British soccer has a succinct name for the type of game that Waxahachie and Ennis will hold Friday night: a “derby.” That is, a rivalry game with significant geographic importance. One of Texas’ great high school football “derbies” will take place tonight in Ellis County. 

U.S. Highway 287 barely existed as a two-lane path back in 1933, when the Indians and Lions played their first recorded football game against each other. Much as the highway has grown in importance into a four-lane divided expressway over the years, so has the rivalry. 

Tonight, the two will meet again, this time at Waxahachie’s historic Lumpkins Stadium in the season-opening 98th Battle of 287.

Much like NASCAR with the Daytona 500, the Indians and Lions kick off the season with their most-hyped event of the year. The highway sign — awarded to the winner each year, and in Waxahachie’s possession since 2015 — will be in the house, and so will thousands of fans.

With the series dead-even at 46-46 with five ties, Friday night will be the ultimate rubber match. Waxahachie has won seven of the last 10, and the last four in a row in a series that Ennis had dominated in the early part of the new millennium. This is the 69th consecutive annual meeting, although the two schools have played as early as 1933.

Last year’s lead-up to the game was all about the Harrell family: namely, the meeting between Ennis head coach Sam Harrell, returning to the school for the first time after he won three state championships in a five-year span more than a decade ago; and his son, Waxahachie offensive coordinator Zac Harrell, who helped author a 54-32 win in which the Indians jumped out to a quick lead and then dominated the second half. Zac Harrell is now head football coach and athletic director at Athens.

The Indians scored on each of the game’s first two plays from scrimmage for a quick 14-0 lead and never looked back. As it turned out, it would be the only win of 2018 for Waxahachie, which found its first season as a Class 6A team rough. The Indians closed out the year with nine straight setbacks to go 1-9 and winless in District 7-6A.

Meanwhile, Ennis bounced back from last year’s loss to finish 5-5 and in third place in District 8-5A (Division II). The Lions returned to the playoffs, falling at Frisco Reedy in the bi-district round, 47-21.

The Lions come into the new year favored by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football to win the district with 26 returning lettermen and the presence of senior dual-threat starter Dyllan Santos. The speedy Santos is the Lions’ top returning rusher with 775 yards and 11 touchdowns in his junior season, with 1,110 yards and 10 TDs through the air.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Lumpkins Stadium. The game will be broadcast live in Waxahachie on KBEC 99.1 FM and 1390 AM.