DALLAS — Imagine Jon Kitna, a former NFL quarterback and the current head football coach at Waxahachie High School, sitting cross-legged with defensive schematics strewn around him days before last Friday's Indian-Scot matchup at Highlander Stadium.

The quarterback-turned-head coach had settled into a new role as a defensive coordinator.

With Kina keying blitzes and stunts against a 6A Patriot offense, Waxahachie had thoroughly whipped Garland Centennial 63-24 and — for the most part — put the game out of reach by halftime.

His Indians rode high after the win but faced an obstacle in the reigning UIL state champions a week later. The matchup against Highland Park had the opportunity to be the most daunting offense Waxahachie played all year.

Kitna would go head-to-head and mano-a-mano with the grandson of his former owner and general manager, a player he'd beaten in a shootout 12 months earlier.

And though the loss meant a missed opportunity to claw its way into state-wide rankings, the ability to flush John Stephen Jones out of the pocket said a lot about the level of Waxahachie's defensive improvement.

"We knew that [scrambling] was part of their offense. He can get out of the pocket and make plays. It's hard to practice against that though, as much as we tried. Our kids had chances and played hard," Kitna said about Jones and Highland Park on Friday night.

The orchestrator of the Scots' 5A second leading offense, threw to nine different receivers during the 32-21 loss. Five of those nine receivers averaged 11 yards per catch.

Wide receiver Cade Saustad leading the group with three catches for 85 yards. Finn Corwin had four catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's hard to replicate how good they are at scrambling. It's not just him," Kitna said. "It's the receivers, too. We had our chances and missed some. We stopped them on fourth down and turned it over right away. We gave up 15 points in the first half and 17 in the second against a good football team that scores a lot of points."

Not only did Waxahachie go blow-for-blow with Highland Park in terms of scoring, it limited the Scot offense in both total points and yards.

Saustad had 10 receptions and 250 yards against Rockwall during a 53-49 week one loss. Highland Park, as a team, had 528 total yards and 23 first downs. They had three fewer first downs, 17 fewer points and 52 fewer yards against the Indians.

Jones, who rushed 12 times for 42 yards and scored on a 2-point conversion against Rockwall, gained only 21 yards on 12 rushes against Waxahachie's defense.

The nugget of change, however, came from how Jones made those completions and earned each of his 290 passing yards.

In 2016, Highland Park scored 37 points while he operated primarily as a game manager from the pocket, hitting receivers on 12 of his 27 attempts for 162 yards and a touchdown.

On Friday Jones was hurried more than 12 times, sacked twice and saw four of his incompletions nearly transform into turnovers. One of his two touchdowns — both to Corwin — came on a mad scramble away from pursuing Indian defenders.

Both the 28-yard pass to Corwin that set up Conner Allen's 1-yard touchdown run and the 26-yard strike to Saustad that set up Benner Page's 1-yard scoring rush required Jones to scramble sideline to sideline and create time for receivers to shake free of Indian defensive backs.

Partly Jones' elusiveness and part pressure from a defensive line that found its way into the Scot backfield more often than not.

The error wasn't in the body of work, Kitna said, but rather in execution during specific instances.

"We didn't approach him any differently than we did last year," he continued. "You can't. You have to play the game. We played and we made some negative plays. When we missed a gap or missed an assignment, the ball found [Scot receivers]. Our kids played super hard, were engaged and gave us all they had. There were times they got confused on and when they did, [Highland Park] capitalized."

Through two games this season, Waxahachie has allowed 28 points per game — including one against arguably the best quarterback it will see in 2017. The lowered points allowed per game average also came despite new players playing new positions and a first-year defensive coordinator taking the reins.

Last season, the Indians allowed more than 30 in 10 games.


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.