MANSFIELD — Upsets are often labeled improbable, which is almost what played out Friday night at Vernon Newsom Stadium between the Waxahachie Indians and state-ranked Mansfield Legacy.
The Indian defense had no answer for the Bronco offense in the first half. But Friday's 39-34 loss to the Associated Press 5A No. 8 Legacy Broncos was a true tale of two halves and story of "almosts."
THE OPENING ACT
Jalen Catalon and the Bronco offense found the end zone on their first possession of the ballgame when the quarterback capped a 7-play, 52-yard drive with his first of three rushing touchdowns on the evening. After his 9-yard score, Catalon then completed the two-point conversion pass to Nathan Rooney for an 8-0 Bronco lead with 9:19 on the first quarter clock.
There would not be another score in the quarter, as Waxahachie kicker Raymond Kennedy missed a 45-yard field goal attempt to left on the ensuing Indian possession.
Last week's hero, Jerreth Sterns, then intercepted a Catalon pass at the Bronco 18-yard line. The pick, which was his third in two games, resulted in the lone defensive stop for the Waxahachie defensive unit in the first half.
The Indians capitalized on the short field when Salik found a wide-open Will Morgan for a 2-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. The extra-point kick by Kennedy pulled Waxahachie within one point, 8-7.
Two plays later, Grant Johnson shook loose of a would-be Indian tackler near the Waxahachie 25-yard line in the middle of his 64-yard touchdown run with 11:24 to play in the second quarter. The extra point put Legacy up eight, 15-7.
Legacy added two more touchdowns before Waxahachie was able to find the end zone again. Rooney, who caught a two-point conversion pass on the first Bronco drive, pulled in a 13-yard Catalon pass for a score. Catalon followed less than one minute later with a 19-yard touchdown run after a Salik interception.
The Waxahachie signal caller made up for the turnover, though, completing 21-yard touchdown passes to Tevin Wofford and Sterns.
The completion to Sterns came as the first-half clock expired and about 90 seconds after Jake Smith kicked a 28-yard field goal for the Broncos.
Down two scores after the break, 32-21, Waxahachie did not necessarily need to score on its opening possession of the second half, but it certainly had to find a way to stop the Legacy offense. Something the Tribe did just once in the first half.
Neither of which happened early.
Catalon went full horizontal as he dove across the left pylon for his third rushing touchdown of the night to give the Broncos a 38-21 lead with 7:47 to play in the third quarter.
The score capped a six-play drive that spanned a little over two minutes — and it would also be the final time the Broncos found paydirt.
An uncharacteristic fumbled snap on third down put the Indians in a fourth-and-long situation. The Kennedy punt on the next snap bounced around midfield, took an Indian bounce and came to rest at the Bronco 38-yard line.
Three snaps later, linebacker Will Morgan caught Catalon from behind on a busted play to force the first Bronco punt of the evening with 3:23 to play in the third quarter.
Five plays into the fourth quarter, Quad'tavius Donaldson wrapped up Grant Johnson (27-160) for a 3-yard loss on the Bronco's first fourth-down attempt of the second half.
A little later in the ballgame, Legacy muffed a Kennedy punt with just over seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The Tribe recovered the fumble on the Bronco 8-yard line with the Indians still trailing by three scores, 39-21.
With Morgan and Kaleb High on either side, Sterns took the direct snap out of the wildcat formation on third-and-one from the Bronco 1-yard line for the first Indian touchdown of the second half.
Waxahachie trailed 39-28 after the Kennedy extra point with 6:03 to play in the fourth quarter.
Donaldson, who recorded a crucial fourth-down tackle in the third quarter, recovered a second Bronco fumble on the ensuing Legacy snap from scrimmage with 5:54 to play.
Just as they had three times prior and with the ball on the Bronco 26-yard line, the Indian offense capitalized on the short field.
After a Bronco blitz flushed Salik from the pocket on first down from the Bronco 13-yard line, the senior gunslinger found a wide-open Sterns near the sideline. The wideout promptly cut against the grain for his third touchdown of the night.
The Legacy defense held tough after a 5-yard penalty went against the Indians and sacked Salik on the two-point conversion attempt.
Waxahachie still trailed 39-34 with 5:30 to play but had unquestionably taken control of the momentum.
Though it first appeared as Waxahachie had recovered the onside kick attempt that bounced around — and off of — several players, an offside penalty negated the kick.
There was no onside kick attempt on the re-kick.
But, yet again, the Tribe defense found a way to put the football back in the hands of its offense — this time via a strip of Johnson at midfield for the third consecutive Legacy turnover in the fourth quarter.
Waxahachie picked up a first down on a 2-yard run by Sterns on the drive's third play. But a sack, 10-yard completion and back-to-back incompletions put the football back into the hands of Catalon and Broncos with 1:11 to play in the fourth quarter.
It was also Catalon who came up from his safety position to make a crucial open field tackle of Kevin Green on the 10-yard completion across the middle of the field on second down.
The Waxahachie defense used its two timeouts and bowed its neck to force a Bronco punt, but Legacy sacked Salik on the first and only Indian play from scrimmage on the final possession to seal the 39-34 win.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Legacy defense entered the game having allowed just 17.0 points and 279.8 yards per game. While the Indians blew by the point total, the yardage held true.
Again led by Sterns, the Indians amassed 294 yards of total offense with 227 yards coming through the air.
Salik finished the game 24-of-43 for 227 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. Salik has now thrown for 2,165 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season.
Sterns led the Indians with 120 total yards of offense (41 rushing, 79 receiving), while Wofford added four catches for 60 yards, Jeff Alexander had three grabs for 28 yards, and Taylen Lovings added three receptions and 26 yards.
For the Broncos, Grant Johnson led the ground attack with 160 yards on 27 carries while Catalon added 76 yards on his 13 carries.
Catalon also completed 5-of-his-10 passes for 79 yards.
Waxahachie returns home for the annual “Pink Out” game to host Mansfield Timberview. Legacy will battle for the top spot in District 10-5A at Vernon Newsom Stadium against Lake Ridge.
Both games are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith