By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
HEWITT — The District 11-6A opener between Waxahachie and Hewitt Midway appeared all but over by halftime at Panther Stadium.
The Indians had, after all, just held the Panthers to negative rushing yards and fewer than 50 total yards of offense over the first two quarters.
Midway then found something special in the locker room, though. And, as fate would have it, it ultimately took a Brendan White blocked punt late in the fourth quarter to spark the 24-21 come-from-behind win for the Indians in their first battle of 2021 in the “District of Doom.”
QUITE THE START
The victory, which improved Waxahachie to 3-1 on the season, marked the first time in program history for the Tribe to begin district play with a win since jumping up to Class 6A (4 seasons).
The lone loss on the season thus far for the Indians came this past week against 5A No. 6 (4-0) Ennis in overtime, 22-21. Waxahachie last started a season 3-1 or better in 2016 under Jon Kitna. The Indians went on to finish 6-4 and miss the postseason, as all four losses came in district play.
The Tribe defense has now allowed 22 points or fewer in all four contests, helping the Indian offense outscore the opposition 87-68 — or 21.8 points per game to 17.0.
HOW FRIDAY HAPPENED
The Indians dominated the first half — and that might be a bit of an understatement.
Midway mustered just 43 total yards of offense in the opening half, which included negative-20 rushing yards.
Waxahachie, meanwhile, hung a pair of first-quarter touchdowns and added a 33-yard Jesse Garfias field goal for a 17-0 halftime lead.
Hartsfield (9-19, 189yds) began the Indians’ third drive of the game with a 42-yard completion to Blair Hawkins (2-50).
Five consecutive runs concluded with Hartsfield powering through the Panther defensive line for a 1-yard touchdown run. Jesse Garfias capped the 7-play, 77-yard drive with a field goal for a 7-0 Waxahachie lead with 5:59 to play in the first quarter.
The Indian offense struck again on the ensuing drive when Hartsfield capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive with another 1-yard quarterback dive.
Waxahachie was suddenly up 14-0 with 11 ticks to play in the first quarter. It felt like a comfortable lead to those in green-and-white, especially with the Indian defense suffocating the Panthers.
A few possessions later, Garfias split the uprights for a 33-yard field goal — his first of the season — for a 17-0 Waxahachie lead with 6:49 remaining in the first half.
Garfias, who struggled to open the season as a first-year placekicker, was met near the hash marks by a visibly elated Shane Tolleson.
This past week, the first-year Waxahachie head coach told KBEC Sports that he would not knowingly put a player in a position to fail — ever. The statement came after Tolleson was asked if he had considered using Garfias to attempt a 40-ish-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter against Ennis with the game tied at 14-all.
It now appears Garfias has shown he’s more than capable of kicking from distance and earned the coaching staff’s trust in the process. He also averaged 49.4 yards on six punts, which continually kept field position in the Indians’ favor.
The second half? Well, that was all Midway, especially in the third quarter.
The Panthers scored three consecutive touchdowns to take a 21-17 lead with 6:45 to play in the third quarter.
Reid Tedford opened the scoring with an 8-yard run to cap a five-play, 65-yard drive. Dominque Hill (22-117) then rushed in from 61 yards out for the Panthers’ second score of the game.
A fumbled kickoff return allowed Tedford (10-14, 118yds) to connect with Hill for a 17-yard touchdown and Midway’s first lead of the game (21-17).
The two teams traded punts and field position over the ensuing five possessions. And it would’ve been a sixth possession — at least, that’s how the Panthers would’ve preferred to see it unfold.
Midway actually lined up on fourth-and-2 from midfield with the intent to convert the first down. A false start penalty on the Midway left guard backed the offense up five yards and sent the punting team onto the field.
That’s when White busted through the right side and blocked the attempt with 8:21 to play in the fourth quarter. The ball was recovered by the Indians at the Midway 44-yard line.
White ultimately recorded two sacks, three tackles-for-loss and seven total tackles — and, of course, the game-changing blocked punt.
Those 44 yards were not easily traversed by the Indians.
The drive began with a promising 12-yard pass from Hartsfield to tight end Joseph Lankford and 6-yard Iverson Young (22-87) run. The two plays had Waxahachie at the Midway 26-yard line. A pair of offensive penalties followed, backing the offense into a third-and-30 situation.
Hartsfield connected with Young for a 19-yard gain on third down, leaving the offense a fourth-and-11 hole with the game teetering in the balance.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior quarterback then found Keith Abney II (2-60) for a 14-yard gain to move the sticks and keep the Tribe’s hopes alive.
Young broke a couple tackles for a 12-yard gain. The junior running back followed by doing the same for a 7-yard touchdown with 4:58 to play in the ballgame.
Garfias again split the uprights and put the Indians back on top, 24-21.
The Waxahachie defense stepped up to force a quick three-and-out, allowing Hartsfield and company to run out the remaining 4:05 to seal the district-opening victory.
Waxahachie ultimately outgained Midway, 295 total yards to 222. Both teams picked up 11 first downs.
Waxahachie will put its 3-1 season record and 1-0 start to District 11-6A on the line against (0-4, 0-1) Mansfield Lake Ridge.
The Eagles have faced four formidable foes to open the season, falling to Union (Tulsa, OK, 48-20), Prosper (63-7), Denton Guyer (37-6) and Cedar Hill (38-20).
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.
All photos by Travis M. Smith/KBEC Sports
INDIANS 24, PANTHERS 21
Waxahachie — 14 3 0 7 — 24
Hew. Midway — 0 0 21 0 — 21
First downs 11 11
Total Yards 295 222
Passing 9-19 10-14
Passing Yds 198 118
Rushing 38-106 37-104
Penalties 7-65 9-60
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-1
WHS — Roderick Hartsfield Jr. 9-19, 189yds, 0 INT
MHS — Reid Tedford 10-14, 118yds, TD, 0 INT
WHS — Keith Abney II 2-60; Blair Hawkins 2-50; Jaelyn Davis-Robinson 1-39; Iverson Young 1-19; Joseph Lankford 1-12; John Nelms Jr 1-8; Terrell Davis 1-1
MHS — Dominque Hill 8-83, TD; Dhamir McDonnaugh 1-19; Darwin Parker 1-16
WHS — Iverson Young 22-87, TD; 11-52; Roderick Hartsfield Jr. 5-(neg) 33
MHS — Dominque Hill 22-117, TD; Dhamir McDonnaugh 2-(neg) 1; Reid Tedford 13-(neg) 12, TD
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith