FORT STOCKTON, Texas – The last few years have been a whirlwind for the Panthers of Fort Stockton. They finished with 7 wins in 2019, but that still wasn’t good enough for the playoffs.

That season, Fort Stockton went 3-3 in District 1-4A, DII which pulled the Panthers into a three-way tie for third place (along with Snyder and Sweetwater). However, after the district’s tiebreaking procedures were applied, Fort Stockton was relegated to a 5th-place finish and left out of the postseason.

After a slow start in 2020, the Panthers made several adjustments during their bye week.

“We changed our practice routines. We changed our practice uniforms, our greys – everything we did was different,” said head coach Mike Peters.

Having been placed into a four-team district after the last cycle of realignment, Fort Stockton already had a playoff spot secured (which is also the case for this season). But instead of settling for that, the Panthers caught fire down the final stretch of 2020.

After a surprising win over Andrews on the road in the final week of the season, Fort Stockton won the outright district title.

“It was a huge deal for us, a huge confidence thing,” said Peters. “I think that our kids really figured out that they could play football.”

As for this year’s team, the Panthers bring back many returners along the line.

The game is won in the trenches,” said senior lineman Elijah Escajeda “We can take a little bit of pressure off the younger guys in the secondary. They don’t have to have so much pressure.”

That secondary includes some important wide receivers for the team offensively. They’ll look to give the defense an attacking mindset on the field.

“Every time we have a chance to make a play on the ball, we’re always trying to score,” said junior Isaiah Garcia.

Finally, the Panthers can rely on senior quarterback Dominic Aguilar. This fall will be his third season as Fort Stockton’s starting quarterback.

“You know, he’s a dual-threat guy,” said Peters. “We’re looking to see if he can make some advances in some of the finer points of playing quarterback.”