Home | Ennis High School | Late INT secures 102nd Battle of 287 for Waxahachie over rival Ennis

Late INT secures 102nd Battle of 287 for Waxahachie over rival Ennis

By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports

ENNIS — A fourth-quarter red zone interception proved the difference in the 102nd Battle of 287 between Waxahachie and Ennis.

Waxahachie junior defensive back Elijah Thompson dove to his right to pull in a Wondame Davis Jr. tipped pass to help secure the 22-16 Indian win at Lion Memorial Stadium.

The victory marked the second straight for the Tribe over the Lions and comes after the 42-2 route in 2022. It also evens the all-time record at an incredible 50-50-2. 

Waxahachie ultimately outgained Ennis 392 total yards to 217, which included 291 yards on the ground and 21 first downs to 11. 

Ramon McKinney Jr. paced the Waxahachie offense. The senior signal caller turned his first varsity start into 19 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown and 7-of-13 passing for 101 yards. He also threw one costly first-half interception that resulted in a Lion touchdown. 

As with any early-season high school football game, there were miscues, penalties and learning experiences galore. Waxahachie had three touchdowns called back by holding penalties. Ennis, unfortunately, traded an electric touchdown for a field goal late in the fourth quarter as the result of a ticky-tack taunting flag. 

There were also a slew of stoppages related to heat-induced injuries (read that as cramps) throughout the contest. The temperature sat at 103 degrees at the kickoff of the 102nd meeting and was still in the high-90s after the final buzzer. It was hot. 

The game was also featured as the 7th annual Texas Football Days kickoff, presented by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Bally Sports and Jack-in-the-Box. 

Third-year Waxahachie head coach Shane Tolleson accepted the Texas Football Days trophy near midfield following the win. He did so standing next to the far-more-locally-coveted U.S. Highway 287 sign, which enjoyed a bus ride 20 miles back to Waxahachie. 

It is also important to note that hall-of-fame Ennis head coach Sam Harrell entered the season with a career record of 196-66. Win No. 200 will undoubtedly come this season. Any Texas high school football fan with the opportunity should make plans to attend. 

HOW IT HAPPENED

Wondame Davis Jr. (5-13, 42yds, 2 INT) took his first snap as a Lion quarterback and was promptly met by defensive tackle Jacob Irvin at the line of scrimmage. The Lions benefitted from an incidental facemask in the backfield to pick up their first down. 

The Ennis offense went backward from there.

Waxahachie linebacker Garren Mason Jr. carries the U.S. Highway 287 sign back to the Indian sideline following Friday’s win. (Kirk Holt/ECS)

Following the Harris punt, McKinney Jr. scrambled for a 12-yard gain and first down on the Tribe’s first offense snap of the season. The senior picked up 22 yards on a designed keeper on the next snap to move Waxahachie inside the Ennis 40-yard line. 

The Indians converted a drive-saving fourth down five snaps later when Ta’Modrick Davis-Robinson (19-104, TD) picked up a tough 4 yards to reach the Ennis 9. On the next play, TDR took a direct snap to the Lion 2-yard line thanks to a huge seal block by sophomore Lane Fincher. 

Two plays later, Davis-Robinson scored on a zone read, spinning off of a pair of Lions for the first Waxahachie touchdown of the season. The point-after attempt sailed wide right, leaving the Waxahachie lead at 6-0 with 5:36 to play in the first quarter.

The most impressive play of the second Ennis drive was the 63-yard Harris punt that pinned the Indians at their own 11. Waxahachie also punted on its second drive.

Ennis’ third possession began with three consecutive first downs to end the first quarter with the Lion offense at the Indians’ 30-yard line. 

A pass interference penalty and 15-yard Jeremy Brown Jr. (9-30) run moved the Lion offense to the Waxahachie 7. 

Malachi Perez then rumbled his way forward for a 6-yard Ennis touchdown with 10:29 to play in the second quarter. Perez, the Lions’ linchpin at linebacker, recorded a team-best 135 tackles in 2022. 

Jax Bishop snuck his extra-point attempt through the left upright for a 7-6 Ennis lead. The Lions had not held a lead in the storied matchup since their overtime win in 2021. 

A few plays later, McKinney Jr. turned the left corner and broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run — only to have it negated by a second Indian holding call on the drive. The penalty moved the ball to the Indian 13-yard line and set up a second and 24.

Ennis’ Keke Tarrant picked off a McKinney Jr. pass two snaps later and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. The point-after attempt was botched, keeping the Ennis lead at 13-6 with 9:14 to play in the first half.

The Tribe offense responded with a 14-play, 74-yard scoring drive.

Ramon McKinney Jr breaks free against Ennis. (Kirk Holt/ECS)

The drive’s highlight came when McKinney Jr. avoided the pressure by Perez off the left side and scrambled for a 20-yard gain to the Lion 1. Wade Lemons (12-59) then bullied into the end zone with Ennis clinging to a 13-12 lead and 3:53 to play in the second quarter.

