In front of a large home crowd at Lumpkins Stadium Friday night the Waxahachie Indians opened the 2009 season with a 29-6 victory against the No. 5 Everman Bulldogs.
The win snapped Everman’s 25-game regular season winning streak and christened the new turf at the stadium in grand fashion.
“I told the guys after the game, ‘You work hard, prepare for something and all of the sudden the ball bounces your way.’ We got some breaks and took advantage of them. I am real pleased with the effort. We overcame a lot of our mental and physical mistakes and got the win,” Waxahachie head coach David Ream said while players and fans celebrated the victory.
Enjoying the big win with the fans, Indian fullback and lineback Andrew Kindred said, “That’s one down. We have 15 more to go.”
Waxahachie opened the game in style as Sam Gagliano, a state champion in track, returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Taylor Brown followed with the extra point to give the Indians a 7-0 lead before most people found their seats.
“The only thing I was thinking was that I have to go score,” Gagliano said about the opening play. “I promised a few guys I was going to take it back on the first kickoff so I had to keep my word on it. I just let my legs take me.”
Gagliano caught the ball on the Waxahachie 11-yard line and raced through the heart of the Bulldog’s kickoff team. He broke a couple of shoestring tackle attempts before finding space to run near midfield.
The rest of the first half was a defensive battle between the two teams as Waxahachie led 7-0 at half.
In the second half the ball bounced the way of the Indians, twice.
Everman took opening possession of the ball and drove 20 yards on three plays before Waxahachie created the games first turnover.
On a first-and-10 from the Waxahachie 43-yard line Everman fumbled the ball and it was scooped up on one perfect bounce off the new turf by Waxahachie’s LaDarius Brown. Brown was off to the races with the ball in his hands and scampered 60 yards for the score.
Following Taylor Brown’s extra point the Indians led 14-0 with 10:25 to play in the third quarter.
Everman’s next possession, nearly the same result.
The Bulldogs drove 26 yards down to the Waxahachie 33-yard line before fumbling the ball away on first down. LaDarius Brown picked up the loose ball, found room to run on the visitor’s sideline and raced 78-yards for the score.
Gagliano converted the two-point conversion on a swing-gate formation to give Waxahachie a commanding 22-0 lead with 8:24 to play.
Everman was shutdown by the Waxahachie defense on its next series before the Indians received the ball on offense for the first time in the second half.
Assuming control of the ball with 4:53 to play in the third quarter the Indians ball-control offense went to work.
Waxahachie drove 87 yards on 11 plays to score its final touchdown of the game on a 22-yard run by Venique Benton.
Benton scored on a shotgun option play with 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Taylor Brown added the extra point giving Waxahachie a 29-0 advantage.
“It was unbelievable, man. I said all during the offseason we were going to beat them. I said if we could not win the first one we could not will all of them. We got the first one, lets see where we can go from here,” Benton said after the win. “We started off great. That kickoff return, I was shocked. Offensively, the defense did not give us a chance to get on the field a lot, but we did all right. We have a lot of work to do.”
Benton took all but one snap on offense as the quarterback for Waxahachie. Steven Borden manned the position one play and rushed for five-yards on a Tim Tebow type of play.
On the ensuing kickoff Everman’s James Bailey returned the ball 75-yards down to the Waxahachie two-yard line.
Everman attempted four plays on its series, the result, a loss of 10 yards and one incomplete pass. The Waxahachie defense stood tall and did not allow the Bulldogs to gain a yard.
“Our defense stepped up,” Ream said. “The great goal line stand was a key turning point. They had the ball down on the 2-yard line and we stopped them If they would have scored right there they would have had plenty of time to get back into the game.”
Everman found the end zone nearly three minutes later on a 30-yard pass from Robert Davis to Bailey. The pass was tipped by Waxahachie’s Oshae Cofer but Bailey was able to pull it in for Everman’s only points of the game.
The extra point attempt was blocked by Waxahachie’s Relus Chance with 6:09 to play in the game.
Waxahachie finished the game with 185 yards of total offense. Eight players had at least one rushing attempt for the Tribe.
LaJordan Easley led Waxahachie in rushing with 56 yards on seven carries. Gagliano rushed for 37 yards on three carries while Benton rushed for 33 yards on 11 attempts. Also seeing action in the rushing attack was Dequavious (D.Q.) Robinson (4-12), Andrew Kindred (3-11), Cofer (2-7), Borden (1-5) and Abram Reyes (1-1).
Benton was 5-of-10 passing for 23 yards. His longest pass of the night was a 21-yard completion to LaDarius Brown.
As a team the Indians rushed for 162 yards on 32 attempts, an average of five yards per carry. The speed in the back field for the Tribe was a major factor in the rushing attack, but the play of the offensive line was the key.
Led by starting seniors Logan McDonald, Drew Wayt, Bryce Davidson, Aaron Ernst and Cody Heil the line opened huge holes for the backs to run through and protected the dual-threat Benton in the back field despite Everman’s speed on defense.
“We stuck with our men and did everything right,” McDonald said. “They were real strong up top, but we just stuck with it and did good. Its an awesome win, I love it.”
Next up for the Indians (1-0) will be a Thursday night game at Mesquite Memorial Stadium against West Mesquite. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.