FRISCO — Muenster had no chance, and Mart made sure the Hornets knew that from the kick. If Roddrell Freeman’s touchdown run less than three minutes into the game didn’t get that message across, maybe the Panthers’ second touchdown a mere 20 seconds later was more effective. And if that wasn’t enough, Mart’s four touchdown lead after 12 minutes of play had to have sent the message loud and clear.
These Panthers are legit and hungrier than ever to defend their state title. By the way they throttled Muenster to the tune of 59-0 Thursday night at the Ford Center at the Star in the regional finals, Mart showed it has what it takes to add some more hardware to the trophy case.
“Playing Muenster, the defending state champions in (Class 2A) Division II, they have a great program, a great team, great coaches,” Mart head coach Kevin Hoffman said. “They do everything so well. I never dreamed, ever thought that we would beat them like that.”
The Panthers started out the game with a bang as back-up quarterback Roddrell Freeman, in for the injured Kyler Martin, took the ball 31 yards to the end zone to put the Panthers on the board. Only 13 seconds later, Logan Wehmeyer recovered a fumble on Muenster’s first offensive possession, a turnover Mart capitalized on with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Freeman to Dometrius Greene. That put Mart up by two touchdowns three minutes into the game.
“These kids were focused,” Hoffman said. “They’ve been focused all week. They knew how good this team was. They knew we had to come and play and bring everything we had, every ounce of energy, every snap and every play. They never let up and kept playing.”
Mart’s next touchdown was one of the most athletic punt returns of the season as Tyrek Horne jumped up to snag the line drive punt flying close to the ground out of the air. The senior then turned on the after burners to put Mart up by 20. Another run by Freeman, this one for 76 yards, gave the Panthers a 27-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“For his first time to start at quarterback and play in a game of this magnitude, he’s just a special athlete,” Hoffman said of Freeman. “We knew he could do it, had all the confidence in the world in him. He showed it tonight.”
Mart scored twice more before the half — a 69-yard run by Shatydrick Bailey and a 33-yard pass from Freeman to Horne.
“I mean, the three guys that are back there now — Roddrell (Freeman), Shatydrick (Bailey) and Tyrek (Horne) — I’d love to have one of them, and I’ve got three of them,” Hoffman said. “I’m fortunate. Those are special guys, and I know it. Just can’t say enough about those three.”
While the offense continued to score at will, the defense didn’t give Muenster any room to breath. It also didn’t help that the Hornets’ starting quarterback broke his collar bone toward the beginning of the game on the kick off. So it was Lane Trubenbach’s turn to run the offense for Muenster, but that also meant he had the privilege of getting up close and personal with Freeman and Elijah Greene as the Muenster offensive line couldn’t hold the two Mart defensive linemen back.
They each had at least one sack to their names by the end of the game, as did Bailey. If it wasn’t the defensive linemen making the plays, it was the Mart linebackers stepping up to make the tackle.
“Same as all year. I mean, unbelievable,” Hoffman said. “Those four guys up front, that’s where it all starts. Those guys control the line of scrimmage, and it forces teams to get out of their comfort zone. They can’t handle them.”
Muenster had no answer for Mart’s speed offensively or defensively. No one has all season, really, with the exception of Class 3A Franklin who is the only team to defeat the Panthers this year.
Mart, on average, is outscoring its opponents 60-7.5 this season in its wins. The Panthers have scored 60 points in each of their last seven games, while allowing only three teams this entire season to score more than 20 points.
This is a balanced Mart team that is enforcing its will on both sides of the football. Despite the dominance they’ve played with, Hoffman makes sure to keep his guys focused. After the Panthers went through the postgame handshake line, he gathered them up to remind them that only the next game is guaranteed.
“You don’t get that second game if you don’t get the first one,” Hoffman said. “You can’t overlook anybody. After tonight, there’s four teams left. All four teams are going to be good. You don’t get to the final destination if you don’t focus. We preach it during the playoffs.”