There are two ways to look at Friday night’s Class 2A Division I bidistrict game between Panhandle and Tahoka at Happy State Bank Stadium.
One way is to consider it an abomination as to how football has become an exclusive province of the offense, with defense all but legislated out of the game. The other is to say to heck with purism, it was fun.
Panhandle would certainly opt for the latter view. The Panthers didn’t punt once and looked as if they were participating in a backyard barbecue as they rolled past Tahoka by a basketball-like count of 93-54.
That puts the Panthers (10-1) in the area round next week against Hawley at a time and place to be determined.
That the game was reportedly the second highest scoring playoff game in Texas high school victory mattered not a whit to Panhandle coach Dane Ashley. Victories in November are hard to come by whether they’re by 7-6 or 93-54.
“Whenever you get in the playoffs it doesn’t matter if you’re a 1 seed, a 4 seed, a 2 seed or a 3 seed,” Ashley said. “Everybody’s got a lot of hype and a lot of hope. Tahoka played their butts off, man. They came out and scored on that first play.”
Defensive coordinators had to watch the game through the cracks of their fingers. Quarterbacks and receivers shone big time all night, but maybe two second quarter kickoff returns for touchdowns were the big difference as Panhandle led 58-34 at halftime.
Tahoka landed the first blow and wasted no time in doing so. On the first play from scrimmage, Brogan Stone hit a wide-open Brycyn Mann on a 65-yard scoring pass in which Panhandle’s nearest defender seemed to be roaming in Potter County.
That early 7-0 deficit didn’t last too long. Panhandle answered back on the next drive, concluding it with a 5-yard pass from Broxton Robinson to Lucas Purcell, as a missed two-point conversion kept it 7-6.
Robinson wasn’t even getting started. He threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 218 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries.
“We’ve been playing together since we were in third grade,” Robinson said. “We just have a special bond and know each other and work extremely well together. The offensive line did an outstanding job tonight. We succeeded as a team.”
The Panthers scored 16 points in a 98-second span in the second quarter without taking an offensive snap.
Landon Durst returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown with 4:04 left in the first half. That was only one of four first half touchdowns for Durst, who caught two touchdown passes and ran for another.
Think that was all? Back to Robinson.
After Tahoka answered Durst’s return with a 55-yard scoring pass from Stone to Zane Garvin, Robinson took the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, finding a lane up the left sideline and taking it to the house.
In the second half, Robinson ran for three touchdowns as the Panthers preferred to keep the ball on the ground and wear down Tahoka (4-7). If there was any doubt that Robinson, a sophomore, was capable of replacing four-year starter Landyn Hack, it’s been erased.
“The funny thing is that Landyn and Broxton have always had a really good relationship,” Ashley said. “Broxton was kind of like his little brother. The style of offense we run the quarterback runs the ball a lot and Broxton fits it just like Landon did.”
Panhandle piled up 616 yards of total offense.
Tahoka didn’t shrink from the offensive spotlight at all, as the Bulldogs had 485 total yards. Stone had a huge game as well, throwing for 336 yards and six touchdowns.
Ruben Arguello had a huge came catching the ball for Tahoka, with 10 catches for 145 yards.