By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
WAXAHACHIE — The 101st Battle of 287 ended in quite the celebration for the Waxahachie Indians on their home turf.
The always-circled rivalry also sent many of the folks in Ennis Lion maroon headed to the exits midway through the third quarter. Waxahachie rolled — scoring every point — in the 42-2 non-district and season-opening victory Friday night inside a packed house at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.
Second-year Waxahachie head coach Shane Tolleson answered with an emphatic “no” in agreeance that the rivalry win would not be the highlight of the Indians’ season.
“You know, I expected our kids to play well because of all the work they have put in,” he added as players, coaches and community members celebrated along the track. “We killed ourselves in the first half with bad snaps, holding penalties — just drive killers.”
One of those bad snaps came on the opening drive and resulted in the only Ennis points of the game.
A holding penalty negated quite the kickoff return by De’Tyrian McCoy and pinned the Indians deep in their own territory. Two short runs and a poor snap then had Waxahachie facing fourth-and-15 from their 30-yard line.
The ensuing snap sailed over Jesse Garfias’ head and rolled toward the goal line. The junior punter and placekicker made the heads-up decision to kick the ball off the turf and through the back of the end zone for a safety.
That decision came with 9:50 to play in the first quarter. And it’d be the only time Ennis had points added to its scoring column.
Prior to Friday, The Lion offense had not been shutout in the historic rivalry since 2012 — and had only failed to reach the endzone or split the uprights five times since 1958.
The Lions now lead the all-time series by just a game, 50-49-2.
“I’m proud of our defense,” Tolleson said. “Even after our offense found its groove, it was scoring fast and we got tired. I’m so proud of them for responding because that is a really good offense right there [in Ennis]. That’s a really good offense that we stopped. I’m so proud of these kids, but they have to understand that this isn’t going to be the best part of our year.”
Despite not finding paydirt, senior quarterback Jackson Gilkey led the Lion offense to 358 yards. He completed 16-of-his-37 passes for 231 yards and one interception against an Indian secondary that played a good amount of man defense against the four-wide-out spread offense.
Sophomore receiver Gracen Harris led the Ennis receiving corps with eight catches for 124 yards (15.5 YPC). Harris (5-11, 175) put the state on notice in 2021 with 77 catches for 1,138 yards and 11 touchdowns. He already holds offers to Baylor, Kansas, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh and SMU.
Tolleson described Gilkey’s skill set as “phenomenal,” adding, “Jackson Gilkey is one of the top quarterbacks in the state of Texas.”
“Any great secondary, their defensive line compliments them,” said Tolleson of the efforts in the Indians’ secondary. “Any great d-line, their secondary compliments them. I think, as a team, they played as a unit to keep him contained. Because when he sets his feet, he’s dangerous.”
Gilkey (6-3, 220) entered the season as a three-star prospect and ranked by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football as the 9th best quarterback in the state. He has several dozen Division I offers but remains undecided.
Across the field, senior quarterback Roderick Hartsfield Jr. turned in his best performance as an Indian.
Hartsfield completed 10-of-his-11 passes for 192 yards and one touchdown — a 72-yard bomb to Keith Abney II to put Waxahachie up 20-2 with 6:30 to play in the second quarter.
Hartsfield pointed to that second-quarter touchdown via a well-thrown fade ball to Abney as his favorite score on a night when he accounted for three total touchdowns.
“I know I can run, but I want to showcase that I can throw too,” he said with confidence. “We know the defense is always going to show out, so the offense needs to keep up.”
Hartsfield added touchdown runs of 7 and 15 yards, with the second coming during the Indians’ three-touchdown burst in the fourth quarter.
As a team, Waxahachie rushed 40 times for 239 yards. Jayden Becks (13-114, TD) and Iverson Young (8-91, TD) led the way. Yoshua Sargent (2-50, TD) also got in on the action with the game’s final touchdown run (47 yards) with 5:46 to play in the fourth quarter.
“[The win] feels great, man, but it don’t mean nothing,” Hartsfield said. “It means something for the city, but we have to keep going.”
Waxahachie will look to keep the momentum going in a week two home game against Arlington Lamar. The Vikings fell to Timber Creek 48-25 on Friday.
Kickoff at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium is slated for 7 p.m.
Ennis, meanwhile, will look for a bounce-back game against (1-0) Midlothian. The Panthers opened the season with a 30-14 home victory against Arlington Seguin.
The Lions and Panthers will kick off their non-district game at 7 p.m. Friday at Lion Memorial Stadium.
All photos by Kirk Holt/Ellis County Sports Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith