Things didn’t start out smoothly for the Permian football team against El Paso Pebble Hills Friday at Ratliff Stadium.
Aside from scoring early Brian Mahaffey’s opening kickoff return for a touchdown, the Panthers’ offense couldn’t get much going throughout the first half.
It took a while, but everything started clicking later in the game as the Panthers came back to win their season opener 26-15.
Timely defensive plays from Jadyn Pruitt and Kayden Baze, combined with a strong connection through the air between Rodney Hall and Mahaffey, helped Permian find a late surge that resulted in 19 unanswered points after falling behind 15-7.
This was the first time the 2021 Panthers played against someone other than themselves after their scrimmage against Amarillo High was canceled last week.
Permian head coach Jeff Ellison attributed the slow start to adjusting quickly to an external opponent and he knows his Panthers have things to work on before they take the field again.
“We need to get back to the film and evaluate all positions,” Ellison said. “There were some great things by some of our guys and some things that we need to make some changes at.
“It’s the first time we really got against a different opponent to evaluate, so we’re going take that opportunity tomorrow.”
Despite opening the game with Mahaffey’s quick kickoff return and a 7-0 lead, costly errors and stalled drives piled up to give Permian a hard time on the offensive side of the ball.
The first error came on the Panthers first drive when the ball bounced out of the end zone on a fourth down play, cutting the lead down to 7-2.
Another fumble in the second quarter put Permian in an even tougher spot because it set up El Paso Pebble Hills quarterback Jacob Ledesma, who found receiver Marcus Torres from 11 yards out to give their team a 9-7 advantage.
Ledesma and quarterback Gael Ochoa would go on to give the Panthers issues on the ground along with running back Erik Marin, chewing away at the clock and moving the ball methodically down the field.
The Spartans eventually found themselves up 15-7 early in the fourth quarter, looking to put the game away by stopping the Permian offense in its tracks.
Then Hall and Mahaffey got things going in a quick manner.
The quarterback would go on to connect with his slot receiver from 34 and 57 yards out to turn things around and give Permian a 19-15 lead, its first since the opening 20 seconds of the contest.
Turnovers of their own would end up dooming the Spartans as Permian running back Tristan Johnson would barrel his way into the end zone from two yards out to seal the win.
El Paso Pebble Hills head coach Mark Torres believed his team played well and he was impressed with what he saw from his two quarterbacks.
“Those guys play to win and sometimes mistakes happen when you play to win,” Torres said. “They did not play conservative, they played and were going for the knock out.”
Hall would complete all six of his pass attempts for 127 yards and two scores through the air, with Mahaffey hauling in three of those passes for 104 yards.
The Panthers will look to continue their winning form against Waco Midway at 7 p.m. next Friday at Panther Stadium in Hewitt.
“I was proud of our team as a whole,” Ellison said. “When things weren’t going our way, they stayed together as a team and continued to lift each other up until we could get it going.”
>> Follow Chris Amaya on Twitter at @OA_CAmaya
Permian 26, El Paso Pebble Hills 15
El Paso Pebble Hills. 2 7 0 6 — 15
Permian……………….. 7 0 0 19 — 26
Permian: Brian Mahaffey 83 kick return (Tate Terry kick) 11:48. Key play: Mahaffey opened the game with a quick burst up the middle.
El Paso Pebble Hills: Safety: Snapped out of end zone. 6:15 Key plays: Permian was held to four yards on three carries and couldn’t get past its eight yard line before the ball bounced out of the end zone.
El Paso Pebble Hills: Marcus Torres 11 pass from Jacob Ledesma (Mauricio Dominguez kick) 0:30. Drive: 6 plays 25 yards, 1:57. Key plays: Erik Marin made three consecutive strong runs to pick up 15 yards and set up Ledesma for the quick score to close out the first half.
El Paso Pebble Hills: Gael Ochoa 4 run (kick failed) 11:59. Drive: 6 plays 28 yards, 17:02. Key plays: Jacob Ledesma completed a 15-yard pass to Marcus Torres before running for a first down to set up Ochoa for a quick pass and a four-yard score.
Permian: Brian Mahaffey 34 pass from Rodney Hall (two-point conversion failed) 9:23. Drive: 4 plays 65 yards, 2:36. Key plays: Hall completed two straight passes for 20 yards before finding Mahaffey open on a post route down the middle to cut the deficit.
Permian: Brian Mahaffey 57 pass from Rodney Hall (two-point conversion failed) 5:32. Drive: 1 play 57 yards, 0:09. Key play: Hall found Mahaffey again to give the receiver his third score on the night.
Permian: Tristan Johnson 2 run (Tate Terry kick) 2:52. Drive: 3 plays 16 yards, 1:08. Key play: Johnson punched it in from two yards out to seal the Permian win.
El Paso Pebble Hills Permian
First Downs…………………… 13……………….. 11
Total Yards…………………. 171……………… 302
Rushes-Yards………….. 37-64…………. 22-175
Passing……………………… 107……………… 127
Comp-Att-Int…………. 11-27-3………………. 6-6
Fumbles-Lost………………. 0-0………………. 4-3
Punts-Avg……………….. 4-42.3…………….. 2-36
Penalties-Yards…………. 6-38…………… 8-100
El Paso Pebble Hills: Erik Marin 11-25, Jacob Ledesma 11-21, Gael Ochoa 14-14, Marcus Torres 1-4.
Permian: Lucas Salazar 4-46, Rodney Hall 6-43, Tristan Johnson 9-40, Zach Wheeler 1-37, Devon Pierce 1-5, Brian Mahaffey 1-4.
El Paso Pebble Hills: Gael Ochoa 6-14-3—70, Jacob Ledesma 5-13—37.
Permian: Rodney Hall 6-6—127, Blake Pruitt 0-2—0.
El Paso Pebble Hills: Marcus Torres 3-36, Diego Contreras 3-26, Brandon Cardenas 1-25, Erik Marin 4-20.
Permian: Brian Mahaffey 3-104, Ja’Quan Richardson 1-10, Deonte Bass 1-7, Zach Wheeler 1-6.
Permian: Jadyn Pruitt 2-0, Kayden Baze 1-0.