Waxahachie's dreams of a state championship and a 16-0 season became a reality Saturday night, as the Indians outgunned 1991 state champion A&M Consolidated, 28-24, at the Astrodome.
If anyone decides to make a movie "Lethal Weapon IV," there's no one better to play the starring role than senior WHS quarterback Lamont Moore, who scored three touchdowns, converted a crucial fourth-down play and ran in for a two-point conversion to lead the Indians to victory.
Since 1990, the Indians have been 35-4 with Moore at quarterback. Saturday's outstanding performance will likely make his stock rise with college scouts.
Moore passed for 44 yards, ran for 103 and provided inspiration and leadership for the Tribe.
Senior Sammie Overton rushed for 167 yards and junior Lejon Jefferson added 109 more to key the Indians' attack.
WHS coach Scott Phillips, the mastermind of the Indians' championship program, said the game should have been thrilling for fans but was hard on the coaches.
One play, in particular, a gutty, fourth-down gamble by the Indians late in the game stands out as one of the key — if not the key — plays of the game.
Moore once again provided the heroics, darting for six yards before a beleaguered Tiger defense could haul him down — too late to stop the Indians from clinching the win.
The Indians battled back after trailing several times: A&M Consolidated took a 7-0 lead and went on top 10-7 at the half. Late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers held a 24-20 lead over the Indians.
The roles were reversed for Waxahachie, as the A&M Consolidated offense was like bottled lighting — scoring in seconds — while Waxahachie had to fight for every score.
THE FIRST HALF
The game started off with a bang for Consolidated, which marched 3 yards in five plays with what looked to be no trouble at all against a powerful WHS defense.
Key plays for A&M were a 15-yard scramble by Watson and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Troy Walters for an early Tiger lead.
The Indians first two drives ended in frustration: A drive consuming 5:30 off the clock in the first quarter ended with a missed field goal and a fumble at the Tiger 39 after a terrible 19-yard punt by Consolidated, squandering another Hachie opportunity.
The first quarter ended with the Tigers holding a 7-0 lead and the Indian offense looking for answers.
A minute and 48 seconds into the second quarter, the Indians hit paydirt.
A sensational 22-yard return by junior Dontae Edwards and a relentless rushing attack of Moore, Overton and Jefferson pounded the ball at the Tigers until Moore capped off a 10-play drive of short runs with a one-yard scoring run.
After the Indians moved only five yards on their next drive, Consolidated took advantage of another opportunity with 6:52 in the half and Bryant sent a field goal sailing through the uprights.
A 25-yard shuffle pass from Watson to Pat Mies set up the score, but a great defensive play by junior Vincent Terry (breaking up another pass) forced the Tigers to settle for three points.
Waxahachie's Isaiah Moreland II recovered a Tiger fumble on a punt return, giving the Indians another chance to score with 1:07 left and the ball at the Tiger 40-yard line.
A pass from Moore to Terry and a run by Jefferson moved Waxahachie to the Consolidated 16.
The Tiger defense forced a Waxahachie field goal attempt, and the kick missed by inches, giving A&M a 10-7 halftime cushion.
THE SECOND HALF
The Indians first lead came with 7:27 remaining in the third.
After a great Indian defensive stand that included a sack of Watson for negative-6 yards by Joe Garber, the Tribe took over at their own 34.
Two plays later — following a 15-yard run by Overton and a 47-yard touchdown run by Moore, Waxahachie went ahead for the first time, sending the Indian fans into a frenzy.
The Tigers struck back four plays later — recovering 69 yards on the strength of two pass receptions by Pat Mies — the latter for a 15-yard touchdown run that resulted in a 17-14 Tiger lead.
The Indians struck first in the fourth quarter on the strength of the rushing attack.
The Indians running game, with Moore, Overton and Jefferson leading the way, made things happen.
Overton darted for three, six, three and nine yards and another Overton gain of five to set up a touchdown by Moore.
With 9:08 left in the game, Moore scored his third touchdown from five yards out to put the Indians ahead, but a missed extra point dampened the celebration.
