Ellis County football previews: It’s ‘Tolly Time’ at WHS
Indians start fresh under championship coach with new faces on field
Waxahachie’s new head coach knows a thing or two about winning football games. The combination of Shane Tolleson with a growing program on the rise could mean some exciting times ahead for the Indians.
Tolleson took over the Indians in February after spending seven seasons as the defensive coordinator at Denton Ryan. During Tolleson’s time at Ryan, the team went 90-10 and won the Class 5A Division I state championship in 2020.
The new skipper inherits a team that took a definite step forward in its third season in Class 6A, finishing .500 and making its first playoff appearance in Texas’ highest classification.
A 2020 season fraught with chaos because of the COVID-19 pandemic tested positive — in a good way — for the Tribe, and it started with a 34-7 victory at replacement opponent Copperas Cove after the University Interscholastic League staggered football schedules across the state in response to the pandemic.
The team took its early lumps against powerful rivals Ennis, DeSoto and Cedar Hill, but a 31-21 win at Mansfield Lake Ridge on Nov. 6 punched the Indians’ postseason ticket. They closed the regular season on a 4-game winning streak before a 38-0 bi-district loss at Temple on Dec. 11.
After a full spring and summer under Tolleson, the Indians open the season on Friday night against Rowlett at Lumpkins Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
One of the benefits of being a Class 6A school is that, most times, there’s always a “next man up” waiting in the wings and the Indians have a few of those. They will need them, as only 25 lettermen return from 2020, including five starters on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Junior Roderick Hartsfield shared time at quarterback early in the year and won the starting job, but an injury during last year’s game at DeSoto cut his sophomore season short. Hartsfield returns and will lead the offense.
Hartsfield is more of a running threat, but will have some talented wide receivers to throw to, including junior Eli Wheaton, who is 6-foot-3 and could become the next playmaker in a long line of them at WHS. Junior Keith Abney is another receiver to watch.
A promising stable of running backs grew even deeper with the transfer of junior Iverson Young from Red Oak. Young had a breakout season with the Hawks a year ago, rushing for 1,151 yards and 12 touchdowns. Running backs Javon Jackson and Jashaun Wofford present a “Thunder and Lightning” option, with Wofford, a 6-3, 230-pound junior, providing the thunder.
The offensive line took a graduation hit and will be a question mark early on as new starters settle in.
The defense is led by returning starters Demarcus Becks and Rolondo Sierra up front, and junior linebacker LaMarkus Reed. Senior Jaylon Burke, junior Calvin Simpson and sophomore Lee’Tavius Donelson will hold down spots in the secondary.
Who will take over special-teams duties remains to be seen after the graduation of the outsianding Clyde Melick, whose field goal at the final horn beat Waco Midway last year.
After Friday’s opener against Rowlett — who had been scheduled to host the Indians last year before COVID-19 precautions got in the way — WHS will travel to Arlington Lamar on Sept. 3 and will return home for the renewal of the “Battle of 287” against Ennis at Lumpkins Stadium on Sept. 10.
The Indians will then jump headlong into District 11-6A play and will travel to Midway, an opponent Dave Campbell’s Texas Football picked to finish in the playoffs ahead of the Tribe. The Sept. 17 showdown will have implications on whether the Indians can make it two playoff seasons in a row.
District 11-6A: Waxahachie Indians
Head coach: Shane Tolleson (first season at school and overall)
2020 record: 5-5, 4-2
Returning lettermen: 25
Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense