By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
CEDAR HILL — The Cedar Hill Longhorns needed every minute of their homecoming to stave off a Waxahachie upset Friday night at Longhorn Stadium.
Make no mistake about it: Waxahachie dominated all but the final three minutes of the District 7-6A contest.
The Indians led 10-7 just before junior quarterback Roderick Hartsfield was sacked near midfield with just under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter. That tackle-for-a-loss, unfortunately, came on fourth down and with an opportunity to seal the upset.
Following the turnover on downs, Cedar Hill quarterback Cedric Harden Jr. (6-12, 122yds) found Jarrus Nicholson for a 37-yard completion to the Indian 16-yard line.
Harden Jr. scored from 3 yards out four plays later to all-but-seal the Longhorns’ come-from-behind win, 14-10.
There was not a single fan on the home side sitting during the final eight-ish minutes. They, as well as the all-red-clad Longhorns on the field, were more than aware that they’d bit off a bit more than desirable for a homecoming contest.
Cedar Hill head coach Carlos Lynn called the victory a “character win.” The Longhorns were 6A Division II state finalists this past season.
Harden Jr. entered the game having completed 37-of-82 passes for 524 yards and four touchdowns to three interceptions. But, more importantly, the quarterback had rushed a team-best 59 times for 419 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s an average of just over 84.0 YPG and 2 TDs.
After being stalled in the first half, Harden Jr. eventually reached both of those totals Friday.
Cedar Hill also ultimately outgained Waxahachie 337 total yards to 218, though the Indians began their first two unfruitful drives deep in Longhorn territory. Neither team committed a turnover.
Cedar Hill was flagged 10 times for 99 yards, while the Indians received a season-low three penalties for 25 yards.
Jayden Becks led the Waxahachie ground attack with 19 carries for 75 yards, while Iverson Young added 51 yards on 19 carries.
Young went down with an apparent right-leg injury with 7:44 to play in the third quarter. He walked off the field under his own power, following some medical attention near the left hash, and later returned to the game.
The Dallas Morning News had Cedar Hill favored by two touchdowns, while Dave Campbell’s Texas Football computer prediction had the Indians as 20-point underdogs.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Defense has remained the lifeline of the Waxahachie Indian football team throughout its first season under first-year head coach Shane Tolleson. And, through the opening three-plus quarters Friday night at Longhorn Stadium in Cedar Hill, that narrative has remained unchanged.
The Indians carried a 7-0 lead into the halftime locker room behind a 34-yard touchdown pass from Roderick Hartsfield (6-9, 76yds) to Joseph Lankford with 22 seconds to play in the second quarter.
Cedar Hill did, however, outgain the Indians in the first half, totaling 163 total yards to the 134 gained by Waxahachie. That stat could be a bit misleading, as the Indian offense began its first two drives deep in Longhorn territory.
The Tribe elected to go for a first down or touchdown on fourth-and-3 from the Longhorn 4-yard line on its opening drive but was stopped short. Waxahachie then had a 31-yard field goal blocked late in the first quarter.
Waxahachie picked up 10 first downs in the opening half and committed just one penalty for 15 yards. Cedar Hill — who was celebrating homecoming — was flagged eight times for 84 yards. Neither team committed a turnover.
Waxahachie received the second-half kickoff and promptly pieced together an impressive drive that began from the Longhorns’ 38-yard line.
The drive ultimately spanned eight plays and 70 yards, resulting in a 32-yard Jesse Garfias field goal with 7:36 to play in the third quarter.
Waxahachie led 10-0 following Garfias’ third field goal of the season.
Following two failed possessions, the Longhorns finally got their break.
Cedar Hill began the fourth drive of the second half at its 44-yard line. It also should’ve ended there, as Keith Abney II nearly picked off a Harden Jr. pass with the Longhorns facing third-and-10.
Unfortunately for the Indians, the tipped ball came down in the hands of Jairrus Nicholson for a 46-yard gain. The completion set up a Longhorn first down at the Indians’ 13-yard line.
Cedar Hill scored three plays later when Harden Jr. rushed in on a zone read to the right side for a 2-yard touchdown. The extra-point kick was true, narrowing the Waxahachie lead to 10-7 with 1:23 to play in the third quarter.
That score held as the game turned toward the final 12 minutes of regulation.
The ensuing three possessions saw the football exchange hands without worry for the Tribe.
That’s about when the Indians faced a third-and-10 from the Longhorn 34-yard line with 4:01 to play in the fourth quarter.
The ensuing Hartsfield pass toward the left hash fell incomplete. He was then sacked for a 15-yard loss on fourth down to turn the football over on downs at the Longhorns’ 48.
And that is precisely when Ol’ Lady Mo(mentum) marched herself from the Waxahachie sideline to that of the Longhorns. It’s safe to question why the Indians elected to attempt the fourth-and-long instead of trusting their defense and special teams.
Harden found Nicholson for a 37-yard completion to the Indian 16-yard line on the first snap post-turnover-on-downs. Harden used the following two snaps to move Cedar Hill to the 2-yard line.
He scored two plays later by breaking a tackle in the backfield and powering his way through the heart of the Indian defense. The 3-yard touchdown came with 1:15 to play and gave Cedar Hill its first lead, 14-10.
Waxahachie ultimately faced a fourth-and-5 from its own 44-yard line with 38 seconds to play on its final drive. The final Indian snap resulted in a pass attempt from Hartsfield to Abney, which was batted away to secure the 14-10 Longhorn victory.
LAST TIME OUT
Waxahachie was fresh off of a bye week after starting District 11-6A with a pair of victories against Hewitt Midway and Mansfield Lake Ridge — to read the full recap from the thrilling Lake Ridge win and check out Kirk Holt’s beautiful camera work, click here!
Waxahachie returns to action against the clear cream-of-the-district-crop (4-1, 3-0) Duncanville on the road Friday. The game is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Panther Stadium.
The Panthers have defeated DeSoto (42-21), Hewitt Midway (76-0) and Mansfield Lake Ridge (59-0) during 7-6A action.
All photos by Kirk Holt/KBEC Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith