cedar Ridge defenders chased him around the backfield, Tanner Mordecai rolled to his left and found C.J. Williams sprinting down the sidelines. Mordecai launched a pass off his back foot that Williams ran under, hauled in and took all the way to the end zone for the 47-yard touchdown.
After James Fullbright and the Panthers ran for more than 250 yards in their season-opening win against Cedar Park, the Raiders took Midway’s ground game away. But it didn’t matter.
Behind Mordecai, the Panthers aired it out in a 34-19 victory Friday night in Hewitt.
“Tanner just makes plays,” Midway coach Jeff Hulme said. “He’s such a competitor. Running over this kid right here and getting a bloody nose. That’s what you want from your leader. The linemen look at that and say, ‘Hey, our quarterback got a bloody nose. Let’s go bloody our nose for him. They feed off that. He feeds off that. He’s the leader of our team for a reason.”
The Midway quarterback, and Oklahoma commit, finished the night 25 of 39 through the air for four touchdowns and no interceptions. His favorite target was C.J. Williams who hauled in seven catches for 99 yards. D’Ante Thomas was right behind him with 85 yards on nine catches.
“That’s a strength for us,” Hulme said. “We’ve got some good receivers. We’re excited where we are with them and look forward to getting better.”
Tanner Mordecai is competitive in everything. But if he had to choose, outside of football, …
After three carries for a handful of yards by Fullbright, including a three-yard gain on 4th-and-2, Mordecai found Thomas darting through the middle of the field. And Thomas did the rest of the work, dodging a defender here and sprinting past outstretched arms there as he zigged and zagged his way into the end zone with time running out in the first quarter.
The touchdown to Williams down the Cedar Ridge sideline happyened less than five minutes later to give the Panthers a 14-0 advantage.
The Raiders answered midway through the second quarter as Jaylen Ellis beat his man and got behind the defense for a wide open 53-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Ezekiel Coss.
As the offense rolled, the Midway defense shouldn’t be forgotten. The first touchdown drive was set up by a huge interception on 3rd-and-10 by Grant Graves which set up the drive at the Cedar Ridge 43-yard line.
“I think the defense knew that the offense was going to score some more,” Hulme said. “When they’ve got that confidence in the offense, they’re just flying around and making plays.”
The Raider offense found success behind its running back Simi Bakare. On Cedar Ridge’s first play from scrimmage in the second half, it seemed that the Midway defense had Bakare stuffed at the line. But Bakare, somehow, broke free and took off for the 60-yard touchdown to make the score 14-12.
Midway answered the following drive as a 12-yard touchdown to Thomas from Mordecai capped an 11 play drive to give the Panthers a 21-12 edge.
On the final play of the third quarter, Mordecai trucked over a defender for a nine-yard gain. He ran off the field to the trainers as they held a towel to his nose. He missed the rest of the drive but it didn’t matter. Fullbright took over with runs off 33 yards and nine yards before a 17-yard touchdown run to add to Midway’s lead.
“He’s a bowling ball,” Hulme said. “Cedar Park found that out last week second half. James just wears on you. He’s hard to tackle to begin with. Then you’ve got those big offensive linemen. Come third and fourth quarter it makes it hard.”
Mordecai returned to the game and, two drives later, hit David Priebe on a slant that the senior tight end ran 31 yards for a touchdown.
Defensively, the Panthers continued to come up with big plays as Roel Requena forced a fumble that Midway recovered with just over five minutes to play in the fourth quarter on the Cedar Ridge 36-yard line.
Midway scored three plays later off a 31-yard pass from Mordecai to David Priebe.
“Our effort really stands out,” Hulme said. “Defensively our effort was tremendous. We give up 12 points in the first half and basically a shut out in the second half. They scored there at the very end. I think our kids are flying to the ball. They’re believing in each other. They’re playing for each other. That, to me, stands out in these first two games.”