Last Friday’s season opener for the Permian football team was also slot receiver Brian Mahaffey’s return to action after missing last year with an injury.
It took the senior almost no time to make his presence known in Permian’s 26-15 win over El Paso Pebble Hills, taking the game’s opening kickoff 83 yards to the end zone.
With Jaquan Richardson lined up deep to return, a short kick found its way to Mahaffey’s arms and he quickly started cutting to his left toward the left side of the field at Ratliff Stadium.
Once a seam opened up, a quick burst of speed saw Mahaffey score Permian’s first touchdown of the 2021 campaign.
“We practice it all the time,” Mahaffey said of his kickoff return. “I just thought, once I caught it to follow my lead blockers and do what I had to do to get the touchdown.”
Before stepping foot on the field, the slot receiver needed to regain his form after missing all of his junior season.
Permian head coach Jeff Ellison said Mahaffey worked hard to get back up to speed for his final campaign with the Panthers.
The senior’s return was also of high importance for the rest of his teammates.
“He’s very passionate about the game and about this team,” Ellison said. “I know it meant a great deal to his teammates as well, they were happy for him because they know how hard he’s worked to get back to where he is right now.”
After his kickoff return, Mahaffey continued his strong showing for the Panthers with three catches for 104 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
All three of those catches came in the fourth quarter to jump start the Permian offense to 19 unanswered points.
Quarterback Rodney Hall found Mahaffey for scores from 34 and 57 yards out.
Mahaffey said he has been working since the summer to establish a strong connection with his quarterback.
He knows setting up that relationship can work wonders for the rest of the Permian offense.
Assistant coach Dean Garza works with Permian’s slot receivers and H-Backs, and he has seen the work Mahaffey has put in up to this point.
Garza said the expectations are high for Mahaffey after his breakout game and his status as a senior.
“He’s got to do it every play, that’s what we’re working on,” Garza said. “It’s not just when you’re fresh but when you’re tired and you’re down in the trenches you’ve got to go.”
Garza was excited to see Mahaffey’s success in the slot position, where his playing responsibilities include working as a receiver, blocker and ball carrier in Permian’s option-based attack.
The assistant coach said Mahaffey displays a strong work ethic, whether he’s on the football field or finishing assignments in the classroom.
Garza believes Mahaffey can accomplish anything within his means in the future if he maintains his composure.
Ellison said the slot receiver brings a positive attitude and leadership every time he steps on the field and gets to work with his teammates.
“Last year going through what he did with his injury and just seeing his fight and work ethic to get back, it means a lot to this team,” Ellison said.
When Mahaffey and the Permian offense got settled in late in their season opener, things started clicking and flowing smoothly for the team.
Mahaffey and the Panthers will hit the road for the first time this season and they’ll look for a faster offensive start against Waco Midway at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium in Hewitt.
“I think everybody was a little nervous because it was our first game,” Mahaffey said. “Once we start getting it going, we’ll be good.”
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