Goin' south: WHS' first 6A playoff trip is Friday

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Waxahachie senior quarterback Brandon Hawkins Jr. (1) scrambles for yardage against Waco High two weeks ago at Lumpkins Stadium. The Indians will travel to Temple on Friday for the bi-district round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs.

The Waxahachie Indians made it through the District of Doom, and now like Indiana Jones, they head toward the Temple of Doom with the same result in mind.

The Indians are among select company as they enter their first playoff appearance ever as a Class 6A school. WHS will represent District 11-6A right alongside Class 6A No. 2 Duncanville, No. 8 Cedar Hill and No. 11 DeSoto in the playoffs — all storied 6A powerhouse teams. It’s the first playoff berth since 2017 for the Indians and the first trip for Todd Alexander as a head football coach.

The Indians (5-4) will be riding a four-game winning streak down Interstate 35 into Friday night’s Class 6A Division II bi-district game at Temple’s Wildcat Stadium at 7:30 p.m. The Wildcats are outright champions of District 12-6A.

The Indians got an extra week to prepare for the Wildcats when they and Duncanville agreed to cancel last Friday’s season finale at Lumpkins Stadium. Because of the zoned schedule that was adopted at the outset of the season, the game had no bearing on playoff seedings.

WHS will seek its first win over Temple in school history, although the Tribe hasn’t played the Wildcats since 1950.

The Indians and Wildcats have one common opponent: Copperas Cove, which the Indians beat 34-7 in their season-opener on Sept. 25 behind a near-200-yard rushing night from senior Shawn Cherry. Temple beat the Bulldawgs in a district game on Oct. 16, 55-21. Both games were at Cove.

The Wildcats (9-1) went a perfect 7-0 in district play with two close contests, a 38-36 win at Harker Heights on Oct. 29 and a 27-24 decision over Killeen Shoemaker on Nov. 19. Their one loss was at home against Arlington Martin, 43-25, on Oct. 9.

The Tem-Cats are balanced offensively. Quarterback Humberto Arizmendi has thrown for 1,410 yards and 20 touchdowns to six different receivers with only five interceptions. The leading rusher is Samari Howard, who has gained 811 yards on the year with 11 TDs. Howard has more than 1,000 all-purpose yards and 15 total TDs.

Unlike the Wildcats, the Indians are much more run-oriented — especially since the move of Brandon Hawkins Jr. from slot receiver to quarterback.

The transformation of Hawkins is the stuff that Waxahachie legends are made of. Hawkins, a 1,200-yard, 14-TD pass catcher and an All-Ellis County finalist as a junior, took naturally to the role of a running signal-caller. An emergency move at the time because of injuries, Hawkins’ switch has worked out great for the Tribe as they are 4-0 with him as the starter.

And the combination of Hawkins and Cherry has been lethal as of late. Cherry has 877 yards and six rushing touchdowns on the season, while Hawkins leads the squad with seven rushing TDs and already has 656 rushing yards.

Hawkins still leads the team with 234 receiving yards, even though he hasn’t caught a pass since the Cedar Hill game. Hawkins is 20-of-40 through the air, for 135 yards and four touchdowns.

Defensively, senior Xavien Thompson leads the Indians with four interceptions, and classmate Preston Hodge has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Senior Clyde Melick is perfect on the year on PATs and is 6-of-7 on field goals with a long of 40 yards, which was the game-winning kick against Waco Midway as time expired. Melick averages 39.0 yards per punt as well.