BRYAN — The Midway Panthers had their chances to shift momentum in a game-changing way in the third round of the playoffs.
But, ultimately, No. 8-ranked Spring Westfield’s defense slammed the door.
The Mustangs scored 21 unanswered points in the second half and claimed a 38-7 victory over Midway on Saturday afternoon at Bryan ISD’s Merrill Green Stadium.
The Panthers had the ball in Westfield’s end of the field with a chance to make it a one-score game midway through the third quarter. But Westfield, which had three takeaways and three fourth-down stops, dropped Midway quarterback Jared Moore for a two-yard gain on a fourth-and-three play from the Mustang 41.
“I thought at halftime we were actually set up in a good spot,” Midway coach Jeff Hulme said. “Disappointed that we didn’t score there. I thought we had a real good chance to at least make it 17-10 or 17-14. But credit those guys. They’re a great defense. What really sets them up is their defense.
The Mustangs (12-1) survived and advanced thanks in part to big plays by its offense too. Westfield had three one-play scoring drives that helped distance the Mustangs from the Panthers.
After Westfield defensive lineman William Hatter recovered a fumble at the Midway 28 in the third quarter, Mustangs quarterback Cardell Williams went for the end zone on the next play. Williams connected with wide receiver Ashton Callaway for a 28-yard touchdown and a comfortable 24-7 lead.
Westfield, the highest ranked team remaining in the Class 6A Division II bracket, moves on to play Dallas Jesuit in the 6A D-II Region 2 final.
Midway, the District 12-6A champs, finished with a 9-4 record.
“Heck of a year,” Hulme said. “Couldn’t be happier for our players for the season they had. I think when they take a little time and look back on it, I think they’re going to be pretty pleased on how the season turned out. And we’ve just got to go forward.”
Big plays defined the first half and Westfield made one more than the Panthers.
The Mustangs scored a touchdown on their first offensive play of the contest as running back Kendal Taylor got loose in the Midway secondary, reached the sideline and sprinted the rest of the way for a 72-yard touchdown.
That was the first of Westfield’s three one-play touchdown drives.
Early in the second quarter, with the Mustangs leading 10-7 and starting at their own 42, Williams found wide receiver Malachai Jones open deep down the sideline. Jones hauled in the pass and outran the Panther defense for a 58-yard score.
Westfield posted 226 yards of total offense in the first half, 130 of it coming on the Mustangs’ two scoring plays.
But Midway landed its own haymaker on the first play of the second quarter. Moore connected with wide receiver Xavier Harris running alone in the Westfield secondary. Harris cruised in for a 62-yard touchdown that cut Westfield’s lead to three at that point.
The Panthers had a chance to create a huge momentum shift when sophomore Knox Walker recovered a fumble by Westfield kick returner Kevin Graham in the second quarter. Walker grabbed an apparent lateral out of the air and went down at the Mustangs’ 28.
However, three plays later, Westfield linebacker Isaiah Brown intercepted a Moore pass to set up the Williams-to-Jones TD.
Midway couldn’t get playmaking running back Will Nixon going in the first half. The Mustangs held him to 10 yards on seven carries. Nixon, a Nebraska commit, finished with 92 yards on 17 totes.
Panthers sophomore receiver Jaylon Gibson left the game with a lower-leg injury in the third quarter when Westfield was leading 24-7. Gibson didn’t return to the contest, but Hulme said the initial evaluation was that it was a hard hit but there was no structural damage.