By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
WAXAHACHIE — Six turnovers erased an otherwise dominant showing by the Waxahachie Indians against Arlington Lamar on Friday.
Five of those miscues came in the second half and ended each of the Indians’ offensive possessions. Even still, the Tribe had its opportunities late in the fourth quarter to mount a comeback in the eventual 19-7 loss at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.
Turnovers aside, Waxahachie had its way with Lamar on both sides of the football.
The Indians outgained the Vikings 280 total yards to 143, picked up 10 more first downs (19-9) and gashed the Lamar defensive front for 203 rushing yards. The Vikings gained just 20 yards of offense in the second half.
Waxahachie head football coach Todd Alexander agreed that he thought the offensive line and senior running back Shawn Cherry (31-181, TD) played exceptionally well.
“Overall, I think those guys played well,” Alexander said. “The film will ultimately tell, but I thought just from watching the game that they all had a good night. There were a few missed protections but those will be easily fixed for those guys. It was a huge positive for the game. Our offense played extremely well until we got into the red zone.”
Lamar managed just 68 yards on 25 carries for a porous 2.72 yards per rush, even after its offense began with a short field on four different possessions thanks to Waxahachie turnovers. The Vikings were also flagged four times for 58 yards, while the Indians received just two penalties for 14 yards.
“Those guys on the defensive side, they played their tails off,” Alexander said. “They are fighters. Those are the kinds of guys that you want on your defense because they get after people.
“[…] They could have very easily laid down, but they kept fighting. Even right there at the very end, the defense didn’t let [Lamar] score at the end of the game, and that’s a positive. We have a lot of character on that side and a lot of fight.”
But those turnovers, they ultimately told the story.
Three of the five Waxahachie interceptions occurred inside the 10-yard line in the second half. The lone fumble came when quarterback Roderick Hartsfield reached out for a potential touchdown from the 1-yard line, only to have the ball batted from his hands and roll out of the end zone.
Lamar ultimately scored 12 points off of the Waxahachie offense, including a 100-yard interception return and a safety.
“You move the ball all night, and then those things happen, so it’s frustrating,” Alexander said. He noted that the most important takeaway for Hartsfield and senior quarterback Casey Kelley is to remain confident in their abilities.
“They are both very talented and they can both run our offense,” he explained. “We just have to build their confidence and they have to build confidence within themselves. And I think that is going to happen. They are both competitors and good athletes and they know what it takes. They are going to learn from it and we are going to be better for it.”
Each quarterback completed 5-of-his-9 passes on the evening. Kelley threw for 70 yards and three interceptions, while Hartsfield finished with 7 yards and two interceptions.
Jaden Basham (5-45) and BJ Hawkins (5-32) accounted for all 10 Waxahachie receptions.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The initial Waxahachie drive began with an 8-yard Cherry run that was quickly followed by a tipped Kelley pass for an interception.
Arlington Lamar capitalized on the short field 10 plays later with a 20-yard field goal. The bend-but-don’t-break defensive stand had the Indians ready to receive the kickoff down 3-0 with 6:34 to play in the first quarter.
The Tribe offense responded well with a methodical 12-play, 53-yard drive following Hawkins’ 39-yard kickoff return.
Cherry eventually punched the ball across a crowded goal line for a 2-yard touchdown with 43.4 seconds left in the first quarter.
It was a tunnel screen from Kelley to Basham on third-and-8 at the Vikings 25-yard line highlighted the drive. Cherry also carried the ball seven times for 29 yards to set up the score.
ONE WILD SAFETY
*Cue the circus music before reading this next series of plays*
A poor snap over the head Indian punter Clyde Melick resulted in a Waxahachie safety. The safety was the best-case scenario, as Lamar had three defenders ready to fall on the ball at the goal line.
A heads-up play by Melick sent the football off a Viking facemask and out of the back of the endzone for a safety. Picture, if you will, a corner kick in soccer — only this time add football pads and have the kick occur in the middle of a football field with three athletes diving headfirst at the kicker’s foot. Melick made the right decision to turn and give the pigskin a boot off of the turf.
The Waxahachie lead dwindled to 7-5.
