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(Kirk Holt/Ellis County Sports)

Waxahachie nearly upsets 6A No. 3, nationally-ranked DeSoto behind another defensive showcase

By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports

WAXAHACHIE — The difference between a state champion and a really, really good Texas high school football team is slim. That narrative proved its weight Friday night in a slobber knocker between Waxahachie and 6A No. 3 DeSoto at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.

The Eagles entered as the reigning 6A Division II state champions, ranked No. 3 in the Class 6A poll and 14th nationally. And they proved why by turning all four Waxahachie miscues into touchdowns in a 56-35 victory.

The final score is a bit misleading, as Waxahachie had its opportunity to drive for a tie or win with 3:30 to play in the fourth quarter. 

Michael Esparza Jr. goes over a DeSoto defender for a fourth-quarter touchdown. (Kirk Holt/Ellis County Sports)

The Indian defense had just forced a quick three-and-out after senior quarterback Ramon McKinney Jr. (16-32, 192, 2TD) connected with Michael Esparza Jr. (3-72, TD) for a 31-yard touchdown. Unfortunately for the Tribe, the ensuing punt was muffed and the Eagles recovered at the Indian 16-yard line. DeSoto scored on the next snap for a 49-35 lead with 2:47 to play in the fourth quarter.

And that sequence, in itself, was a true microcosm of the initial theory.

The truth is, Waxahachie was better coached and better prepared. The Indians had a counter for every haymaker the Eagles threw. The Waxahachie faithful showed up loud and proud, and the spirit groups were all bought in.

State champions don’t waste opportunities — they bury you with them.

Waxahachie ultimately provided DeSoto with four freebies Friday night. All four came after the Indians failed to recover the muffed opening kickoff and dropped a potential pick-six on the first Eagle passing attempt of the game.

There was a fumble on a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak that set up a 14-yard Marvin Duffey (11-131, TD) touchdown run in the second quarter. Then there was the insanely questionable non-whistle that resulted in a McKinney Jr. “fumble” and 41-yard Sael Reyes touchdown. That score put the Eagles on top 21-14 with 6:07 to play in the first half.

It is still a mystery to this bystander — as well as a half dozen DeSoto alumni standing near this bystander on the Eagles’ sideline — as to how McKinney Jr. was not ruled down. At the time of the “fumble,” the Waxahachie quarterback had not had his feet on the turf for several seconds while a scrum of players from both teams pushed and pulled.

McKinney Jr. regrouped and marched the Indian offense on a 4-plus minute drive that ended in his second rushing touchdown of the first half and tied the game at 21-all with 57 seconds to play.

McKinney Jr. scored from 6 yards out to open the Waxahachie scoring. He added a 7-yard touchdown pass to Rhett Butler that the tight end made one heck of a play on to secure the tipped pass against his helmet in the back of the endzone. 

DeSoto quickly moved into field goal range, only to have placekicker Angel Diaz miss a 34-yard field goal attempt wide left. The miss by the otherwise stellar kicker (remember the name; he’ll be kicking at a Power 5 on Saturdays) sent the teams into the halftime locker room knotted at 21. 

Waxahachie outgained DeSoto 225 total yards to 166 at the break. McKinney Jr. accounted for 216 of those yards, having rushed 16 times for 118 yards and two scores. He also completed 10-of-his-15 passes for 98 yards and one touchdown. 

Trenton Kidd had 5 catches for 62 yards and Micah Cook recorded 3 for 28 yards.

Waxahachie possessed the football for just under 18 minutes of action. 

Marvin Duffy paced the Eagle offense with 9 carries for 68 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Darius Bailey completed 7-of-his-12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown to Ethan Feaster (2-37). 

The Waxahachie offense had to punt for the first time in the ballgame on the opening drive of the second half. After downing the ball at the 3-yard line, a chop block forced an Indian re-punt that was fielded and downed at midfield.

The field-position gift spurred the Eagles into scoring three third-quarter touchdowns on over 240 yards of offense to build a 42-28 lead.

The lone Waxahachie touchdown in the third quarter came when Kidd returned the first DeSoto kickoff 58 yards to the Eagle 21-yard line, running over an Eagle tackler to cap the return with the Indians trailing 28-21. 

A few snaps later, a reverse from Lemons to Kidd (6-66) resulted in a touchdown pass from Kidd to Lemons for a 9-yard touchdown to tie the game at 28 with 7:27 to play in the third quarter. 

DeSoto ultimately began the fourth quarter inside the Indian red zone. The Indians promptly blocked a 32-yard Eagle field goal attempt on the third play of the frame. 

The special team play kept the DeSoto lead at 42-28 and set the Indian offense up at its own 20-yard line. 

A few snaps later, McKinney Jr. connected with Esparza Jr. for a 34-yard gain to the Eagles’ 45-yard line.

The Indian offense moved inside the DeSoto 20 five plays and one egregious pass interference penalty later — Waxahachie would’ve scored had the Eagle defender not’ve literally tackled Esparza Jr. in the end zone. They were, however, unable to capitalize, ultimately turning the football over on downs.

And, once again, the defense was there to keep the Tribe in the contest. DeSoto’s ensuing 3-and-out possession set the Waxahachie offense up at the Eagle 36-yard line with an opportunity to pull within a single score. 

Three snaps later, McKinney Jr. connected with Esparza Jr. on the exact same fade route that resulted in a PI flag the drive prior. The 31-yard touchdown and extra point left the Indians trailing 42-35 with 4:26 to play in the fourth quarter.

The Waxahachie defense again stepped up, forcing a 3-and-out behind a huge Garren Mason Jr. sack and freshman Jayquan Snell pass breakup on a deep post. 

The ensuing punt was fumbled by the Indian return man and recovered by the Eagles. DeSoto scored a 14-yard rushing touchdown on its first snap.

The Eagles then added what very well could be the shortest-ever punt return for a touchdown. Defensive lineman Camrien Washington scooped the Indian punt from the goal line on its second bounce and returned it 4 yards for a 56-35 DeSoto lead. The punt was recorded to be negative-3 yards after it sailed straight up off the punter’s foot and came with 47 seconds to play in the game. 

UP NEXT

Waxahachie will enjoy a well-deserved bye week before returning to action at home Friday, Oct. 6, against 6A No. 1 Duncanville. 

The Panthers are the defending 6A Division I champion and the sixth-ranked team nationally by MaxPreps. The game, which is the annual Homecoming tilt for the Indians and slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff, will mark the second consecutive week for Waxahachie to face a defending 6A state champion, 6A top-5 ranked team and nationally-ranked foe…ever.

____

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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