WAXAHACHIE — After a summer of success in 7-on-7 football and gains made during late-summer practices, the Indians will open their season against Garland Lakeview Centennial High School at home at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.
Waxahachie High School finished it's 2016 season 6-4 overall and 3-4 in District 10-5A despite a historic six-game win streak between Aug. 26 and Oct. 7. The Indians beat Garland Lakeview Centennial's Patriots 46-34.
Though Waxahachie witnessed the departure of current Texas Christian University receivers Jalen Reagor and Kenedy Snell and Cisco College defensive back Keontrey "Trey" Jackson, Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Jon Kitna said there's a lot to be excited about with their new offense, defense and special teams' units.
Offense: Garland Lakeview Centennial and Head Coach Kendall Miller, a combination that allowed 31.6 points in 10 non-district and district matchups and two UIL postseason games, will face third-year starter Bryse Salik (121-217, 1,868 yds, 23 TDs, 7 INT) with a host you speedy targets at his disposal.
He will also have a reformed offensive line and a new center, sophomore Denton Ross, after the graduation of Caleb Carlile and the transfer of Jack York to First Baptist Academy in Dallas.
Kitna said though young, Denton and his "brothers in the front" are a talented, strong and cohesive unit.
"A.J. McGruder, who started last year, is only a junior. So is Arundell Briggs. Nick Hinojosa stepped up between his sophomore and junior year and we have a transfer in Ladarius Henderson that we're excited about. Every one of those guys is an underclassman and we're going to have them for two years," Kitna said. "Denton's only a sophomore, but he's really good at what he does."
The Patriots will also have to contend with 6-foot-5 and 185-pound senior receivers Tevin Wofford, 6-foot-1 and 190-pound Jeff Alexander, 6-foot and 185-pound Kevin Green and hulking 6-foot-2 and 220-pound junior tight end Will Morgan.
Junior Keshawn Anderson — nicknamed "The Goat" — may also play a vital role.
"We nicknamed him 'The Goat' because when he runs his routes, he looks exactly like Jerry Rice," Kitna continued. "We're really excited about him, too."
Defense: While new Offensive Coordinator Aaron Woods controls the offense, Kitna, who admitted he had more of a defensive mind, will lead senior middle linebacker Caleb High and the Indian defense.
"I grind 'em. Now being on the defensive side, those offensive guys are like, 'Yes!' I like what they're doing. I only get glimpses of the offense now,'" Kitna laughed. "It feels liberating, though. I think I had too many good ideas. Sometimes that can make things too complicated."
The Indians surrendered 33 ppg last season without Midlothian High School senior and junior transfers Jarreth and Josh Sterns in the secondary and during sophomore Caimyn Lane's freshman year.
"Everybody has to realize that Caimyn's only a sophomore even though he started 10 games for us," Kitna said. "We're going to play Casey Culver a lot on the other side and he's a sophomore, too. "
High led Waxahachie in tackles, wrapping up runners 75 times — including seven behind the line of scrimmage. Two of those tackles were sacks. Garland Lakeview Centennial will also have to contend with sophomore safety Demani Richardson, who second on the team in that category with 54 tackles and notched two interceptions, a fumble recovery, and a sack.
Special Teams: Converted cornerback Raymond Kennedy will return to the field for his senior season. The Indian hit 34 of his 36 point-after attempts in seven games and scored 34 total points in 2016.
Waxahachie's return game, which was bolstered by the speed of Jackson and Snell last season, may look to speedsters like Anderson and Green to put a postive spin on starting field position.
Extra Yards: Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium, opened in 2011, is a 9,500-seat capacity venue with a video scoreboard, wheelchair access, and a Polytan Ligaturf field.
It is located at 1000 U.S. Highway 77 in Waxahachie.
According to Thursday Weather Channel reports, the temperature at the 7:30 p.m. kick off is expected to have a low of 68 degrees and a high of 90 with a 10 percent chance of precipitation.
It is also expected to be mostly sunny with 3 MPH wind blowing north.
The Pick: Waxahachie 37, Garland Lakeview Centennial 13
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.