Unfortunately, Melick’s unorthodox “punt” also resulted in a 15-yard penalty assessed on the kickoff, putting the Indians on the 10-yard line for the kickoff.
Lamar returned the try to the Waxahachie 45-yard line — but chose to accept a 5-yard offsides penalty and force the Indians to rekick from their own 5-yard line.
Lamar head coach Laban DeLay undoubtedly kicked himself shortly after, as the decision backfired in the worst way.
On his second attempt, Melick unloaded a beauty of a kickoff from his own 5-yard line that rolled to the Vikings’ 22 before the Lamar returner picked it up. He made his way to the Vikings’ 39-yard line but only because of a block in the back. The penalty led to the Lamar offense starting from its own 25.
The decision to accept the 5-yard offsides resulted in a net of negative 35 yards.
The unfoldings were undoubtedly a first for most in attendance to experience.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Alexander with a slight grin. He was one of the several hundred in attendance who experienced the rather peculiar four-plus minutes of football.
Neither Lamar nor Waxahachie were able to capitalize either way.
VIKINGS TAKE THE LEAD
The Vikings eventually found the end zone when Anthony Williams rushed in from 2 yards out, with 43.8 seconds remaining in the first half. The extra-point kick sent the teams into the halftime locker room with Lamar leading, 12-7.
Not subtracting the 29 yards lost on the safety, Waxahachie was limited to just 88 total yards of offense in the first half. Cherry accounted for 57 of those yards on the ground.
Kelley and Roderick Hartsfield combined to complete 3-of-5 passes for 21 yards.
Lamar finished the half with 123 total yards of offense, including 68 through the air on 8-of-17 passing.
MISFORTUNE AND TURNOVERS
Waxahachie received the opening kick and quickly put together a promising drive deep into Lamar territory.
Disaster struck on the eighth play, however, when a Kelley pass near the goal line was intercepted by Harold West and returned 100 yards to the house. The touchdown and successful extra-point kick put the Vikings up by two scores, 19-7.
A second Kelley interception ended the ensuing Waxahachie drive, though the defense was able to force a Lamar punt.
Led by Hartsfield, the Waxahachie offense again drove the ball seemingly at ease against the Lamar front.
And, for the third time, an interception ended the drive — this time caught in the end zone on fourth-and-10.
Luck would return to the Indians, even if just briefly.
The defense yet again forced the Vikings into a punt, which traveled a total of 12 yards.
Cherry took the first snap 17 yards to the Vikings’ 10-yard line. He then had the Indians at the 5 on the ensuing snap.
Two plays later…diaster in the red zone struck again.
Hartsfield took the snap, rolled to his right, and decided to run for the corner of the endzone. The sophomore was hit at the 1-yard line and fumbled the football out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
The change in possession set the Vikings up with first-and-10 at their own 20. Lamar still clung to its 19-7 lead with just over 7 minutes remaining in the game.
The Waxahachie defense forced yet another Lamar punt — the Vikings’ fifth — six plays later, giving the Indians yet another opportunity for a little late-game magic.
Once again, Hartsfield and the offense quickly drove into Lamar territory. The drive ended with the Indians’ fifth interception of the night and third for West, who returned the football 90 yards to the Indians 5-yard line.
It should be noted that Hartsfield never gave up on the play and chased West down from behind along the Waxahachie sideline. His efforts to not just catch West, but also knock the football out in the process, prevented a Lamar touchdown.
The Vikings chose to run three plays in hopes of tagging on an extra touchdown en lieu of kneeling out the remaining 48 seconds. And, like they had done all night, the Vikings failed to move the ball against the Indian defense.
Lamar held on for the 19-7 road victory.
The Indians return to action Friday in Ennis for the 99th meeting of The Battle of 287.
The Press Box, which airs on KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM and partners with KBEC Sports, will host a live two-hour preview show with both head coaches and various players from 6-8 p.m. Monday at Bluebonnet Barbecue in Reagor Springs.
The all-time series between the Indians and Lions is tied at 48-48-2. Kickoff from Lion Memorial Stadium is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Ennis will enter fresh off a bye week and as the top-ranked team in Class 5A Division I.
All photos by Kirk Holt/KBEC Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith