The Waxahachie Indians aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, even though the path to the postseason is extremely difficult.
The Indians took an early 16-0 lead last Friday night, even scoring a safety on the opening kickoff with no time elapsed. But the clock may have struck midnight on the Indians’ postseason hopes as Mansfield High stormed back with a 28-point second quarter to spoil the Indians’ homecoming, 56-30.
The loss leaves the Indians (1-6, 0-4) on the brink of elimination from the playoffs with three games left. Waxahachie travels to winless Grand Prairie next Friday but closes out with games against Mansfield Summit at home and South Grand Prairie away.
“It’s going to be tough to get in right now,” Indians head coach Todd Alexander said. “Other things would have to happen with other teams, and it would have to be the right mix of wins and losses. We’re trying to focus on Grand Prairie right now and try to put things together for that game.”
Starting for the injured Campbell Sullivan — who was elected homecoming king before the game — senior quarterback DJ Hollywood was 17-of-27 for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
But Hollywood, who started at quarterback for the Indians last season before moving to tight end, also suffered a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown as Hollywood was hit in the backfield.
“It’s a real tough situation for him, but we’re proud of him and he did a good job,” Alexander said. “He’ll continue to get better. He’s been getting a lot of reps at tight end and not many reps at quarterback. Obviously now he’s getting all the reps, so he’ll get better quickly.”
Alexander said Sullivan, who left the game each of the Indians’ three previous outings, is week-to-week.
Wide receiver Brandon Hawkins Jr. caught nine passes for 102 yards and two TDs, and Kieran Page had five catches for 72 yards and a score.
Junior Blair Williams, who normally plays cornerback for the Indians, made the most of his special-teams appearance with his 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with a minute left before halftime.
Williams’ return seemed to give the Indians a little momentum at the half, trimming the deficit to just five points. But Mansfield scored the next 28 points to remove all doubt to the outcome.
On the very opening kick of the night, the Indians recorded a safety on a tackle in the end zone after Indians kicker Crisanto Perez booted the ball deep, catching the Tigers off guard. The ball was tipped into the end zone and by the time a Mansfield runner was able to retrieve it, the Indians swarmed him for a safety as the clock still read 12:00 — almost certainly the quickest score in school history.
Following that, Hollywood connected with Hawkins twice on TD completions of 10 and 11 yards, and it was 16-0 with 3:27 left in the opening stanza.
“Getting those two points and then getting the ball back and scoring, that was huge,” Alexander said. “That was what we wanted to do.”
But a pair of Ricky Madison runs for the Tigers, sandwiched around a Ty Wilkins pick-six from the Waxahachie 23-yard line, gave Mansfield (2-5, 1-3) the lead for good. They added a 61-yard touchdown strike for good measure to make it a 28-point second quarter.
“Our game plan on defense was real good,” Alexander said. “We had a lot of stops and controlled what they did; we just gave up the big plays defensively. Offensively we never could get into a true groove.”
The ensuing kickoff was returned by Williams for a TD to keep it a 28-23 game going into intermission.
The Indians were held to just 56 yards rushing, led by Derrick Jackson with 31 yards on five carries. Preston Hodge, who made his debut on offense last week, added 28 yards on six totes.
The Indians will look to finally get on the winning track this Friday night at the Gopher-Warrior Bowl against winless Grand Prairie. With three games left, the window to grab some W’s is growing short.
“They’re a solid 6A team,” Alexander said of the Gophers. “Their record doesn’t show it, but they don’t have a weak spot on the field. They have a solid defense that plays well and they’re very technical about things. Defensively, they move the ball. We’re going to have to play well to beat them.”