WACO — Ellison did not get the win, but Trent Gregory feels his team emerged with something equally valuable.
With a playoff appearance looming, the Eagles traveled to face Class 6A No. 5 Waco Midway for their regular season finale.
Despite failing to spoil the Panthers’ undefeated district championship run, losing 63-28 after allowing 21 unanswered points in the second half, Ellison’s head coach believes the experience could be invaluable as the Eagles open the playoffs against No. 6 Duncanville next week.
“I’m really glad we got a chance to play Midway,” Gregory said, “because they are so big and powerful. It was a good test.
“It was good for us to see a high-quality football team before we hit the playoffs.”
Things did not go as Ellison planned, however, as the Panthers simply overwhelmed Ellison early.
After the Eagles punted away the game’s opening possession, Midway needed just two snaps to reach the end zone as senior quarterback Tanner Mordecai broke free for a 53-yard touchdown.
The trend continued for the duration of the first quarter.
Midway (10-0, 6-0 District 8-6A) needed just seven plays to record two more touchdowns, with Mordecai recording a 27-yard and 70-yard touchdown pass to David Priebe and Demarcus Degrate, respectively, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 21-0.
The Eagles finally responded in the second quarter as Ta’von Gwynn found Jyaire Shorter for a 59-yard touchdown, triggering an offensive outburst for Ellison (6-4, 3-3).
The Eagles crossed the goal line on their next three drives, with Gwynn connecting with Shorter and Breezion Spiller for touchdowns before Shorter hauled in his third score on an 11-yard pass from Spiller with 36 seconds remaining in the half.
The play trimmed the Panthers’ advantage to seven points, 35-28, but the score would not hold.
Midway closed the half with a five-play, 75-yard drive culminating with Mordecai’s fourth touchdown pass — a 25-yarder to Williams — as time expired, and the Panthers took a 42-28 cushion into the second half.
“We got off to a slow start,” Gregory said, “but we were able to come back, put some points on the board, and things got interesting.
“But they were able to score on us right before halftime, and that was a big swing.”
Mordecai continued his impressive play in the second half, engineering three consecutive scoring drives in the third quarter en route to 565 total yards and seven touchdowns. He completed 25 of 39 passes for 408 yards and five scores while running for 157 yards and two touchdowns on five carries.
“Mordecai is something else,” Gregory said. “He can throw the ball with laser accuracy, and he can run.”
Led by Gwynn, who completed 10 of 24 passes for 239 yards with a pair of interceptions, and Shorter, who hauled in a team-high five passes for 137 yards, Ellison finished with 349 total yards.
But it paled in comparison to the Panthers’ 751-yard outing.
“We’ve just got to learn from this,” Gregory said. “The cool thing is we still get to live for another day.”