Heroic effort: Defense stands out, but 'O' woes lead to loss to No. 10 Longhorns

WHS runs out of steam in second half after losing starting QB to ankle injury

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light

The Waxahachie Indians’ defense came out to play Friday night — and made homecoming against powerful Cedar Hill at Lumpkins Stadium a game for three-plus quarters.

But in the end, the Class 6A No. 10-ranked Longhorns (4-0, 2-0) were just too strong as they scored twice in the waning minutes for a 35-10 final score that belied just how competitive this District 11-6A contest was.

The Indians (1-4, 0-2) made the Longhorns work for every yard and every point, limiting them to 218 rushing yards and 213 passing yards. The Indians dominated possession in the first half, running 37 plays from scrimmage to Cedar Hill’s 15, and kept it a 14-10 halftime deficit.

But after sophomore starting quarterback Roderick Hartsfield left the game early in the second half, the tables turned against the Tribe. What little offense WHS could generate evaporated as the Indians managed just one first down and 16 net yards the rest of the way.

Defensive plays such as a fumble recovery by Anthony Gallo, who picked up the ball on the fly after a crunching hit by a teammate on Cedar Hill’s Jaiden Calahan, and a Xavien Thompson interception in the end zone, kept the game from turning into a rout. Jh’Marques Head and Eli Wheaton each added a sack, and players such as Preston Hodge, Rolando Sierra, Demarcus Becks, Robert Hannah and La’Markus Reed heroically tried to hold the fort all game long.

For the second straight week, the Indians won the opening coin toss, elected to receive and cashed in for an early lead. The Indians kept the ball for 13 plays and melted six and a half minutes off the clock, settling for a 30-yard Clyde Melick field goal and a 3-0 lead.

After an exchange of punts, Cedar Hill’s Kevin Young Jr., who finished with 109 yards on 12 carries, picked up 62 of them on a run up the middle with 2:03 remaining in the first for the Longhorns’ first lead. However, the Indians were able to gain field position and put together a 9-play, 45-yard drive that culminated in Hartsfield’s 11-yard pass to A.J. Thomas, and at 6:40 of the second quarter, the Indians were back on top, 10-3.

Cedar Hill quarterback Kaidon Salter, who was held to 11-of-22 for 213 yards, found Anthony Thomas IV open on a 34-yard touchdown pass before halftime, and the Longhorns went into the locker room ahead by four points.

The Tribe forced a punt on Cedar Hill’s opening series of the second half, and WHS got the ball back with a chance to reclaim the lead — but on third-and-7, Hartsfield was sacked, and injured his ankle in the process. The Longhorns then widened the lead with a 91-yard drive, and Salter’s 4-yard keeper made it 21-10.

Salter added a second TD run with 2:03 left, and backup quarterback Blair Hawkins scored on the last play of the game to inflate the final verdict.

In spite of a second straight loss in 11-6A zone play, the good news for the Indians is that as member teams have held up under COVID-19, the zone schedule that was set up at the beginning of the year looks more likely to be discarded in favor of keeping the regular standings intact — which would keep WHS in the playoff chase.

Provided no teams lose any games to COVID-19, the Indians are still very much in the playoff picture and can still slip into the postseason in 6A’s District of Doom with winnable games against Mansfield, Mansfield Lake Ridge, Waco and Waco Midway in four of their final five games.