By Don Hullett
Daily Light correspondent
ENNIS — Last December ended Ennis’ season a little sooner than the Lions would have wanted, but what an amazing and fully-entertaining overtime loss it was in the regional finals in Frisco’s Ford Center, to the eventual state champions – the Aledo Bearcats, by a 43-36 score.
In a game that could only be better set in the great state of Texas, where football is "king," both teams played their hearts out and left everything they had on the field at the end of the extended overtime session. And, more importantly, both teams held their heads up high, without any shame, as this great match-up was one for the ages.
If the opening polls for the Texas 5A Division II classification are anywhere near correct, then this year Ennis could possibly make quite a collision into a playoff run that the entire state will be keeping its eyes on. Ennis is currently ranked No. 1 in the state, with Aledo representing the No. 2 spot.
The Lions will be ably led onto the field again this year by Texas Football Hall of Fame member Coach Sam Harrell, with this being his second tenure at commanding the Ennis High School program. Overall, Harrell’s entire coaching record as a head coach amazingly stands at 159 wins and 27 losses. Returning from last year’s Lions team will be 6 starters on offense and 8 on the defensive side of the ball.
The Lions will be under the offensive leadership by senior quarterback Collin Drake, who was a unanimous choice as the Most Valuable Player in all of Ellis County last season, and by outstanding senior wide receiver Laylon Spencer, who captured the Offensive Player of the Year Award for 2019.
This dynamic duo sliced and diced opposing teams last season, almost at will – by Drake with his running legs and his pin-point passing arm, and while Spencer dazzled the crowds with break-away speed and hands that caught anything within his hometown zip code.
At the time of this preview, it appears that the Lions will be content with their "running back by committee," at least at the first part of the season. Another bright star is said to be Devion Beasley, an opportunistic returning player that excels on both sides of the ball. In addition, after somewhat of a breakout game against Aledo, wide receiver Skylan Simmons is poised to impact the Lions offense as well.
Defense will be a rough and tough group to play against all year with 8 returning starters. They will be led by senior linebackers Caden Hubbard and Payton Chapman.
Chapman suffered a season-ending injury and underwent subsequent surgery after the 2019 region semifinals against the Frisco Raccoons. Chapman is fully recovered now and eager to get back on the field.
The defensive line will be anchored by all-star seniors Jarveon Williams and Deryous Stokes. Beasley, as mentioned previously, is also a returning starter at cornerback, and as a sophomore last season, he was named the Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
With the district reshuffle this spring, Ennis will basically play the same teams in their district, with the only shakeup coming with Terrell and Kaufman dropping to 4A classification. The new opponent for EHS will be the Crandall Pirates who have been moved up to 5A.
Harrell says, "I believe the entire district will present a very tough level of competition this year. With all that has gone on in the past 7 months – with shutdowns, closures, and shelter-in-place situations, I have tried to keep our team focused on the things that they are able to take control over. They were highly encouraged to continue to workout hard on their own and to be ready when the season finally does begin, and I’m proud how they have adapted to all the changes they have faced."
With the onset of daily UIL-approved practices on-campus, the Lions began their official scheduled workouts on Labor Day, Sept. 7. And the eager fans were out in full force at their team’s training site this past week. Some small metal stands were packed full with onlookers, as well as many Lion backers who chose to stay in their cars that were lined up and down the street, along side of the practice field. There seems to be a sort of electricity in the air around the EHS school facilities. Their rowdy and supportive fans are feeling that this year might be one of those very special ones to remember.
The Lions are looking forward to an exciting season that hopefully will have them playing well into January, for their sixth state football championship. The Lions will kick off the season on Friday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. when they travel to Red Oak to take on their Ellis County rivals, the Hawks.