By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
Friday night was a far cry from the offensive showcases previously featured in the Battle of 287, especially those with Sam Harrell leading the Ennis Lions charge.
Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium instead played host to a second-half defensive effort that afforded Harrell and his returning varsity Lions a bit of redemption.
Led by its defensive front seven, Ennis limited Waxahachie to 82 yards and four first downs in the second half of the 21-13 victory. The Lions outgained the Indians 384 yards to 232 on the evening.
Waxahachie had won each of the four previous showdowns in the Battle of 287. With the Ennis victory Friday, the all-time series is once again tied at 48-48-2.
Friday marked the 82nd meeting between the two high schools on the gridiron over the last 80 consecutive years, dating back to 1939. It was the 98th meeting all-time, with the Indians winning the very first matchup in the series 37-0 in 1908.
BY THE NUMBERS
Ennis quarterback Collin Drake, a 6-foot-1 junior, recorded a game-high 202 yards on 15-of-21 passing (71.4%). He did not throw an interception.
Jarius Jones bruised his way to 101 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries to lead all ball carriers. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound running back did the majority of his damage in the second half, while Devion Beasley scored twice in the first half and finished the evening with 51 yards on nine carries.
As for Waxahachie, senior quarterback Campbell Sullivan led the way with 117 passing yards and one touchdown on 8-of-18 passing (44.4%). He also added 52 yards on 11 carries, while Derrick Jackson rushed 14 times for 46 yards.
As a team, the Indians rushed for just 3.5 yards-per-carry.
The Lions were penalized 12 times for 101 yards, which was nearly double the 63 yards the Indians were flagged for on 6 penalties. Ennis committed the only turnover of the game.
ON THE MEND
Standout Waxahachie wide receiver and defensive back, Josh Sterns, exited the game on the first offensive drive of the game. He was in a walking boot for the second half.
The new-look Indians offense marched down the field on its opening drive behind a heaving helping of misdirection and read-options led by senior quarterback Campbell Sullivan.
Sullivan, a dual-sport athlete who has verbally committed to Dallas Baptist University for baseball, appeared under center in the opening game in 2018 against the Lions, only to have injuries force a move to wide receiver.
He certainly looked comfortable back behind the center early, though.
Sullivan and the Indians ran the football seven consecutive times to open the game and moved to the Lions 11-yard line. His first passing attempt of the season came three plays later with the Indians facing third-and-goal.
The quarterback escaped the Lions rush, rolled to his right and fired a strike to the back of the endzone — only to have it dropped.
Cristiano Perez then drilled a 28-yard field goal to put the Tribe on the board, 3-0, with 8:12 to play in the first quarter.
The Lions wasted little time to stake their first lead of the season, needing just seven plays to drive 57 yards to paydirt. Devion Beasley capped the Lions first possession with a 2-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 Ennis lead with 6:03 to play.
Waxahachie had its opportunities to reclaim its early lead with a 12-play drive into Ennis territory. A strong push by the Lions front four led to a 7-yard loss on first down from their own 20-yard line. The distance proved too much for the Indians offense to convert.
Perez eventually attempted a 40-yard field goal with 11:01 to go in the first half, though it appeared a bobble on the hold caused the kick to miss the sweet spot on the kicker’s foot and fall a few yards short.
The Indians defense promptly forced a three-and-out, and the offense once again found itself with an opportunity to find the end zone.
Waxahachie had two long gains called back due to penalties before Sullivan again razzled, dazzled and found a streaking wide receiver near the Indians sideline. When 6-foot-3 junior Kieran Page was finally tackled, the Indians had picked up 42 yards and were set up at the Lions 20.
A pair of runs by Derrick Jackson then quickly moved the Indians to the 1-yard line. But back-to-back penalties — with the second being a holding call on what would’ve been a Sullivan touchdown scamper — pushed the Indians out of go-for-it range on fourth down. The penalties did not, however, push Perez beyond his limits.
The senior placekicker split the uprights from 28 yards to pull the Indians within one, 7-6, with just over six minutes to play in the half.
Nine plays later, Beasley scored a second rushing touchdown for the Lions — this time from 16 yards out — to put Ennis on top, 14-6.
The half ended with the Lions holding onto that lead.
Ennis outgained its host 169 yards to 147, with 97 of those yards coming on 9-of-11 passing for Collin Drake. Beasley paced the Lions backfield with 34 yards and two scores on four carries, while Jarius Jones had 25 yards on five.
Sullivan finished the half 3-of-8 for 54 yards passing for the Indians and added a team-best 47 yards on eight carries. Jackson had 33 yards on eight carries for the Tribe.
The Lions had 11 first downs at the half to the Indians nine.
Both teams began the second half with rather unimpressive drives. Ennis then drove inside the Indians’ 10-yard line, only for Jones to fumble the football out of the back and hand possession back over to Waxahachie.
The Tribe spoiled the opportunity at recapturing the momentum — and lead — and punted a few plays later.
The third quarter could be labeled a chess match or offensive struggle, and a case could be made for either. Whichever the case, the 14-6 Ennis lead held as the game headed into the fourth quarter and with the Lions in possession of the football.
Ennis reeled off 10 plays and overcame a pair of 5-yard offensive penalties to take a 21-6 lead when Jones ran through the heart of the Waxahachie defense from 4 yards out.
The Lions were 7:25 from reclaiming the coveted 287 sign.
Sullivan and company had other plans though, as he began the ensuing Waxahachie drive with completions to BJ Hawkins (25 yards) and Derrick Jackson to move the Tribe to the Lions’ 33-yard line. A short run by Jackson and a Sullivan completion to Page then had the Indians inside the Ennis red zone.
Two plays later, Sullivan found Hawkins in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown to pull Waxahachie within one score, 21-13, with 4:29 to play in the season opener.
The ensuing onside kick attempt landed in the arms of a Lion and put the Tribe on the ropes. Four consecutive rushing attempts then had both sets of bleachers on their feet, as the Lions faced the longest fourth-and-inch to-go that they will likely see all season.
Drake took the snap from center and was quickly wrapped up just behind the right tackle. Had he of gone down, the ball would’ve been back in the hands of Sullivan and the Indians. And it looked as though that was the case.
While still wrapped up, Drake used a second effort to extend the ball across the needed yard line to net the Lions a first down and secure the first Battle-of-287 victory for his legendary head coach since his improbable return to the Ennis sidelines last season.
The Lions then used four rushing plays to run out the clock in their 21-13 win.
Ennis continues its pre-district schedule with a road tilt at 7 p.m. Friday against Bishop Lynch, while the Indians host Mesquite Poteet at 7:30 p.m. Friday.