WAXAHACHIE — No love will be lost between historical rivals Highland Park and Waxahachie when the two schools' players step on the field Friday night at Highlander Stadium.
The No. 4 Scots come armed with both an explosive offense powered by senior quarterback John Stephen Jones and a pass-heavy spread offense that compliments Dallas Cowboy Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones' strong-armed grandson.
John Stephen finished 19 for 30 with 379 yards, 5 touchdowns, and an interception during a 53-49 shootout loss to Rockwall High School last Friday. Two-hundred and sixty-eight of those yards, as well as three touchdowns, were thrown to 6-foot-5 and 200-pound senior receiver Cade Saustad.
While Highland Park's offense clicked on all cylinders, its defense allowed 489 yards — 399 passing — to the Yellow Jackets in week one.
Waxahachie's rushing attack, however, may be primed to do more damage than an offense featuring 2016, near 2,000-yard quarterback Bryse Salik.
INDIANS COULD THRIVE IN WOODS' NEW SCHEME
Under Aaron Woods, who won three state titles with Cedar High School as its offensive and running game coordinator, the Indians rushed for 328 yards and five touchdowns.
Long gains of 62 and 64 yards came via runs from senior and junior backs Jarreth Sterns and Demani Richardson. The two rushed for 111 and 127 yards, respectively, and accounted for 48 percent of Waxahachie's total offense.
Their passing game, too, could be a dangerous left hook to a Scot defense stacking the box to stop the run.
Salik completed 10 passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns on only 13 attempts. Two of the scores were hauled in by senior Kevin Green and junior Jhamarian Sargeant.
He also completed passes to eight different receivers during the win.
MO' DEFENSE, MO' BETTER
Against 6A Garland Lakeview Centennial, the Indians allowed only 24 points and 372 total yards despite their second-string defense playing nearly the entire second half.
One-hundred and seventy-two yards came via the pass while 200 came by the Patriots' ground attack.
John Stephen and Highland Park running backs Brenner Page, Conner Allen, Paxton Alexander, and Scully Jenevin ran for 149 yards and a single touchdown.
Of Waxahachie's 59 tackles, eight were in the Patriots' backfield. Senior middle linebacker Caleb High's sack was one of them.
A year earlier, Garland Lakeview Centennial scored 34 points against the Indians' defense — three less than Highland Park in week two of the 2016 high school football season.
Waxahachie is 4-6 all-time in 10 matchups against Highland Park dating back to 1943, a 26-0 loss to the Scots.
The Indians beat Highland Park in the 1992 Regional quarterfinal round — the year Waxahachie won its only state football title. Waxahachie also claimed a victory during the 1993 regional playoff round.
Sixteen years later a 12-0 Indians team advanced past the 2009 UIL 4A regionals with a 49-35 win over the Scots. Waxahachie lost to Longview High School a week later.
Last season's come-from-behind, 40-37 victory against Highland Park last season was the first of Head Coach Jon Kitna's career and part of a six-game streak that pushed the Indians into the state rankings. It was also one of the Scots' two losses during their run to the Class 5A Division I state title.
Highland Park is currently ranked No. 4 by Dave Campbell's Texas Football's 5A Polls despite the week one loss to Rockwall.
With Kitna manning defensive calls and Woods in full control of the offense, fans could see a larger margin of victory than in 2016.
Though Waxahachie lost talented receivers Jalen Reagor and Kenedy Snell to graduation and Texas Christian University Head Coach Gary Patterson, the Indians proved against Garland Lakeview Centennial that it had a myriad of receiving options to choose from.
Richardson and Sterns also proved the running game's ability to both navigate between the tackles and cut outside of them for runs of the game-breaking variety.
A bend-but-don't-break secondary that shone during 7-on-7 state tournament could also provide points on the scoreboard, as could senior kicker Raymond Kennedy. He nailed all nine of his extra point attempts last Friday.
The Indians hold their second consecutive opponent to fewer than 30 points and Waxahachie wins 49-27.
According to Accuweather.com the projected weather at the game's 7:30 p.m. scheduled kickoff will be between 77 and 80 degrees with clear skies, no chance of precipitation, and 7-MPH east by southeast winds.
The temperature is expected to fall between 3 to 5 degrees by 8 p.m.
WHERE TO GO
Highlander Stadium, located at 4233 Grassmere Lane in Dallas, is an 8,000-seat capacity venue with wheelchair access to both home and away stands and has sport turf and a fully functional video scoreboard.
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.