While high school football surges toward air raid offenses, there are others like Cedar Hill, Ennis and Midlothian that continually buck the trend and find their footing on the ground rather than the air — or a heavy balance between the two.
Aaron Woods, Waxahachie's first-year offensive coordinator, said the 2017 Indians could have some hints of Longhorn success, given similarities in the way Cedar Hill began in the early coaching days of Joey McGuire.
"I've lived in this area all of my life and I had watched several Waxahachie games in the past, so I knew there was not a lack of talent here. However, it wasn't talent or offensive success that drew me to this school. It was my relationship with Jon and Matt Kitna. During the last two years, I knew they were doing things the right way because we did it that way at Cedar Hill in the early years," said Woods, who will mix his Longhorn State of mind with Indian pride during his first season on Lumpkins' sidelines. "I also knew that Jon's offensive schemes were sound and what I was bringing over had several years of success. We will be successful because of the program and how the kids here have bought into it. People look at our offense and say, 'oh no, y'all lost Reagor and (Kenedy) Snell.' They may not see what we see when those boys suck in information like a sponge or play for each other rather than the individual. It's the same attitude the boys at Cedar Hill had during the championship years."
Reagor and Snell accounted for 1,306 of incoming senior quarterback Bryse Salik's 1,916 passing yards last season. Salik threw 18 of his 23 touchdowns to the two and Snell added 669 yards and 10 touchdowns on 47 carries.
It was second to only Eris Miles (125 car, 786 yds, 10 TDs).
"They are great players and they will be missed," Woods continued. "We have guys like Tevin Wofford, Jerreth Sterns, Kevin Green, Jeff Alexander, Keshawn Anderson, Austin Mick, Will Morgan, Jabo Sargent, Demani Richardson, Tyler Cash and Tanner Gattin, though, ready to step up, put in the hard hours and give all they got all the time."
Woods was a disciple of McGuire, the current Baylor University Assistant and Tight Ends Coach, and worked with at Cedar Hill High School for 14 years and during championship runs in 2006, 2013 and 2014. Woods held the running game coordinator (2010-2014) and OC (2015-2016) positions in the Longhorns coaching system.
Since 2013 — the first year the CHISD program provided full season statistics through MaxPreps — the Longhorns averaged 510 carries, 3,553.5 yards and 46.3 touchdowns each year. Their 282 pass attempt, 2,802.8 passing yard, 33.3 touchdown and 7.3 interception average during the same period shows an overall 36:64 pass-to-run play call ratio.
It also shows the importance of the run game to offensive production. During back-to-back 5A and 6A state championship years in 2013 and 2014, Cedar Hill ran for 4,313 yards and 52 touchdowns and 5,247 yards and 64 touchdowns, respectively.
Waxahachie, with its primary running back Jarreth Sterns in place and other pegs falling behind him, may be headed down the same path as the former state champions a stone's throw away.
"Jerreth Sterns is as good a football player as I've ever coached, including William Cole in 2006," Woods said. "He is similar to Kaegun (Williams) because of his ability to catch the football and his instinct in running the football. Bryse Salik reminds me of Avery Davis in many ways — he has a strong, accurate arm, is a good decision maker, a leader on and off the field and a fierce competitor. John Tomlinson will be our quarterbacks coach and he and I have had several years together. I can't wait until Bryse gets to work with him. Demani Richardson is an absolute freak that has the potential to be the best I have ever seen.
"I've never seen anything like him. As a junior in high school, he is bigger than Demarkus Lodge is right now."
Cole, an option quarterback, needed only 14 carries to rush for 290 yards and three touchdowns in Cedar Hill's 2006 state title game. Williams gained 403 yards passing and 540 yards receiving and scored 11 total touchdowns as a senior in 2016.
During the 2015 season, Davis led the Longhorns in both rushing and passing, running for 934 yards and 13 touchdowns and throwing for 1,966 and 22. He threw only four interceptions his senior year.
Lodge, a 6-foot-2 and 190-pound wide receiver at the University of Mississippi, was given the status of a four-star athlete by 247 Sports and rated as the eighth-best high school player in the nation by ESPN.
Woods said the pieces are in place for a breakout year — both offensively and defensively. The lynchpin for Waxahachie's 2017 attack, however, may be the recent cross county arrival.
Jarreth, who transferred to Waxahachie in December with his younger brother Josh Sterns, echoed his coach's musings, adding that the firepower he and the Indians could bring could be game changing.
"I think offensively I bring a bigger threat to defenses that will open up the passing game and allow us to spread the field," Sterns said. "I believe I can be just as effective — if not more — as last year because defenses respect outsides threats like Tevin Wofford, Kevin Green, Keshawn Anderson, Jeff Alexander, Austin Mick and others. It's hard
In six of Midlothian's 10 games, Jarreth Sterns had 87 carries and 679 yards (7.8 YPG) and eight touchdowns. He was also tied with leading rusher Landry Songer with the team lead in most 100-yard plus games (4).
He missed three and a half games against Lancaster, Mansfield Summit and Red Oak High Schools after he broke his collar bone during the second quarter of a 66-45 loss to Mansfield Lake Ridge High School last year.
Despite the appearance of air supremacy with horses like Bryse Salik and Jalen Reagor in Waxahachie's stables, Indian Head Coach Jon Kitna's offense was much more land dominant that the naked and untrained eye may tell.
In 2016, Waxahachie had a similar pass-to-run play call ratio as Cedar Hill's average.
The Indians rushed 256 times for 1,707 yards and threw the football 214 times for 1,941. Calls for draw, sweep and dive plays occurred on the ground 54 percent of the time versus 46 percent through the air.
Rushing proved to be one of the most successful aspects of Waxahachie's offense as 26 total touchdowns were scored around the tackles or through the guards and 24 fell into the hands of waiting receivers.
The addition of Sterns, a former triple-option quarterback at Midlothian and a viable receiving option after setting the summer on fire after the adidas 7-on-7 State Championships, won't change that aspect in new offensive coordinator Aaron Woods' attack plan, though.
It will give an extra wrinkle to an offense that may include the likes of Cameron Cockerham, Trey Cooks, Quad'Tavius Donalson, Buddy Gardner and Eric Johnson and that has proven successful in both the regular season and on playoff marches.
"To me, it's not so much run-to-pass balance but about balance in who is getting the touches," Woods said. "Our offensive philosophy is to make defenses honor the entire field. To do that the right way, we must have unselfish players and that is most definitely the case here. All of these guys that I have mentioned are better football players than I am a coach, so it is my job to get them the ball where they will be successful. Our schedule is tough, as is every opponent, but to me they are faceless. It's about us executing and protecting the football every week. That's how we'll build an every year contender the right way like Joey did it back in 2003."
---- Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.