FRISCO — To put it lightly, Frisco Lone Star had all of the answers Saturday afternoon at The Ford Center.
Led by University of Illinois-commit, MJ Rivers, the Rangers racked up 425 yards of total offense on their way to a 35-0 win over (8-5) Waxahachie in the 5A Division II Region II semifinals.
The Lone Star quarterback ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. He also completed 10-of-14 for 146 yards and one touchdown through the air. Running back Kirby Bennett III led all ball carriers with 133 yards on 19 carries, while Darrin Smith added six carries for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Yet it was the Lone Star defense that stole the show.
Waxahachie entered the game averaging 39.8 points and 423.6 yards per game. The Indian offense was limited to just 237 yards in the loss.
The shutout is the fourth by Lone Star this season, as the Rangers have now held opponents to 10 points or fewer in six of their 13 games.
The Lone Star offense sputtered on the game’s opening drive, eventually turning the football over on downs. Tanner Gattin deflected the Rivers fourth down pass across the middle to put the ball in the hands of Byse Salik and company.
Waxahachie crossed midfield after a Bryse Salik (17-29, 192 yards, 2 INTs) completion to Jerreth Sterns along the Indian sideline and a personal foul for roughing the passer, but the drive stalled shortly after.
On the Indians’ next possession and following a Lone Star punt, Salik picked up 20 yards via a quarterback draw on fourth-and-inches to move the offense just inside Ranger territory. The Lone Star defense again bowed its neck and forced a Waxahachie punt with under one minute to play in the first quarter of the still-scoreless contest.
The first big play of the game came with a little over nine minutes to play in the half when Salik was picked off deep in Lone Star territory.
The turnover sparked the Ranger offense, too.
Running back Kirby Bennett promptly took the ensuing handoff for a 41-yard gain across midfield.
Two plays later it was Rivers who found the end zone. The senior signal caller broke a pair of tackles before pulling away from the Indian secondary for a 40-yard score and 7-0 Lone Star lead with 8:58 to play in the half.
Waxahachie found a little magic on its ensuing offensive possession when Salik found Sterns in the flats for a 39-yard gain into the Lone Star red zone. The Rangers forced the Indians into a fourth-down situation and blocked the 31-yard field goal attempt with 5:37 remaining in the second quarter.
Lone Star capitalized on the momentum swing when Rivers met a Waxahachie defender at the four-yard line and drove him into the end zone to cap an 8-play, 79-yard drive. His 16-yard touchdown run came with 1:50 to play in the first half and put the Rangers ahead 14-0.
After a slow first quarter that saw just 88 total yards of offense between the two teams, Lone Star entered the locker room with 242 yards to the 143 of Waxahachie. The Rangers limited the Indian ground game to just 37 yards, while Salik finished the half 10-of-16 for 106 yards through the air.
Rivers led all ball carriers with 96 yards on 11 carries and a pair of touchdowns. He also completed 5-of-his-8 passes for 61 yards. Lone Star’s Bennett added nine carries for 75 yards.
A short punt by the Indians on their opening drive of the second half gave Lone Star the football in Waxahachie territory.
Five plays later, Rivers rolled to his right and found an open Ife Opere across the middle of the field near the 5-yard line for a 23-yard touchdown pass. The Jacob Click extra-point kick was true for a 21-0 Lone Star lead with 8:23 to go in the third quarter.
On the next Waxahachie possession, Salik threw a beautiful, deep pass to a streaking Tevin Wofford down the right hash that would have been caught in stride had Trey Taylor not have high-pointed the ball for an acrobatic interception at the Rangers’ 5-yard line. The Indian defense forced a three-and-out with a few ticks over four minutes remaining on the third-quarter clock.
The last bit of hope for an Indian comeback faded after the drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-down-and-four from the Lone Star 4-yard line. Salik’s pass to tight end Will Morgan in the end zone was a little high and broken up by a pair of Ranger defenders.
Lone Star added two more touchdowns before the final buzzer on runs of three and nine yards by Rivers and Darrin Smith, respectively. The touchdown run by Smith came with 3:47 to play in the fourth quarter and capped the 35-0 win.
Demani Richardson led all Waxahachie ball carries with eight runs for 24 yards. Caleb High added 21 yards on three carries, while the Indians ran for 57 yards as a team.
Sterns led all Indian receivers with 78 yards on six catches. Keshawn Anderson added 34 yards on six catches, as well.
Frisco Lone Star will play the winner of Mansfield Legacy next weekend in 5A Division II Region II championship.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith