By: Tony Thomas
The Midland-Odessa region of west Texas is ground zero for U.S. oil and gas production. And if you lived in Odessa in the 1980’s, you were a die-hard fan of the local high school football team. They had a special aura about them, the power to achieve greatness on the football field and win state championships.
They called it MOJO. They called them the Permian Panthers.
Ratliff Stadium is an edifice that rises above the Texas flatlands and is the home to the Friday night warriors that is Permian.
At the end of every work week, it was the place to be. Filled to capacity (and beyond) with loyal screaming fans, they cheered on their favorite sons as they walked on the field of battle with a swagger and a determination to win.
And win they did.
The 1989 season was special, almost magical. Yes, you could feel the mojo everywhere. The Panthers, led by Head Coach Gary Gaines, set the tone for this magical season in Week 1 with a 55-0 demolishing of El Paso Austin.
That would be the first of seven shutouts posted by the Permian defense in the regular season. Two weeks later, they shutout Amarillo 28-0. In Weeks 5-8, they posted four consecutive shutouts for a combined score of 201-0:
- Midland 51-0
- Abilene 48-0
- Dallas Jesuit 46-0
- Abilene Cooper 56-0
There closest game all season was a 17-13 victory over arch-rival Midland Lee in Week 9. And of course, the Panthers ended the regular season with, you guessed it, another shutout: 37-0 over San Angelo Central.
While the Panthers defense played like the ’85 Chicago Bears, the offense was just as prolific. They scored 628 points and racked up 6,481 yards of total offense. This well-oiled offensive machine was led on the field by:
- QB Stoney Case: 2029 yards passing, 29 TDs.
- RB Chris Comer: 1589 yards rushing, 22 TDs.
- RB Arvey Villa: 1250 rushing yards.
- WR Lloyd Hill: 79 catches, 1519 yards, 15 TDs.
They blew through their regular season schedule like a west Texas dust storm, as the Panthers outscored their hapless opponents 408-47.
The Panthers entered the playoffs like an invading hoard. They outscored their first three playoff opponents by a combined 140-12. They defeated:
- Amarillo 42-0
- El Paso Jefferson 49-6
- FW Trimble Tech 49-6
They followed up with wins over Arlington Lamar (20-10) and Marshall (31-14), heading into the 5A State Championship Game vs Houston Aldine at the famous Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. It was the Panthers ninth appearance in the state title game.
The game conditions were frigid as the hole in the roof of Texas Stadium let in the 10-degree cold air at kickoff.
Permian held Aldine scoreless in the first half, leading 14-0 at halftime. The Panthers forced four Aldine fumbles.
Aldine had zero passing yards on just four pass attempts. The Mustangs did manage to put some points on the bord in the second half, and even though they rushed for 383 yards, it was too little too late.
Permian won 28-14 to secure their 5th state championship to cap off a 16-0 perfect season.
Case scored two TDs, one rushing and one passing. He was 7-11 passing for 58 yards.
Comer scored two short-yardage touchdowns and gained 172 yards rushing on 35 carries.
Hill caught six passes for 57 yards.
1989 Permian Panthers-5A State Champions
Photo Credit: permianpanthersfootball.com
Permian was so dominant that ESPN named the Panthers their high school football National Champions for 1989.
They are also listed on the Texas UIL 100 Years, 100 Teams List.