The Permian football team found itself in a familiar spot in 2021, qualifying for the playoffs and playing well into November.
How the Panthers got there was a little bit different.
After a solid nondistrict campaign, Permian was shocked by Abilene High to open District 2-6A play.
That setback ushered in an immediate change within the program and the Panthers went on a four-game winning streak to snare a postseason berth.
A stretch of play jump started on a rainy night in Wolfforth that saw Permian rally in a game that was up in the air until the final moments.
Victories against Odessa High, Midland High and San Angelo Central followed, contests in which the Panthers were learning to win even on nights where things weren’t going as planned.
The streak ended against Midland Legacy in the regular-season finale, but by then the Permian coaching staff and players knew what they were capable of each night.
Quarterback Rodney Hall took control of the team and made it his.
Wide receiver Ja’Quan Richardson proved to be the game breaker the Panthers’ needed, while the offensive line coalesced into a dominant force.
The growth on the defensive side of the football was equally impressive as the linemen clogged the middle and allowed the strength of Permian’s defense, the linebackers and secondary, to roam free and make plays all over the field.
Though the Panthers’ season was stopped in the area round against Euless Trinity in a game that Permian led at halftime, the talent level was evident.
The players that stepped up to shine, especially on offense, were underclassmen who now had the needed experience under their belt, along with a chip on their shoulder.
One they are ready to cash in.
In Permian’s option offense, the quarterback is the key and Hall has developed into one of the best to pull on a Panthers’ jersey.
He rushed for 871 yards and 13 touchdowns in guiding the team to an 8-4 record in his first year behind center.
But don’t think that his feet are his only weapon.
With the emergence of Richardson on the outside and the steady play of Permian’s other wide receivers and slot receivers, Hall completed 101 of 161 passes for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns, with just four interceptions.
Allowing Hall the time to find the right person on the pitch or a receiver downfield is the Panthers’ offensive line, led by Harris Sewell.
Something head coach Jeff Ellison is happy to point out.
“It starts with our offensive line,” Ellison said. “Obviously Harris has started since his freshman year.
“We’ve got a couple of guys returning as starters and a couple guys that got some playing time last year. So we are looking for some big things from our offensive line.
Permian is content to just drive the ball down the field to gas opposing defenses, but receivers Richardson, Tabarie Jones, Deonte Bass and Jyzaiyah Solis have the ability to take the Panthers’ offense vertical at any time.
Richardson proved that time and again last season, breaking tackles and bouncing off defenders for seemingly at least one highlight-reel play per game.
It all starts, however, with Hall and the split-second decisions the offense forces him to make each snap.
With Jones and Solis flashing across in motion, does he hand it to them to sweep around the corner?
Or does he move down the line of scrimmage, ready to plant a foot and burst through a sudden hole in the defense for positive yardage?
Perhaps a bubble screen or play action and looking downfield for one of the Panthers’ speedsters?
Whatever the case, Hall has proven time and again of being more than capable guiding the team.
“Our quarterback, Rodney, is doing a great job getting back into a rhythm,” Ellison said. “He played the slot in his sophomore year and moved to quarterback last year.
“I like our focus and our team speed. We are going to play fast and we are getting there.”
Getting there is something that is instilled in the Panthers’ players from the outset … especially on defense.
Read the play, swarm to the football and put the ball carrier on the ground.
Simple enough, but it’s a source of great pride for the Panthers.
“It’s what we hang our hat on is how fast and everyone swarming to the ball,” Ellison said. “Of course, it’s instilled in them since the seventh grade.”
Starting in a 3-4-4 scheme, Permian defensive coordinator Vance Washington has never been shy about bringing heat on opposing quarterbacks.
That’s not going to change this season with what Washington has seen heading to opening kickoff.
“I like our effort,” he said. “Really, we’ve thrown a lot at them early and I thought they handled it pretty well.
“We’ll show multiple fronts; we bring a lot of heat and that forces us into a lot of man coverage and that’s where I’ve been really happy.”
One of the issues for the Panthers’ defense is the lack of returning starters.
Defensive end Desmond Hill is back, along with cornerback Jayden Pruitt and safety Bryce Woody.
It’s a trio that Washington can build a solid unit around.
“Des is going to be a really good player,” Washington said. “But the back end, that’s we’re we’ve got the most experience, you know, with Pruitt and Woody.
“Woody runs the thing, he’s great back there, picked up right where he left off. And Jayden, he’s a three-year starter, too, so they are going to be the core.”
They are going to need to be the backbone for the defense as the rest of the group gets up to speed on playing every down at the Class 6A level.
The linebackers will debut a new group, though Caysen Clinton saw increased playing time as the 2021 season unfolded.
Ryder Plymell will move inside and Jace Gilliam has moved to the outside.
“I think that we are going to have a good linebacking corps,” Washington said. “They aren’t very big but they can run a little bit and they’re smart kids and that always helps.”
Back to the speed, which is key as the Panthers’ linebackers go sideline to sideline.
Looking to join the starting lineup at the other corner and other safety are Bass, Caleb Washington, Haden Duran and Brock Madrid.
A quartet that is going to be thrown into the fire during nondistrict competition as Permian prepares for another run at a District 2-6A crown.
Washington is ready for the challenge.
“I think where we are right now is way ahead of where we were last year,” Washington said.
Permian’s kicking game has always been a big part of it success, the Panthers able to find athletes that perform that role for multiple seasons.
Tate Terry is no different.
Terry, now a senior, is almost automatic on extra points, making 48 of 51 last season and converted 4-of-6 field goals.
He didn’t punt the ball last season but likely will add those duties with the graduation of Cade Kreger, who averaged 39.2 yards per kick.
“He steady, which is what you want,” Washington said of Terry. “He does his job.”
>> Follow Lee Scheide on Twitter at @OALeeScheide
— COACHES —
>> Head coach: Jeff Ellison.
>> Coach’s overall record: 31-16.
>> Coach’s record at school: 31-16.
>> Assistant coaches, duties: Vance Washington, defensive coordinator; Chris Frisby; Raul Sanchez; Brian Ingraham; Derron Gatewood; James Hanlan; Stan Hodges; Sammy Gonzalez; Tate Smith; Ryan Hritz.
— TEAM INFORMATION —
>> 2021 overall record: 8-4.
>> 2021 district record: 4-2 (Third).
>> Last district title: 2020.
>> Last playoff appearance: 2021.
>> Stadium name: Ratliff Stadium (19,500).
>> Base offense: Multiple.
>> Base defense: 3-4.
— PLAYERS —
>> Returning lettermen: 28.
>> Returning starters: 11 (7 offense, 4 defense).
>> Key returners: Harris Sewell, 6-4, 300, Sr., OL; Rodney Hall, 5-10, 170, Sr., QB; Ja’Quan Richardsno, 5-11, 175, Sr. WR; Jadyn Pruitt, 5-11, 170, Sr., CB; Bryce Woody, 6-3, 190, Sr, Safety; Desmond Hill, 6-1, 250, Sr., DL.
>> Key newcomers: Ryder Plymell, Sr., LB; Deonte Bass, 6-0, 170, Sr, WR/DB; Jyzaiyah Soliz, Sr., Athlete; Tabarie Jones, 5-7, 140, Sr., WR; Jade Gilliam, Sr., LB.
2022 PERMIAN ROSTER
No. Name Ht. Wt. Pos. Yr.
2 Ja’Quan Richardson 6-0 176 WR Sr.
3 Tabarie Jones 5-8 145 SLOT Sr.
4 Jadyn Pruitt 6-0 185 CB Sr.
6 Bryce Woody 6-4 195 SAFETY Sr.
7 Tate Terry 6-0 150 K/P Sr.
8 Brock Madrid 5-9 145 CB Sr.
9 Jonathan Pence 5-9 147 SLOT Sr.
10 Kheeaundre Abdul-Aziz 6-0 175 LB Jr.
12 Haden Duran 6-0 175 SAFETY Sr.
13 Caleb Washington 5-10 155 CB Jr.
14 Chaz Temple 6-0 155 CB Jr.
15 Giancarlo Garcia 5-10 150 SLOT Jr.
16 Dillon Negre 5-10 150 SLOT Jr.
17 Cooper Brannan 5-10 175 SAFETY Sr.
18 Deonte Bass 6-0 170 WR/DB Sr.
19 Angel Lujan 5-10 155 SAFETY Soph.
20 Evan Garrett 5-9 150 QB Soph.
22 Isaac Herrera 5-9 167 QB/Slot Jr.
23 Juzstyce Lara 5-9 160 RB Jr.
25 Rodney Hall 5-11 168 QB Sr.
27 Kalen Lee-Morris 5-8 180 RB Soph.
29 Jyzaiyah Solis 5-9 175 QB/Slot Sr.
32 Aaron Alvarado 6-1 175 SAFETY Jr.
33 Riley Summerford 5-8 155 LB Jr.
34 Preston Grizzell 5-8 175 LB Jr.
35 Kevion Wilson 6-0 200 LB Jr.
36 Caysen Clinton 5-10 190 LB Sr.
37 Damian Lopez 5-10 190 LB Jr.
38 Uriel Montoya 5-7 215 RB Jr.
40 Jordan Strange 6-1 210 LB Jr.
41 Ryder Plymell 5-11 215 LB Sr.
42 Jace Gilliam 6-0 183 LB Sr.
43 Jonathan Viscaino 5-7 180 RB Sr.
44 Victor Ramirez 5-9 200 LB Jr.
45 Braden Pry 6-2 225 LB Sr.
46 Parker Haynes 5-11 165 LB Sr.
47 Matthew Abila 5-11 185 LB Sr.
50 Laityn Hedrick 6-0 250 DL Soph.
51 Sebastian Sanchez 6-0 225 DL Soph.
52 Frank Alvarado 6-3 245 DL Jr.
54 Icarus Garcia 5-5 230 DL Sr.
56 Ronaldo Valdes 5-10 205 OL Jr.
57 Desmond Hill 6-0 250 DL Sr.
58 Kaden Archuleta 5-10 235 DL Sr.
59 Omar Ramos 5-11 190 OL Sr.
60 Mario Gonzalez 5-10 225 OL Jr.
62 Jacob Molinar 5-11 232 OL Sr.
63 Justin Greene 6-3 250 OL Soph.
65 Francisco Sanchez 5-10 250 OL Sr.
66 Ryan Ontiveroz 5-10 250 OL Sr.
67 Noah Casas 6-1 280 OL Soph.
68 Michael Galindo 5-8 290 OL Sr.
72 Nathaniel Rodriguez 6-2 310 OL Sr.
73 Harris Sewell 6-5 305 OL Sr.
76 Isreal Ponce 6-1 295 OL Sr.
77 Julio Madero 6-6 280 OL Jr.
81 Luis Chavez 5-6 160 WR Sr.
82 Jacob Franco 5-8 150 K/P Jr.
84 Andrew Helguera 5-11 204 TE/H Jr.
85 Noah Adams 6-3 150 WR Jr
86 Gage Murphy 6-3 160 WR Jr.
89 Nathan Rodriguez 6-0 200 TE/H Sr.
99 Bryan Pry 6-2 265 DL Jr.