Waxahachie heads into this weekend’s season opener hoping the only similarity to last year’s game is the opponent.
The Indians will play No. 9 Highland Park for the second straight year, but in a different city, different stadium and with a different starting quarterback.
There is also hope that the results will change.
“This year we hope to hold them under 50,” Indian head coach David Ream said laughing in reference to last year’s 59-23 loss. “This is our opportunity to show the rest of the Metroplex that we can answer the bell when we’re given the chance.”
Waxahachie went into last week’s scrimmage with West Mesquite wanting to know how its re-built offensive line, new crop of running backs and young receivers would handle game situations.
Ream and his staff were pleasantly surprised.
“We ran the ball well, but I’d say the offensive line surprised me in the way they were getting off the ball,” he said. “We had a few mental mistakes, but nothing you wouldn’t expect in a scrimmage. Our line got to see a lot of stunts from West Mesquite, which will help them down the road.”
Highland Park may have just as many questions surrounding its offense with only two starters returning from last year’s 11-1 team.
The combination of not knowing very much about an opponent early in the season and still having questions about his own team leave Ream not knowing what to expect Saturday.
“The first game of the year is always tough because your opponent doesn’t have any tendencies yet and you’re never sure where your own team stands until you get out there and play,” Ream said. “There’s a lot to cover before you play a 0 Week game.”
Because of the uncertainty, Ream expects the returning starters to play a big role this week. On the offensive side of the ball, the Indians will be looking to Boomer Collins, Drew Harrison and Ryan Wilson as leaders. The defense will turn to Gary Mason, Duke Bohall and Tom Flores.
“They’ve been in pressure situations before and now they’re expected to step up and become leaders,” Ream said. “We don’t need them to just be inspirational leaders, but also to show the young guys what needs to take place in order to win.”
With Bohall and Mason at linebacker and Flores leading the defensive line, Ream believes the defensive front could be the Indians’ strength this season.
Highland Park will be breaking in a new quarterback, Dutch Crews, and applying pressure will be the main focus of Waxahachie’s defense.
“That’s something we’re going to have to do throughout the year,” Ream said of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. “There is a big difference between making them throw and letting them.”
Crews threw only nine passes last year, but has a big wide receiver in Seth Gardner that should help in the transition. Last year Gardner (6-4, 195) caught 19 passes for 472 yards and six touchdowns.
With an inexperienced group of running backs and receivers, the Indians will not commit to one or the other early in the game. Ream is confident that with Collins running the offense the Indians will be smart with the ball.
“I don’t really think we’ll try to establish one or the other,” Ream said. “We’ll take what they give us, but what we’re hoping is that they don’t shut down everything.”
Highland Park ran away with a 59-23 win in last year’s game, so the thought of avenging a 36-point loss would be normal. Ream, however, said the Indians are not worrying about what happened a year ago.
“That stuff is overrated,” he said. “We’re going to worry about this year. Maybe it’s in the back of their mind somewhere, but we aren’t going to concern ourselves with anything that happened last season.”