A 93-yard run by QB Jeff Watson — the Tigers all-purpose most valuable player — gave Consolidated the lead again and provided a few anxious moments for Indians fans.
The Indians' previous score had taken nearly eight minutes, and the Tigers' took 13 seconds to go ahead on Watson's run.
The bottom line is that Waxahachie would not be denied.
The Indians engineered an 11-play, three-minute drive that was capped by a 2-yard scoring plunge by Jefferson.
Moore added the icing on the cake with a two-point conversion run that gave the Indians a 28-24 lead. More importantly, the two-point play negated the threat of a field goal from first team All-State kicker Kyle Bryant.
The Indians secured the victory with a fourth-down conversion by Moore, who rambled for six yards on fourth-and-three to squelch any hopes of a Tiger comeback.
Earlier in the quarter, the Tigers faked a punt on fourth down, but senior defensive back John Dollar hammered ball carrier Mike Ozuka for a 6-yard loss that gave the Indians the ball.
The Indians never looked back and knelt the ball with 30 seconds remaining as Waxahachie's faithful roared in approval.
"This is one of those games that keep you on edge the whole time," Phillips said. "We had two great football teams battling here tonight, and the momentum swung back and forth. The players had worked hard for this all year long. I could tell by the intensity and fire in everyone's eyes that the Indians were not going to be denied a championship.
"I'm extremely proud of our kids. They played very hard the whole game. I just can't say enough about their effort and their attitudes throughout the year. It took a tremendous amount of unselfishness, hard work and determination to reach this level. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Phillips said the Tigers' prior experience in the state finals (1989 and 1991) was a big advantage for them in the first half. A halftime talk from Phillips was a factor in the Indians turning the game around in the second half after trailing 10-7 at intermission.
"I told our players at halftime that now we had state championship experience, too," Phillips said. "I told them to just settle down and play the way they're capable of playing. Once we got over the jitters and the nerves, that helped us a lot.
"No matter what happened in the first half, they knew the second half was time to get things done."
Phillips said it took a special effort to overcome a team, like Consolidated, which has the best record in the state at any level (56-6) over the last four seasons.
"There's no doubt they'd been here before and knew what to expect," Phillips said. "Our team was nervous at first but kept its composure, kept battling back and beat an outstanding football team to win state.
"I've always said you have to beat the best to be the best, and tonight, we did that. I can't say enough about how hard everybody worked to make this happen."
While Phillips, the team and a sea of WHS fans wearing forest green in the stands celebrated their state title win, a solemn crowd gathered around A&MC coach Ross Rogers for the awarding of the consolation trophy to the 14-2 Tigers.
"Waxahachie played a great ballgame, and they deserve to be the state champions," Rogers said.
And what of the Indians' accomplishments?
How about a 16-0 season, No. 1 ranking and state championship that will live on in the hearts of fans forever as "The Perfect Season."
"I just want to say thanks to all the fans," said an emotional Eric Farrar after the game. "This is their state championship, too. I don't think you could ever give them or the coaches as much credit as they deserve. This is something we want the whole town to cherish along with us."
Farrar said the victory definitely made up for the setback in 1990 and 1991.
"This is a great feeling — it's what we've worked so hard for," Farrar said. "All my life, I've dreamed of winning a game like this. We've had a lot of determination and discipline instilled in us. This shows us what hard work and dedication are all about."
Senior Corey Crane said he was speechless, but managed to muster a few words to honor Waxahachie's estimated 11,000-12,000 fans who caravaned to Houston to share in the Indians' triumph first-hand.
"I'm just thankful to God for giving us this opportunity, and I want to thank my parents, the coaches and all the fans who made the trip down here. It really meant a lot to us.
"The people in the stands helped pull us through, and this is their state championship, too."
Assistant coach Jim Miller said the way the teams battled back-and-forth throughout the game reminded him of the Indians' thrilling 35-31 win over McKinney in the state playoffs last year.
"State champions and 16-0 — that says it all right there," Miller said. "We had to fight like dogs to pull this one out. The kids really proved themselves tonight."