BELTON — A few weeks ago, following Midway’s homecoming loss to Harker Heights, Panthers coach Jeff Hulme looked his team in the eyes and told them the District 12-6A championship still went through them.
The Panthers responded by bringing it home.
Midway rebounded from its first district loss since 2013 by winning three straight crucial games, including the Panthers’ 49-0 drubbing of Belton on Friday night at Tiger Stadium.
In doing so, the Panthers (7-3, 7-1 in 12-6A) won a district title for the 10th consecutive season.
Midway will host Tyler Lee in the first round of the playoffs at 7 p.m. on Friday at Panther Stadium.
“I think it just shows a lot of pride and determination by my team,” Hulme said. “A lot of people were writing us off and rightly so in the sense of we needed to play better. We got our bell rung, but our kids responded.”
Midway lost to Harker Heights, 17-14. But the Panthers came back by going on the road to win at Killeen Shoemaker, then defeated Temple last week. That gave Midway the chance to claim the 12-6A championship on the road at Belton.
The Panthers didn’t leave much doubt.
After leading 14-0 at the break, Midway dominated the third quarter. The Panthers scored touchdowns on three straight possessions and kept the Tigers from scoring.
Midway quarterback Jared Moore hit Jaylon Gibson and Zach Stewart for touchdown passes and running back Will Nixon scored his third touchdown of the contest on a one-yard plunge.
Nixon rushed for 136 yards on 20 carries and caught two balls for 27 more yards.
Moore completed 13 of 21 passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 99 yards on 13 totes.
“I thought (Moore) played really well,” Hulme said. “I thought we were able to run the ball pretty good. We made some adjustments at halftime and had more protection. When he has protection, Jared throws the ball pretty dang good.”
The Panthers defense held Belton to 200 total yards in shutting out the Tigers.
“I think the defense obviously set the tone in the first half,” Hulme said. “For our defense to step up and continue to get the ball out and continue to get those three-and-outs, which is hard to do in 6A football, I’m super proud of (Coach Keith Knowles) and the defensive staff.”
Nixon made a pair of big plays to put the Panthers in front, 14-0, at halftime.
Moore checked down to Nixon in the right flat on a second-and-seven from the Belton 21. Nixon caught it and found running room in the middle of the field to complete a 21-yard touchdown pass that put Midway in front, 7-0, with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
Nixon doubled the Panthers’ lead late in the second quarter when he made a nifty cutback in the middle of the field into open space and ran 20 yards for a touchdown.
Penalties on the point after caused Midway kicker Bryce Boland to attempt a 40-yard extra point. It didn’t faze him though, nor did a low snap as Boland nailed the long attempt for a 14-0 lead with 1:13 remaining before halftime.
Nixon, who ran for 85 yards on 13 carries in the first half, had a 40-yard touchdown called back by an unsportsmanlike penalty away from the ball. The setback squashed that Panthers drive.
But Midway’s defense was handling the Belton offense through the first two quarters.
The Tigers (3-7, 3-5) ran for 18 yards on the first two plays of their game-opening possession. Then the Panthers held Belton to just three more first downs for the rest of the half and only 70 yards of total offense in that time.