Photo courtesy Edyta Blaszczyk/Odessa American

It was a strange season for Odessa Permian in 2016. After a 4-0 start to the season, the Panthers struggled in District 2-6A, finishing 2-4 and were left on the outside looking in for the postseason. The Panthers were a very young team and had injuries to key players like Kobe Robinson and others, but head coach Blake Feldt isn’t in the business of making excuses.

“I felt like we had a really good football team last year,” Feldt said, “We were young and we had lots of key injuries, but at the same time, we just didn’t get it done last fall and we had opportunities.”

Those losses included a second half collapse against Wolfforth Frenship, one-point losses to Midland High and Amarillo Tascosa in consecutive weeks, and a 14-point loss at home to San Angelo Central. The Panthers did win their last two games, but had been knocked out of the playoff picture entirely by season’s end.

Despite the way their season had gone, Feldt believes that his team will use what happened last season as motivation to get better and close out games.

“We talked a lot about the close losses last year. There were lots of lessons learned a year ago in difficult situations. In those situations, good teams are able to understand and overcome those obstacles and I think that’s going to help us in the future.”

With the book closed on 2016, Feldt is looking ahead to the road ahead. The schedule will look the same in non-district play which include matchups against Austin Vandegrift and a bookend against Bishop Timon-St. Jude (NY). In between that, they also face two El Paso teams in Franklin and Eastwood. With that schedule, Feldt says that “we’ll find out who we are in a hurry.”

Ultimately, Feldt is optimistic for 2017 because of what he has coming back. They include, but aren’t limited to, quarterback Steve Steen and running backs Brother Miller and Ed Williams. On the other side of the ball, Feldt calls his four returning linebackers, which includes 6-3, 215 pound rising junior Matt Jones, some of the best in the state of Texas. With that core group returning, Feldt sees an opportunity for next fall to be a special year for the MOJO.

“With this group, I think we’ll be able to win lots of big games,” Feldt said, “I think we’re going to have the best team that we’ve had since I’ve been here this fall.”

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Tony Venegas is an assistant editor with TexasHSFootball, covering prep football in the El Paso region and collegiate and professional football throughout the state. Follow him on Twitter,@advenegas, and read more of his content here.

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