ODESSA, Texas — The Permian Panthers. One of the most storied football programs in West Texas.
"These kids are amazing," Ratcliff Stadium PA Announcer Todd Berridge said. "The coaches are amazing. Just the whole entire school is amazing and we have an awesome responsibility to defend that school. To defend that honor to defend the history of Permian High School."
If you’re from Odessa, you know the story of “Friday Night Lights”. First the 1990 book by Buzz Bissinger, then the movie starring Billy Bob Thornton in 2004. If you’re a high school football fan, you know the Permian Panthers in Odessa, TX.
But Permian is far more than just a setting of one of the most famous sports stories in book and film history. Permian has carved itself out a history of their own.
"I've been following Permian since 1980," Berridge said. "And that was one of the years they won a state championship. So they've won six state championships. They've been to the championship game 11 times. They've been undefeated several times and won two national championships so it's really easy to get in with black and white and be a panther. "
The football program isn’t the only standout of this school.
"All of the programs and Permian High School feed off of the football program, so when they're successful, we're successful," Berridge said, also being the orchestra teacher. "The band has been, you know, national champions. The orchestra has been state champions, national champions the choir, anybody who's in Permian High School is just as a great success. And it feeds from the football program. They set the tone."
The rallying cry for Permian High is MOJO, pretty random for a team named the Permian Panthers. There’s been numerous stories of how this phrase was originated, but let’s hear from an expert.
"Back in 1967, there was a few fans that started yelling Mojo at the game," Berridge said. "Nobody quite knew what they were talking about at the time. But it really didn't take off until 1968 that the semifinal game, the Peppettes at the time had these bumper stickers that they were selling, and it said 'The Mighty Mojo Panthers', and the band spelled Mojo on the field first time in 1968, and it just took off from there. It was a kind of like a mystique thing. And every time Mojo was yelled it seemed like they were coming back from a huge deficit and came back in the fourth quarter to win the game."
Friday night, the Panthers played their biggest rival Midland Legacy, formerly Midland Lee, the team Boobie Miles got injured against in the movie (not true in real life however). This has continued to be a big rivalry.
"This is a rivalry, we have respect to one another between the old Midland Lee program and the Permian program," Berridge said. "Tonight is the 66th meeting. Permian is 40-24-1 against them in the regular season in the playoffs, and they've even met in the playoffs three times. Permian owns a two and one record on that. You know, we don't like each other but we have respect for one another as a program. They have three back to back state championships in Lee. The kids don't like each other. The players don't like each other. The fans don't like each other. But in this time, we need rivalries, we need that thing to kick us in the rear and get us out to the ball games because it's just so much fun to come out here on Ratiff Friday night."
So despite what the book or the movie tells you, just know the Friday Night Lights have been shining over the Permian Panthers for years upon years. Just ask their trophy case.