By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
COPPERAS COVE — Shawn Cherry couldn’t help but find himself in the Dawg house on Friday night in the Waxahachie Indians season opener.
The senior running back rushed 17 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Indians to a convincing 34-7 victory at Bulldawg Stadium.
Waxahachie picked up 368 total yards on offense, which included 220 yards on the ground. The Tribe’s defense limited the Bulldawgs to 257 total yards of offense (72 passing, 185 rushing).
Indian quarterbacks Casey Kelly (5-13, 144yds) and Roderick Hartsfield (1-3, 4yds) rotated behind center throughout the victory. BJ Hawkins led all receivers with three catches for 115 yards and one touchdown.
The Indian defense shutout Cove in the second half, ultimately forcing four turnovers on downs. The Bulldawgs were also flagged 13 times for 95 penalty yards.
Waxahachie has now opened the season with a win in two of head coach Todd Alexander’s three years at the helm.
The victory was also the first-ever for the Indians against the Bulldawgs. Copperas Cove, led by NFL veteran and Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, won the first two meetings in the final minutes of the 4A bi-district playoffs in 2006 and 2007.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Indians began the game with back-to-back drives into Copperas Cove territory. And Waxahachie faithful quickly learned the name of kicker Clyde Melick.
Melick capped the first drive of the season with a 33-yard field goal.
The second drive could’ve ended in a touchdown — had the Indians not been flagged for a penalty across the field and away from the play.
Melick split the uprights on his 37-yard field goal to put the Indians up, 6-0 with 44 seconds left in the first quarter.
Melick nearly had a third first-half field goal on the ensuing Waxahachie drive. He had the distance and height but missed the 28-yard attempt a little wide.
Waxahachie’s first punt of the night came with 4:14 to play in the second quarter. The punt off of the right foot of Melick rolled 43 yards down to the 6-yard line.
On the ensuing Bulldawg drive, quarterback Shane Richey escaped a would-be sack for a safety on third-and-10, only to fumble the football on the 2-yard line. Senior defensive back Preston Hodge recovered the loose ball and scored the Indians’ first touchdown of the season.
Jh’Marques Head was credited with the strip.
The two-point attempt failed, leaving Waxahachie up, 12-0, with 3:40 to play in the second quarter.
Cove did manage to find the end zone in the first half, however.
Richey capped a 13-play, 85-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 13 ticks left on the first-half clock.
Kelly was 4-11 for 112 yards for the Indians. BJ Hawkins was on the receiving end for two of those completions and finished with 94 yards. Cherry had 14 carries for 97 yards.
The Indian defense limited Copperas Cove to 92 total yards of offense in the opening half, while its offense accounted for 252.
Cherry took the ball on the first play of the second half and busted through the line with a 54-yard touchdown scamper. The Bulldawgs defense saw nothing but his heels as he put the Indians on top, 19-7, with 11:35 to play in the third quarter.
The ensuing Cove drive ended with a poor snap over the Bulldawgs’ punter’s head. The miscue put the Tribe offense back onto the field 20 yards from paydirt.
The Indians scored three plays later when Cherry again rushed in, this time from 13 yards out. His second touchdown run put Waxahachie up, 27-7, with 8:03 to play in the third quarter and essentially put the game on ice.
Hodge recovered a second Cove fumble late in the third quarter to end a lengthy drive. The possession change came with under one minute to play and the Bulldawg offense inside the Indians’ red zone.
A few plays later, Kelly tossed the first touchdown pass of the season when he connected with Hawkins on a 31-yard play-action pass across the middle. The pitch-and-catch put Waxahchie up 34-7 with 8:49 to play in the fourth quarter.
The reception moved Hawkins across the 100-yard mark, too.
The score held as Cove did very little to threaten the lead for the remaining eight minutes and change.
The Indians return home for a week two matchup against (0-1) Arlington Lamar. The Vikings fell to Euless Trinity in their season opener on Thursday, 35-28.
Kickoff at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2. A short on-field memorial is planned to honor late Waxahachie senior Austin Elbert during halftime.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith