For nearly two quarters, the crosstown showdown between Odessa High and Permian was shaping into a defensive struggle.
Late in the first half, however, a couple of missed opportunities and some timely defensive stops from the Panthers proved to be the difference in the teams’ 61st meeting.
The Bronchos turned the ball over three times in the first half, including one that set up a score, as the Panthers pulled away and stifled the Bronchos for a 24-0 victory on a chilly Friday night at Ratliff Stadium to open District 2-6A play.
“They (Permian) were more physical,” Odessa High head coach Danny Servance said. “We have to stay on blocks and we weren’t able to do that. It was just hard to get anything going on offense.”
Both teams started slowly on the offensive side of the ball, combining for just 56 yards of offense in the first quarter. It was the defense that started to get things going for Permian.
Logan Phillips recovered a fumble on the first Odessa High possession of the second quarter to give the Panthers the ball.
Permian (3-3 overall, 1-0 district) welcomed back quarterback Easton Hernandez, who was running the offense in his first game action since the season opener at DeSoto.
Hernandez finished with 89 yards of total offense and a rushing touchdown.
The Panthers were unable to take advantage of the turnover but got points on their next possession as Carson Roberts connected on a 32-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.
Odessa High (2-4, 0-1) was stuck in neutral offensively for most of the half and gave Permian a short field after Kayden Baze picked off a deflected pass to set the Panthers up inside Bronchos’ territory. He had another interception in the second half.
“Our defense did a good job of getting to the ball,” Permian head coach Jeff Ellison said. “They played against the run well and they played against the pass well. I thought our tenacity was great tonight.”
Odessa High, though, made a defensive stand, forcing the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs.
“I thought our kids continued to fight,” Servance said. “That didn’t take the air out of us and they didn’t have any quit in them.”
Senior quarterback Ivan Miranda came in for a series for Odessa High to provide a spark after missing the game two weeks ago against Harlingen South. He played the majority of the second half in relief of starter Diego Cervantes, finishing with 42 yards passing for the game.
The Bronchos still couldn’t find a rhythm and only managed 91 total yards in the first half and 112 for the game.
The turning point came late in the first half when Odessa High was unable to connect on two long passes that would have been touchdowns.
After being forced to punt, Permian’s combination of Hernandez and running back Malachi Medlock got going as Medlock capped off the six-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes left in the half.
The Bronchos had one last chance to score before halftime but Dashavion Williams ended those hopes, intercepting a pass and returning it 42 yards to the Odessa High 23.
Hernandez would get his rushing touchdown three plays later to close out the half.
“Any time you have an opportunity to make plays, you have to make them,” Servance said. “We talked about that all week and we just couldn’t get anything going.”
The second half was as about continuing to control the clock for the Panthers, regardless of who was carrying the ball. After Medlock left the game due to an injury on the first possession of the third quarter, Bra’dyn Brooks-Smith came in and delivered the knockout punch, scoring on a 43-yard touchdown scamper midway through the third quarter.
Brooks-Smith added 85 yards rushing and the Panthers finished with 328 yards on the ground.
The Panthers defense put the exclamation point on the shutout with a second interception from Baze in the third quarter to go with five sacks in the half.
“I’m really excited to be 1-0 in district play,” Ellison said. “I thought that was a great game. It was a great rivalry game. I was just happy for our coaches and players for coming out strong tonight.”
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