By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
BJ Hawkins moved under center Friday night to lead the Waxahachie Indians to their first victory against Mansfield Lake Ridge since 2012.
The 31-21 Waxahachie win at RL Anderson Stadium in Mansfield also locked the Indians into the third seed in the District 11-6A Zone A standings. Waxahachie entered the game 1-7 all-time against Lake Ridge, having won the first matchup 77-0 in 2012 before dropping each of the next seven contests.
Due to the possibilities of a COVID-19 shutdown, the District 11-6A Executive Committee decided to go to a two-zone format for the regular season.
Friday’s victory ultimately means that the Indians will face the second seed from 11-6A Zone B next Friday and, should they win, would be locked into a playoff berth if COVID-19 ends the regular season early.
Mansfield High defeated Waco High, 31-13, Friday in Mansfield to solidify its place as the second seed in 11-6A Zone B — but didn’t actually complete the game.
According to The Waco Tribune, a Waco High football player had tested positive for COVID-19 and led the officials to call the game with 4:45 to play in the fourth quarter. The player was not in attendance at Vernon Newsom Stadium for Friday’s ball game.
“Waco High School principal James Stewart, Jr. called Waco officials in the fourth quarter at Vernon Newsom Stadium here to alert them of the positive test for the unnamed player,” stated The Waco Tribune report. “Waco coaches then alerted the officials, which led to the early ending.
“There was no update late Friday how this could affect Waco High’s season going forward. Several schools in Waco ISD have already been slowed by the COVID-19 virus this year.”
Mansfield High is currently 3-3 on the season and 2-1 in district play and will now face the Indians in the district’s midseason zone playoff. The game is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Vernon Newsom Stadium in Mansfield.
The other 11-6A Zone Playoff matchups include No. 2 Duncanville versus No. 10 Cedar Hill for the top seed (1 versus 1), No. 6 DeSoto versus Waco Midway (2 versus 3) and Lake Ridge versus Waco High (4 versus 4).
The winner of Duncanville-Cedar Hill will be placed first and second, while the winners of DeSoto-Midway and Mansfield-Waxahachie will fill in as the third and fourth seeds — should the district be unable to finish due to COVID-19.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Waxahachie Indians took a 24-7 lead into the halftime locker room Friday night against Lake Ridge.
It marked the largest halftime lead for the Tribe since jumping out to a 28-11 advantage against Ennis in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Waxahachie also led Mesquite Poteet 33-17 on Sept. 6, 2019.
Senior athlete Brandon Hawkins Jr. finished the game by completing 9-of-his-12 passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a game-high 24 carries for 173 yards and one score.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hawkins moved from wide receiver to quarterback following a lower leg injury suffered by sophomore Roderick Hartsfield this past week against Cedar Hill. Hartsfield, who left in a boot last week and was unable to take the field Friday against Lake Ridge, had previously assumed the full-time quarterback role over senior Casey Kelly.
Hawkins entered the game as the reigning 2019 District 7-6A Wide Reciever of the Year and the KBEC Sports Big School Player of the Year. He accounted for 91 receptions for 1,129 yards (12.4 YPC) and 14 touchdowns during his junior campaign.
This year, however, Hawkins had just 17 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown.
For those unaware, Hawkins took the large majority of first-team quarterback reps during the spring of 2018 when quarterbacks Campbell Sullivan, DJ Hollywood and Kelly were busy with the Indians’ baseball team.
The Waxahachie coaching staff should be applauded for making a move to Hawkins ahead of Friday’s matchup against Lake Ridge. They got the football into the hands of the best player on the field early and often — and it worked perfectly.
HOW IT HAPPENED
An uneventful start to Friday’s game at RL Anderson Stadium in Mansfield lasted just two possessions, as the Indian offense led by Hawkins quickly took over momentum and the scoreboard.
Hawkins ultimately capped the Tribe’s second offensive drive (50 yards) with a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Indians up, 7-0, with 5:02 to play in the first quarter. It marked the first-ever rushing touchdown in Hawkins’ varsity career.
