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The Midway Panthers are on the same level as Denton Guyer, Aledo and Mesquite Horn – superlative teams that the Scots have challenged over the past couple of years and teams that can go all the way this year.
Of course, so can the Scots.
On paper, the Panthers have it all – a great quarterback, excellent running back, D1 receivers and an offensive line that is bigger than some colleges. But as good as the Midway offense is, it is no better than this year’s Highland Park offense. The Scots match up at quarterback, running back, offensive line and receivers. The Panthers’ star 6’3” receiver, Devontre Stricklin, may be better than any individual the Scots have, but HP’s four starting receivers are better than Midway’s top four.
Defense? I think this is where the Scots can have the edge. Midway has all-state Lenoy Jones, Jr. at middle linebacker and two outstanding safeties – Marcus Johnson and Kahlil Haughton (who are both excellent kick returners). But as a group the Panther defense has given up 23.8 points per game, which is unusual for a team that rocks an 11-0 record. The Midway offense averages 47.5 points per game and so the team has been outscoring everyone. In their four-game pre-district run, the Panthers won by 8, 10, 7 and 6 points. Two of those teams, Lake Travis and Mansfield Timberview are both 10-1 and still alive in the playoffs. In the only district game where Midway faced a team with a winning record, they beat Copperas Cove, 66-54.
If the Scots put up 54 points, they will win this game. Period.
More than any game HP has played this season, the speed of outside linebackers Hayden Schnieders and Mitchell Kaufman will help determine the outcome of the game. I think the Scots’ defensive line (Danny Gouskos, Nick Waterman and Micheal Thornton) and the inside linebackers (Michael Linehan and Matthew White) will clog up the middle and put the pressure on the OLBs and secondary (Carter McDade, Stephen Briggs, Benji Walzel and Boomer Bakich). These guys seem to thrive on pressure and welcome the challenge. The guys who played last year remember how they outplayed Guyer in the semifinals and were 55 seconds away from beating an unbeatable team.
The HP defense is giving up 12.8 points per game. Midway is averaging 47.5. The Scots defense, if it is firing on all cylinders, will get in the heads of the Midway players when they realize these Dallas guys can stop them and force them to punt.
The Dallas Morning News picks Midway to win, 42-31. I think Highland Park wins the game by that same score, as the Scots defense holds Midway to 16 points below its average. The Panthers won’t see it coming. They are pumped to play Lake Travis next week and, as it’ll turn out, they won’t be playing next week.