MANSFIELD – It doesn’t really matter how many yards you get if you can’t hang on to the ball in the process of getting those yards.
The Waxahachie football team racked up 504 yards of offense, but three turnovers and an early hole was too much for the Indians to overcome in their 38-34 loss in the first game of district.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” Waxahachie football coach David Ream said. “We mounted a comeback towards the end, but we needed about two more minutes on the clock.”
Mansfield Summit got a pair of long touchdown plays in the first quarter, a 64-yard pass and a 55-yard run, where the running back was never touched, to take a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
Trevon Smith scored the first of his three touchdowns on a six-yard run through the teeth of the defense to get the Indians on the board on the first play of the second quarter.
It took the Jaguars four minutes to score again in the second quarter when a 10-yard pass gave them a 21-7 lead.
Two long Waxahachie runs got the Indians right back in the game. Paul Debase took the next play for a 20-yard gain and then Avery Jackson rushed around the left side for 60 yards on a quarterback counter play to make it 21-13 after the missed point after.
“He exploded through there. Glad to see him identify the hole and hit it,” Ream said of Jackson. “Avery is the guy (starting quarterback). He’s throwing the ball really well, but he’s had a couple drops that have hurt us.”
Jackson has the faith of his teammates as well.
“We love Avery and he and his receivers have started growing together,” Smith said. “I think as they get their timing down, it will get even better.”
Summit countered with a field goal to cap the first half scoring.
The Indians received the second half kick off, but a fumble on the first play of the half gave the Jaguars the ball right back. It took just one play for Summit to go up 31-13 just 16 seconds into the second half.
“We got a few stops after we gave them the touchdown. We can’t afford to do that,” Ream said. “We turned the ball over too much. We actually made a couple nice defensive plays, but we gave up too many big plays.”
The Indians had a fumble in the first half as well and Smith felt like those turnovers cost his team the game.
“It’s pitiful,” Smith said. “We had it, but we can’t have those turnovers.”
Smith made sure not to fumble it on his next touch as he scored on a 63-yard run that saw him break three tackles, cut past another defender and step out of the way of a diving defender before finally crossing the goal line.
Waxahachie pulled a little trickery on the ensuing kickoff as Clay Mullens kicked one short down the left sideline, which allowed his gunners to run down and make a play on the ball. It worked as a long onside kick and Kenneth Washington recovered the it to give the Indians great field position.
That opportunity was squandered as the Tribe went for the end zone on the very first play and the pass was picked off.
But the defense held and forced a punt. The next call was easy as it was another hand off to Smith. He didn’t disappoint as he took it 45 yards for a score to make it 31-26 Summit.
The momentum the Indians had going didn’t last long as Summit returned the kickoff to the Waxahachie 18-yard line and the Jaguars scored six plays later after converting on a fourth-and-one. That was the last score for Summit as the defense clamped down for most of the rest of the game, especially Timothy Crownover, who had two sacks.
The defensive mojo perhaps rubbed off on the offense as the Indians went on an 11-play drive for 75 yards that ended with Jackson getting tackled into the end zone by Jacob Gonzalez.
“I just know that the whole wave went into the end zone,” Ream said.
Waxahachie’s defense then got three big stops in a row to give the offense a chance to take the lead.
Connor Davidson made three game-saving tackles in the second level to keep rushers from busting out long touchdown runs.
“When I first went in, I just had to get used to it,” Davidson said. “They put me in for the second half and I just had to do what I could.”
Rashawn Moser then broke up a fourth-down pass attempt on Summit’s final drive to get the ball back for Waxahachie. The offense had no time outs and 66 seconds to go 70 yards. Waxahachie got past midfield, but the team’s final attempt was well short of the first down marker on fourth down to end the comeback attempt.
The loss spoiled a great day by Smith, who ran for 238 yards and three scores on just 18 attempts.
Jackson also ran well, 13 times for 117 yards and two scores. These two couldn’t have done what they did if not for a great effort by the offensive line, which only got called for one holding penalty.
“I think the last couple week’s we’ve fixed (the penalty) problem and the line blocked really well,” Ream said. “They couldn’t stop our counter and Trevon and Avery did a good job, we just can’t put the ball on the ground.”
While that part of the offense is getting better, the passing game took a big hit when senior wide receiver Quinn Sargent went down with an injury after an amazing one-handed grab. X-rays revealed that Sargent has a broken ankle and will likely be done for the season.
The Indians (1-2, 0-1 in 15-4A) can’t afford to be short any weapons when they host Lancaster (1-3, 0-1 in 15-4A) at 7:30 p.m. Friday for homecoming.
“They are 0-1 and we’re 0-1. Somebody’s got to be 1-1,” Ream said. “It’s our homecoming and we’re going to come out with that extra energy.”
Lancaster has been struggling after reaching the state championship game last season.
In its game Thursday against Mansfield Legacy, the Tigers led 30-14 in the third quarter, but allowed 30 unanswered points before losing 44-30.
The Waxahachie players know this game is huge.
“We have to win next week for homecoming,” Davidson said. “To me, that’s the biggest game in the district. It’s homecoming and we’ve already lost one district game. We can’t go lose one at home.”
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