The Lake Ridge offense answered right back to tie the game at 7-all with 2:56 to play in the first quarter. The Eagles converted a fourth-and-2 and capped the 6-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown run by Jaylen Holt (15-62, 2TDs).
Waxahachie ended the first quarter three-of-four on third downs, led by Hawkins’ 41 rushing yards and Shawn Cherry’s 24.
Those two playmakers then combined for the Indians’ second touchdown, which came with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter.
Hawkins took the snap from the shotgun, turned and fired a strike to Cherry in the flat. The senior running back carried the swing pass 26 yards to the house to cap the 10-play, 74-yard drive that ate 4:54 off the first-half clock.
The pitch-and-catch marked the first-ever career passing touchdown for Hawkins as a varsity Indian.
Hawkins ultimately crossed the 100-yard rushing plateau later in the second quarter on a 37-yard carry to the Eagles’ 5-yard line. Two plays later, the senior rolled to his right and then quickly dumped a second touchdown pass to Cherry to cap a 9-play, 62-yard drive.
Special team standout Clyde Melick split the uprights to put the Indians on top, 21-7, with 3:07 to play in the first half.
The Indians then recovered the ensuing pooch kick to put the offense back on the field at the Eagles’ 30-yard line. The ball bounced off of an Eagle and was recovered by junior Destin Benson.
Waxahachie eventually faced a third-and-goal from the Eagles’ 13-yard line — only to have a Hawkins pass to Blair Williams fall incomplete.
Melick ultimately drilled a 25-yard field goal to put Waxahachie up 24-7 as the first-half clock expired.
Waxahachie had outgained Lake Ridge 226 total yards to 105 at the break.
Hawkins completed eight-of-his-10 passes for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Cherry. He also added 12 carries for 115 yards and a score, while Cherry had 13 totes for 46 yards and three receptions for 37.
Lake Ridge was limited to just 24 rushing yards and quarterback Trevor Andrews completed eight-of-his nine passes for 81 yards.
The Waxahachie offense had dominated the time of possession (18:03 to 5:57) during the opening half.
Waxahachie nearly recovered an onside kick attempt the start the second half.
The Indians’ shutdown corner Preston Hodge then intercepted the ensuing Lake Ridge pass attempt, only to have a pair of penalties (holding, dead-ball unsportsmanlike) negate the turnover and move the Eagles inside the Indians’ 20-yard line. A third Waxahachie penalty set the Eagle offense up inside the Tribe’s 10-yard line.
Andrews ultimately capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal with 9:41 to play in the third quarter. Lake Ridge needed just 12 yards of offense thanks to the three Waxahachie penalties.
With the momentum teetering, Hawkins and company buckled down and put the game away.
Five plays after the Lake Ridge touchdown, a Cherry stiff-arm helped move the Indian offense to the Eagles’ 23-yard line. The running back was eventually pulled down after a 21-yard gain, which was his longest of the night to that point.
Hawkins nearly scored two snaps later when he pulled down the football and rushed for 14 yards to the Eagles 4-yard line. It was Cherry, though, who ultimately found the end zone two snaps later. His 4-yard rushing touchdown put Waxahachie comfortably on top, 31-14, with 4:23 to play in the third quarter.
Thanks in part to an uber-athletic pass deflection by Waxahachie senior safety Xavien Thompson on the next Lake Ridge drive, the 17-point Waxahachie lead held into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles eventually found the end zone with 3:40 to play in the fourth quarter when Holt rushed in from 1-yard out. They then recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt — only to turn the football over on downs four plays later.
Cherry ultimately sealed the game with a 9-yard run on third-and-6 to pick up a first down with a little under one minute to play.
The carry also moved Cherry over the 100-yard plateau for the second time on the season, as he finished with 23 carries for 103 yards. The senior previously rushed 17 times for 198 yards in a week one victory against Copperas Cove.
Hawkins took a knee on the next and final snap to finish the 31-21 Waxahachie victory.
The Indians’ offense outgained the Eagles 339 total yards to 230, with Hawkins and Cherry combining to rush 47 times for 276 yards (5.8 YPC).
Neither team committed a turnover. Lake Ridge was penalized just twice for 10 yards, while the Indians were flagged nine times for 86 yards.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith