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Hachie’s in! Indians clinch first 6A playoff berth

WHS defeats Mansfield in seeding game to end postseason drought

Daily Light report

MANSFIELD — The Waxahachie Indians have shown all season they have a playoff-worthy defense. By moving senior athlete Brandon Hawkins Jr. to quarterback, they now have an offense to match.

It all came together at just the right time, and now the Indians are headed to the football postseason for the first time as a Class 6A member.

Hawkins rushed for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the Indians to a playoff-clinching 21-7 victory over the Mansfield Tigers on Friday night at Vernon Newsom Stadium in a District 11-6A zone seeding game and rewarding Todd Alexander with his first postseason qualification as a head football coach.

The Indians (3-4, 2-2) are in the playoffs for the first time since 2017, when they reached the Class 5A Division II region semifinals in Jon Kitna’s final season as skipper. They also have their first two-game winning streak since the 2017 playoffs.

Senior running back Shawn Cherry added 73 rushing yards and a touchdown as the Indians attempted only six passes all night, completing three. WHS played turnover-free football and committed just four penalties for 35 yards.

Defensively, the Tribe held Mansfield (3-5, 2-2) to just 159 yards of total offense. Senior cornerback Preston Hodge came up with a huge interception with 8:27 left in the game as the Tigers were threatening to cut the margin to one score.

Before the season started, District 11-6A changed its schedule to a zone format as a precaution against any COVID-19 shutdowns. If no district games had been canceled, the entire district schedule would have remained the determining factor for playoff qualification. But Waco High was forced to call off its games against Mansfield Lake Ridge last week and Cedar Hill this week because of a COVID outbreak, which caused the district to revert back to the zone format.

That meant a win-and-in scenario for both the Indians and Tigers. It took both teams a quarter, though, to feel each other out as their first two possessions each ended with punts.

Finally, the Indians got something going with the ball. They drove 82 yards on 190 plays, keeping it on the ground the entire time. With 7:29 remaining before halftime, Hawkins called his own number on a 3-yard touchdown, and Clyde Melick’s PAT gave the Tribe a 7-0 lead.

Before the half ended, Mansfield quarterback Hunt Young was sacked for a 16-yard loss and the Indians got the ball back at midfield. Nine runs later, Cherry took it in from the 6-yard line with six seconds remaining, and WHS took a 14-0 lead into intermission.

The Tigers took the second-half kickoff and quickly got on the board as Young broke a 37-yarder for the score. But the Indians answered with a drive kept alive by a 15-yard penalty on the Tigers and an automatic first down. On the next play, Hawkins took it 20 yards for the game’s final scoring with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Indians’ final three games mean nothing in the district standings with the zone format in place, but they will have major value as a lengthy tune-up for the playoffs. The Tribe will be the No. 2 seed out of 11-6A in the Division II bracket and will travel to the No. 1 seed out of 12-6A the weekend of Dec. 10-12. That district consists of schools in the Temple-Killeen area, as well as Bryan High School.

WHS will close out the regular season with a nice 3-game homestand at Lumpkins Stadium — against Waco Midway this Friday, against Waco High on Nov. 27, and against Duncanville in the finale on Dec. 4.