Odessa Permian started off the season incredibly strong. A one point win over Austin Vandegrift and blowout wins over El Paso Eastwood, El Paso Franklin, and Bishop Timon-St. Jude (NY) had many fairly high on Permian’s chances. No one was really picking them to be the team that puts Permian back on the statewide powerhouse list, but this was a team that many thought would be a real threat to the DFW powerhouses in the playoffs.
That never happened, because Permian didn’t make it to the playoffs.
Permian was up 21-3 on Wolfforth Frenship before the Tigers turned it around for a 40-28 win. Next, Permian lost by one point to Midland. Next came a one point loss to Amarillo Tascosa. After that, San Angelo Central came to town to deliver the finishing blow. The Bobcats beat the Panthers 28-14 in Ratliff, and Permian was essentially out of the playoffs.
The Panthers got back on their feet and finished the year strong, but a 2-4 record in district isn’t going to get you into the playoffs in most districts.
So, Permian didn’t make the playoffs. Let’s talk about why.
First off, the injury to shifty slotback Kobe Robinson cannot go unmentioned. Robinson is small, but a Jakeem Grant-esque player, a guy who can go around you faster than you can blink. Second, the Panthers were young, oh so young. We’re talking about a defense that was mostly sophomores and juniors, an offense with a junior quarterback and a stellar sophomore running back. Permian has the most firepower returning of any team in West Texas, and potentially all of 6A. This isn’t guaranteeing that the Panthers will make a run, though. They’ll still be undersized, just like every single other year Odessa Permian has played football. They will be fast and experienced though, and that experience will be crucial as Permian fights to gain its old glory back.
SB Kobe Robinson, WR/TE Hunter Hawkins, LB Tyson Banks
It’s hard to overstate what Kobe Robinson brought to Permian’s team. He was the explosion of the offense, a guy who can take a jet sweep to the house or snag the deep post off the play action. Kobe Robinson is maybe 5’7 wearing boots, but make no mistake, losing him is huge. The Panthers will also have to replace a chunk of their offensive line.
Permian didn’t have many seniors on the defensive side of the ball, and Tyson Banks was one of them. They’ll miss his abilities in coverage and how violently he set the edge. Hunter Hawkins is a massive loss as well, the thick WR was a good blocker and tough to tackle on those tunnel screens that Permian loves.
QB Steve Steen, SB Brother Miller, RB Ed Williams, S Preston Ellison, LB Matt Jones
There’s simply too many key returners to list them all, so I’m limiting myself to 5. Nearly all of Permian’s backfield will return, and if the Panthers can keep stud Ed Williams healthy, opposition will be in for a long game. Steen is everything you could want out of a wishbone QB: he runs hard and can hit those deep play-action passes. Brother Miller will return as well, and will attempt to replace the explosiveness that Permian will lose with the departure of Kobe Robinson.
On defense, the Panthers will return dang near everyone. Nearly every single Permian defensive starter in 2017 will have Varsity game experience. Matt Jones will return and look to build upon a solid sophomore season, and Preston Ellison will lead a defensive backfield that will return every single one of its starters.
So, Permian is returning an absolutely stupid amount of players. Where do they go from here?
The biggest margin of loss for Permian was 14 to San Angelo Central. They had a meltdown against Frenship, and lost by one point two other times. They went all the way to Austin, Texas and scored three touchdowns on Austin Vandegrift. The Vipers only gave up more than 21 points twice: once to Lake Travis, the rolling death train of 6A, and to San Antonio Johnson in a playoff win.
There are so many reasons to like the Panthers in 2017. They return an obnoxious amount of defenders from a 2016 defense that wasn’t half bad. They’ll retain some explosiveness on offense with Brother Miller and Ed Williams. Steve Steen will guide the ship well and make the reads he needs to make.
Every single year it seems like West Texas has its one great hope to upend the DFW playoff dynasty. In 2017, the odds are in favor of that team being Odessa Permian.
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