Waxahachie called a timeout to mull a potential two-point attempt. The designed fake PAT saw backup senior quarterback Beck Sullivan get stopped at the 1.

On the ensuing Ennis drive, Waxahachie junior free safety Micah Cook nearly returned the pick-six favor when he jumped underneath a Davis pass. A blindside block penalty instead started the Tribe offense at the Lions’ 49-yard line with 2:16 showing on the second-quarter clock.

After a near interception, McKinney Jr. again broke through the Ennis defense for what appeared to be a 42-yard touchdown with 22 seconds to play — only to yet again have a holding penalty wipe points off the board. McKinney Jr.’s Hail Mary attempt two snaps later found the turf and Ennis carried its 13-12 lead into the halftime locker room.

Waxahachie outgained the Lions 187 total yards to 63 and 10 first downs to 6 in the first half. The most telling stat, however, was the 7 Indian penalties for 65 yards. Three of those penalties were holding calls that negated three would-be touchdowns. Ennis had just 2 penalties for 10 yards.

McKinney Jr. led all ball carriers with 10 carries for 73 yards. He also completed 4-of-his-9 passes for 38 yards.

Davis Jr. paced the Lion offense with 31 yards and 3 runs. He finished the first half 2-of-7 through in the air for 18 yards, both completions going to Harris.

SECOND HALF

Waxahachie came out of the halftime locker room with a clear objective to run the football outside of the tackles. The strategy — combined with several Lions hitting the turf early and often with heat-related injuries — resulted in a pair of third-quarter scores that ultimately sealed the rivalry win.

The Tribe offense capped a seven-play, 56-yard drive to open the second half with a 1-yard McKinney Jr. touchdown run. Davis-Robinson accounted for 34 yards on the carries to set up the short score, putting the Indians on top 19-13 after the successful extra point with 8:48 to play in the third quarter.

Following a quick three-and-out by the Lions, the Indians used 8 consecutive running plays to move inside the Ennis 15-yard line. McKinney Jr.’s pass attempt to Trenton Kidd (5-46) on 3rd-and-7 was a step late in the back of the end zone, resulting in a 30-yard field goal attempt for sophomore placekicker Ethan Guillen.

The kick was true, and Waxahachie led 22-13 with 2:11 showing on the third-quarter clock.

The Lion offense remained stagnant on its ensuing possession.

Facing fourth-and-6 after a false start penalty, Harris called his own number and scampered 77 yards to paydirt after faking a punt attempt.

There was only one problem with the play’s execution — Harris was flagged for taunting the Indian sideline with what amounted to a peace sign as he outran the Tribe secondary, resulting in a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul (2-yard line).

Ennis was set to take its next snap from the Waxahachie 17-yard line. The Lions remained stuck in reverse with a pair of 5-yard false-start penalties.

Bishop eventually split the uprights for a 28-yard field goal from the right hash. The successful kick pulled the Lions within one score, 22-16, with 10:36 to play in the fourth quarter.

The taunting penalty on Harris ultimately wiped away at least three points and roughly four minutes of game time.

Waxahachie then burned four minutes off the game clock, highlighted by McKinney faking a zone read and connecting with tight end Rhett Butler on a dump pass down the seam for a 41-yard gain to the Ennis 16. 

A penalty, big loss and a couple snaps later, Guillen’s 38-yard field goal attempt was just wide right with 6:20 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Waxahachie still clung to its 22-16 lead and needed one more defensive stop to secure the 287 sign. Hopes for that stand quickly dwindled when Davis Jr. took the ensuing Lion snap around the left side of the line for 44 yards to the Waxahachie 35-yard line. 

The Lion offense was set up with first-and-goal at the Waxahachie 10-yard line two plays later.

Indian linebacker Mike Esparza Jr. recorded a crucial sack on second-and-goal to down Davis Jr. at the Lion 19-yard line. Tolleson elected to accept the 10-yard block-in-the-back penalty to put the Lion offense on the 20-yard line and an opportunity to replay second down.

The gamble paid off on the ensuing snap when defensive tackle Jacob Ervin got his hand on the Davis Jr. pass and junior defensive back Elijah Thompson recorded his game-saving interception at the Waxahachie 12-yard line. The second Ennis turnover came with just under four minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

McKinney Jr. and the Indian offense picked up three first downs to successfully run out the clock. Several members of the Tribe began their sprint to reclaim the coveted Battle of 287 sign in the back of the end zone the second McKinney Jr.’s knee hit the turf on the final snap of the 22-16 Waxahachie win.

UP NEXT

Waxahachie will travel to Cravens Field to face (0-1) Arlington Lamar for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff. Ennis will host (0-1) Midlothian at Lion Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday.

PHOTO GALLERY

All photos by Kirk Holt/Ellis County Sports

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Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

tsmith@elliscosports.com

About Travis M. Smith

Travis M. Smith is the owner and content director of Ellis County Sports and has over a decade of award-winning sports coverage. He most recently served as the digital sports director for KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM. He is the former managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Midlothian Mirror and Glen Rose Reporter.

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