By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
Preston Hodge had the privilege to deliver the final blow on a frigid Waxahachie Friday night in the upset of the year in District 7-6A.
The junior defensive back stuffed Mansfield Summit quarterback Phoenix Meza on a fourth-and-3 scramble near midfield with just over two minutes to play in the fourth quarter and with Waxahachie on top, 10-6.
Waxahachie running back Elijah Martinez then rushed twice for 11 yards and a pair of first downs to seal the Indians upset of the visiting Jaguars.
Thanks to a near-perfect defensive performance capped by one victory formation snap, the Indians celebrated the snapping of a 13-game 7-6A losing streak on Senior Night at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.
“I knew in my head that it was times like this that seniors make big plays,” said Waxahachie defensive lineman Joseph Chavez as he recalled the final defensive stand. “All of a sudden, I’m through the line, [Johan] Castillo is through the line and we have him [Meza] running for his life. And a big play was made. I love the underclassmen and Preston Hodge made a big play and we got the W.”
The victory was highlighted by two goal-line stands, a pair of acrobatic interceptions — with at least two more Summit passes almost picked — and a defensive unit that swarmed the football for four full quarters.
“Our defense played lights out,” Waxahachie head football coach Todd Alexander said. “The secondary, linebackers, D-line, they all just kept making plays and coming up with plays. I just couldn’t be more proud of those guys. I just could not be. Offensively, we could not get going like we wanted to….”
He then added with a smirk, “but who would’ve thought 10 points was going to be enough to win this game tonight?”
No one. Absolutely no one thought a third-quarter touchdown and first-quarter field goal would be enough to upset the playoff-bound Jaguars. But it did, and the Waxahachie football program will be better for it.
For those who skipped the home game and need a visual: If the first Indian to the football couldn’t make the tackle Friday night, he at least put enough of a hat on the ball carrier to slow him down for the half-dozen Indians in pursuit to finish the job.
Their pursuit and effort were relentless. The final word of the previous sentence should be read with an emphasis, which ultimately led to a performance that limited the Jaguar offense to just 196 total yards and 10 first downs.
“The effort has been there and the intent of what we are doing has been there and we have been putting people in long downs but we have just been giving up big plays,” Waxahachie defensive coordinator Matt Cochran explained. “This week we talked a lot about not letting what was happening on the offensive side or with the special teams effect the effort or what we are doing on defense. And, to be completely honest, we also had some luck at the right time and that’s a big part of it.”
Friday’s victory marks the first true 6A win for the Indians since their jump in classification ahead of the 2018 season, as the Indian had previously defeated 5A foes Ennis and Mesquite Poteet.
The win proved to the Tribe, but more importantly any doubters, that they do belong and can compete in the “District of Doom.”
“Number one, I am proud of the seniors and what they have been through,” Alexander said. “They kept grinding through it and came to work every day and worked hard and kept a good attitude. Secondly, it was just our confidence. Like I told the guys, there was no reason that we couldn’t win this football game. There was not one reason that I could think of.
“We had been in that rut and been in that cycle where they fight, but I just wanted them to believe. They did that tonight and it confirmed that we can compete and that we can win.”
The senior-night upset also validates the program turnover led by Alexander and his staff. That culture shift was apparent on the face of each and every senior who stood behind the second-year head coach as he addressed the team following the win.
Chavez affirmed his belief in the coaching staff and its direction after the game, as well.
“We knew we were capable of playing with the best in this district and, like coach [Cochran] said, we would get down to third down and then give up big plays. We talked with the guys and got personal and said, ‘Hey, we can play. We have proved it many times against many teams’,” he said with a smile while standing to the right of his coach. “It feels good. I personally believe in this program and I know this guy right here (Cochran), I love him to death and, like I told him before the game, there is no one I’d rather be playing for this year.”
The Indians forced a quick three-and-out of the Summit offense to begin the game and took over on their own 40-yard line.
Waxahachie quarterback DJ Hollywood (22-of-34, 238yds, TD) quickly completed three consecutive passes to BJ Hawkins (8-81), Jalen Benson and Jaden Basham for 23, 6 and 5 yards, respectively, to move the Tribe inside the Summit red zone.
The drive stalled three snaps later, allowing Crisanto Perez to capitalize with a 31-yard field goal to put Waxahachie on top, 3-0, 8:29 to play in the first quarter.
That score held through the end of the second quarter.
The Indian defense limited the Jaguars to just 75 total yards in the first half, which included a paltry 41 rushing yards on 14 carries (2.9 YPC). The two first-half interceptions by the Tribe were the lone two turnovers for the Summit offense.
Waxahachie, meanwhile, entered the halftime locker room with 148 total yards of offense with 137 of those coming on 12-of-18 passing for Hollywood.
The Indian offense began the second half with a less than ideal three-and-out and punted from its own 12-yard line.
The Summit offense, led by a heavy does of Jaydon Lott and Kalon Duvall, then reeled off an 11-play, 43-yard drive to take a 6-3 lead. Duvall capped the drive with a 2-yard run and 4:58 to play in the third quarter.
Lott ultimately rushed for 95 of his game-high 111 yards in the second half.
The Summit lead was short-lived though, as Hollywood and the Indian offense promptly pieced together the biggest drive of the season.
The drive spanned 69 yards and 10 plays. It also included two offensive penalties inside the Summit 10-yard line.
The fifth Hollywood completion of the drive found the hands of Martinez in the right flats. The senior running back then outran a couple of Summit defenders to the corner pylon for a 10-6 Waxahachie lead with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“That’s the thing with him,” Alexander said of Martinez, who finished with 31 total yards on four touches. “He is a little dude that just works and grinds and has a good attitude. He has been a backup all year but we needed him tonight and we needed him big and he stepped up. I was excited for him.”
The Indian defense went on to force one punt and two turnovers on downs to seal the 10-6 upset victory.
Summit entered Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium with a 7-1 record on the season and a legitimate shot at a share of the 7-6A title. The Jaguars also walked off of the busses on the heels of 7-6A victories against DeSoto (27-26) and South Grand Prairie (21-17).
The Jaguars had also already defeated Grand Prairie (45-0) and Mansfield (28-21), with their previous-lone loss coming three weeks ago against district-leading Cedar Hill, 49-21.
With the loss, Summit fell to third in the 7-6A standings behind Cedar Hill and Mansfield Lake Ridge, who the Jaguars will face next week.
The Indians will face (4-4, 2-4) South Grand Prairie in week 11 of the high school football season. And they will do so with an opportunity to eliminate SGP from the postseason.
The Warriors have district wins against Mansfield Lake Ridge (34-16) and Grand Prairie (22-14). They will enter the final regular-season game of the season on a three-game skid.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Grand Prairie’s Gopher-Warrior Bowl.
All photos by Travis M. Smith/KBEC Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith