Permian’s 2023 season opener quickly turned into a nightmare as the Panthers were dealt a 49-14 loss to Abilene High Friday at Ratliff Stadium.
Playing against their longtime former district rivals, the Eagles (1-0) needed only one drive to set the tone, scoring on their first offensive possession and not looking back.
“It’s a great start,” Abilene High head coach Mike Fullen said. “All the credit goes to all our coaches and players. We have star coaches and star players. We played good team football tonight. Permian’s got a good ball club. You have to play very disciplined and our guys played disciplined today. We got a quick start offensively. There are some things we have to clean up. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with a start like that.”
With the loss, Permian has now dropped three of the last four contests against the Eagles, losing in 2020 (27-25) and 2021 (42-21).
It’s the first season-opening loss for the Panthers (0-1) since their 35-14 loss to DeSoto in 2019.
It was also the most lopsided season-opening defeat for the Panthers since that same loss to DeSoto four years ago.
“Any mistake we could’ve made, we made tonight,” Permian head coach Jeff Ellison said. “We have no choice and nowhere to go but up. We’re going to get back to work and get it corrected.”
Ryland Bradford hauled in a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dylan Slack on the Eagles’ first drive of the day, scoring just eight plays into the game and Naim Segura’s extra point was good for an early 7-0 lead for Abilene High with 8:05 left in the first quarter.
“Permian is a tough ball club,” Fullen said. “You have to take advantage of every possession. You have to steal possessions. Every possession was going to be crucial. With touchdowns and extra points, we were able to get points and I was happy with our team play. We played good team football.”
Things would only get worse for the Panthers.
Permian’s offense was unable to generate much on its first drive and was forced to punt.
The Eagles made the Panthers pay by marching down the field in and scoring on a seven-play drive, capped with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Slack to wide receiver Jackson Howle and the PAT made it 14-0 with 3:30 PAT.
After forcing the Panthers to punt for a second time, the Eagles ended up turning the ball over on downs at the Permian 46.
Just when it looked like the Panthers were gaining momentum on offense, linebacker Bryce Neves picked off Garcia at the Permian 30 early in the second quarter.
The turnover would come back to bite the Panthers o ok as Abilene High capitalized with another scoring drive.
Running back Bam Rashaw found the end zone from three yards out on a run and the PAT made it 21-0, Abilene High, with 5:27 left in the second quarter.
“We had too many mistakes early on,” Ellison said. “They were a very aggressive team. we played a really good ball club. Their coaching staff does a great job. They came out and kicked our butt tonight. We’re going to get back to it.”
Shortly before halftime, Slack did it himself, scoring on a 1-yard carry to cap a 10-yard drive and the Eagles had a 28-0 lead.
Rashaw scored on a 31-yard touchdown run soon after and the Panthers were trailing 35-0 at halftime.
Permian got a gift in the form of an Abilene High fumble on a punt return as the Panthers recovered at midfield early in the third quarter.
However, the Panthers couldn’t do anything with the ball on the ensuing drive and were forced to punt.
Permian finally found the end zone in the third quarter, scoring on a 7-yard run by Isaac Herrera, bringing the home crowd to its feet for the first time since the pregame festivities.
Jacob Franco’s extra point made it 35-7 with 4:30 left in the quarter.
Permian’s celebrations were short-lived as Abilene High wide receiver Brelon Badon scored on a 32-yard reception on the following drive and the Eagles had a 42-7 lead with 3:40remaining.
Brayden Henry scored on a 70-yard run early in the fourth quarter for a 49-7 advantage for the visitors with 9:29 remaining on the clock.
Permian added a second touchdown on a 29-yard pass from Garcia to wide receiver Benjamin Saldivar with 25 seconds left.