ENNIS — The blustering winds met the faces of the fans as they filed into the Lions Memorial Stadium in Ennis on Friday evening for the 5A Division 1 bi-district championship between Ennis and Waco High.
The Lions of Ennis proved to be the bigger cats, too. Behind 313 rushing yards on 44 carries, Ennis bruised its way to a convincing 48-7 win.
The victory was the eight straight for the Lions, who are now 8-3 on the season after losing each of their first three contests. After the game, a pleased Ennis head football coach Jack Alvarez joked that the winning eight straight "sure feels better than losing eight in a row, I’ll tell ya that."
"Our kids are playing good and executing," Alvarez said. "We have a good group of seniors and great leadership. We have a good coaching staff to go with it. If we continue to lead well, I think we'll be alright."
James Harris led the Ennis ground game with 164 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns. The effort put him over the 1,000-yard plateau for the season, joining fellow running back and Ennis' newest all-time career rusher, Tycen Thompson.
Thompson finished Friday's win with 80 yards on 18 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
“I thought they were outstanding," Alvarez said. "We ended up using Tycen more as a decoy tonight because they were trying to key on him but when you run a two-back or really three-back offense like we do then somebody is going to be open. We were able to run the ball effectively tonight.”
Quarterback Kaden Graff finished the ballgame 3-of-11 through the air for 72 yards and a touchdown. He completed two of those passes to tight end Jarius Jones for 72 yards. Jones caught the lone touchdown pass.
Waco High scored first when quarterback David Moreno very methodically moved his team down the field with nine straight running plays to frustrate the Ennis defense.
With the ball at the Ennis 17-yard line, Moreno completed his first pass of the evening to Quinn Williams at the one-yard line. Moreno then ran it on in for the initial score of the game. Kicker Chris Esqueda made the extra point for a 7-0 Waco High lead.
Though the score took all of 3:56 off of the first-quarter clock, it was all Ennis from there, as the Lions scored 48 unanswered points.
On the ensuing Ennis possession, Graff completed a 65-yard pass to Jones for the equalizing touchdown — and it only took nine seconds. The Trevor Oakley extra-point kick was true, tying the game at 7-all.
A little later in the quarter, Thompson capped a 7-play, 39-yard drive with a three-yard scamper for a 14-7 Ennis lead with about six minutes to play.
A poor snap on 4th-and-1 for Waco put the Ennis offense back in business with 10 yards to paydirt.
Kyrie Holloway first carried the football for three yards, and Harris followed with a 7-yard touchdown run for a 21-1 lead about midway through the second quarter.
Harris scored again before the half was over when he capped an 11-play, 46-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown. His score, which put Ennis ahead 27-7 after a failed extra point, came with 15 seconds remaining on the first-half clock.
Thompson got the scoring started in the second half with a 12-yard touchdown run, and Harris added his third rushing score, this time from 86 yards out, after a Waco interception in its own end zone.
Junior quarterback Reese Caldwell added the final score of the game when he pushed forward on the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown run for the 48-7 final score.
Ennis will now face Cedar Park at Waco ISD Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be sold exclusively at the gate. All tickets are $8. Ennis is the visiting team.
*Patty Hullett, Fred Phipps and Travis M. Smith/Daily Light contributed to this report.