On Friday, October 28, the 2001 Division I-AA State Championship Football team Blanco Panthers will be honored during ceremonies at Panther Stadium in conjunction with the district home game against Lago Vista.
Current head coach Danny Rogers was then-head coach Brian Emerson’s defensive coordinator.
“The 2001 season was remarkable,” said Rogers. “We just came off a year where we lost the state championship game, and never expected to ever get back again after losing the senior class that we had.”
The 2000 season that Rogers referred to ended in a 27-24 loss to Sonora at Waco ISD stadium. The experience, however, was a valuable one.
“I think the 2001 season had a lot to do with our previous success in 2000,” said Joseph Mann, who played quarterback and outside linebacker for the 2001 state champions. “We had to deal with a lot of adversity in 2000.”
“We learned to overcome setbacks, and also deal with success—two valuable things that you need to be a good team.”
“To make it to the state championship game and lose when we had worked so hard and gone so far was the motivation we needed to go back the next year and come home with a win. I think that every moment we played football after that loss was focused on getting back to that stadium and becoming state champions.”
Daniel Myane, a receiver on the 2001 team, said, “Nothing less than the state championship was expected in 2001. The year before set the standard. We never expected to lose.”
Coach Rogers reflected on how the team came together in 2001, “Our guys stepped their game up and because an overall great team. Our defense was very physical, our offense had speed to break the big runs, and our special teams did an outstanding job covering kicks and making extra points.”
The team developed a common dedication, loyalty, and belief to drive them to the title.
“We went as far as we did and won the state championship because our team had confidence,” said Mann, now a coach at Comfort ISD. “We knew we were going to win every game. That confidence came from our work ethic. We knew we practiced and played harder than the teams we were facing. We were also disciplined.”
“We knew every player had their own role on the team, and that player would be held accountable. Nobody was asked to do more than what was expected of them.”
Daniel Myane said, “We were a family; we could finish each other’s sentences. We had been together since elementary. Also, having little turnover with the coaches was a huge advantage; that’s rare for a small school.”
Brandon Culton played middle linebacker for the 2001 Panthers. These were his thoughts on the character of the team: “It was playing the greatest game mankind invented, with a group of guys you have known your whole life. Guys that have bled with you, sweated with you, and gone the distance with you.”
“Simply playing with the kind of guys you knew would never give up, lay down, or quit, was in retrospect, the greatest part of the 2001 State Run.”
Panther Defense Recognized
The Panthers’ defensive unit was an especially physical component of the team’s character.
“Defense, defense, defense,” said Mann. “No doubt about it, we were going to hit you in the mouth as hard as we could for four quarters. The opposing team was going to have to earn every yard they got.”
Linebacker Culton added, when asked of his most memorable moments from the season, “Watching running backs and quarterbacks get up very slowly after an encounter was pretty memorable!”
State Semifinal Game vs. Hemphill
The Panthers put together decisive wins on its playoff run, but met a worthy and game opponent in its Semifinal matchup with Hemphill.
Played at Waco ISD Stadium, the Panthers scored twice in the last six minutes to pull out a 28—27 win. Chris Bibb’s extra point in the last minute provided the margin of victory.
“The Hemphill game was without a doubt my most memorable experience of that season,” said Mann. “We learned a lot about ourselves that night, and about how the unity and brotherhood of a team can overcome all odds coming back from almost an impossible 14-point deficit to win the game in just six minutes.”
Muhammad Weusi was an All-State running back for the Panthers that season. “My most memorable experience of that season was when all was lost during the Semifinal game against Hemphill. We fought until the end and were victorious. And also when Bibb threw his helmet in the air after the game!”
Myane added, “I credit our coaches. I always say that Hemphill got out-coached!”
“That season was one of the highlights of my life,” said Weusi. “It helped me to become a leader in life, and showed me that when you are passionate about something and you put your whole heart into it, anything is possible! When looking back on that experience, I was at my all time best.”
Joseph Mann said, “The seniors who graduated in 2000 were a big part of our success in 2001. We learned a great deal from them. They helped shape the 2001 team, and they deserve recognition for the championship season also.”
Coach Rogers said, “That group of guys brought our whole community closer together, whether it be tailgate pep rallies or Friday night games.”
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been ten years since that group was here. I look forward to seeing each and every one of them because we all have a special bond that we share together, and that is State Champions, and we will forever have it.”
Letters to the 2001 State Champs can be found at http://www.blanconews.com/news/101336/ and http://www.blanconews.com/news/101337/