MANSFIELD — When the lights flicker, dim and go out after Friday night’s Mansfield Legacy-Waxahachie High School matchup at Vernon Newsom Stadium, one of two scenarios will have played out.
The Broncos will have improved their record a game and move toward tightening their stranglehold on the district lead or the Indians will have upset a state-ranked team for the second straight year and moved a game closer to the programs first playoff berth since 2012 — as well as the first in the Jon Kitna era.
Mansfield Legacy (5-1, 3-0 in District 10-5A) enters the game ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Texas 5A Top 20 Poll and winners of their last three games. Their only loss came at the collective hands of No. 1 Aledo High School via a 24-3 finish.
WINNING THE JALEN WAY
Head Coach Chris Melson has had his own unique brand of adversity, after thrusting junior starting wide receiver, safety, and reigning AP 5A Player of the Year Jalen Catalon into a new role during the district opener against Midlothian High School.
It was one his brother Kendall Catalon — who threw for 1,701 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only six interceptions and ran for 1,025 yards and 16 touchdowns in his 2016 senior season — helmed for three years. It was also a position Jalen hadn’t played since he was a freshman.
Against the Panthers, the younger Catalon gained 222 total yards (53 pass, 169 rush) and scored three touchdowns either through the air or on the ground. Jalen exploded against then state-ranked Lancaster High School a week later, throwing for 125 yards, rushing for 156, and scoring four total touchdowns on offense (3 pass, 1 rush) during a 49-28 defeat of the Tigers.
Mansfield Legacy’s run-heavy offense is also powered by senior Grant Johnson (119 rush, 832 yards, 9 TD), who is 168 away from eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. He gained 352 yards and scored six touchdowns as a tertiary option behind Catalon and graduated leading rusher Kameron Session (266 rush, 2,087 yards, 17 TD).
The Broncos’ next two games may be pivotal in their quest to claim a district championship, as they face Waxahachie on Friday night and AP No. 17 Mansfield Lake Ridge High School seven days later on the same patch of turf.
INDIAN SUMMER MAY BE ON HORIZON
Three years under Kitna, a former NFL quarterback-turned-high school head coach, has brought a mixed bag of on-field success for the city of Waxahachie.
While there have been three consecutive “Battle of 287” wins against county rival Ennis High School, the Indians have missed the playoffs each of the years under his charge — including after a coin flip debacle in 2015 that held them from postseason play and a four-game collapse that spoiled a historic 6-0 start to the 2016 season.
The last time Waxahachie reached the postseason the program was classified as 4A and still coached by David Ream, who led it to consecutive berths in 2011 and 2012.
This, because of coaching changes, time, and transfers, is not the same defense fielded on those teams or the one Kitna fielded as a fledgling coach in Waxahachie’s ISD.
During the first day of July’s Adidas Friday’s Division I 7-on-7 State Tournament at Veteran’s Park and Athletic Complex, Waxahachie nabbed 10 interceptions in three contests against College Station, Houston Cy-Fair, and Welasco High Schools. Six belonged to brothers and Midlothian transfers Josh and Jarreth Sterns, who returned two — one each — for touchdowns.
While 7-on-7 competition may not be an exact apples-to-apples comparison to the 11-man, padded football environment because of the inclusion of running plays and extensive game-planning, ball-hawking secondaries can translate well from one to the other.
Against Midlothian last week, the Indian defense saw a minor revival of its summer, earning three total turnovers via a forced fumble and two interceptions despite surrendering 418 total yards to the Panthers’ Tate Corbin, Austen Thomas, and Landry Songer-led triple-option offense.
Jarreth nabbed two interceptions, adding to 317 total yards of offense and four total touchdowns.
With its new-look defense in place and an offense fueled by the right arm of senior quarterback Bryse Salik (1,908 yards, 21 TD, 5 INT), the hands of senior and junior receivers Tevin Wofford II (424 yards, 3 TD) and Keshawn Anderson (313 yards, 4 TD) and the all-purpose ability of Sterns, the Indians may be ready to avenge last season’s loss and break a string of four consecutive defeats dating back to the 2013 season.
LEGACY HAS DEFENSE, HISTORY ON ITS SIDE
The Broncos’ defense has held opponents to a meager 17 points per game in six matchups, including the 24 points scored by the state’s No. 1 UIL 5A team. They’ve also accumulated 37 tackles-for-loss, eight sacks via seniors Sanford Hobbs IV (2), Enoch Jackson, Jr. (2), Mason Kinsey (2), and two other defenders, and three interceptions via Jalen (2) and fellow junior Jayden Ishmael (1).
Mansfield Legacy leads the regular season series 4-1 since its beginning in 2012. The Broncos have allowed 49.5 points per game to Kitna-coached teams but this will be the first time Waxahachie enters the matchup with former Cedar Hill High School state championship offensive coordinator Aaron Woods in full control of the offense.
While Waxahachie won the first contest 28-22 at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium after outscoring the Broncos 15-7 in the second half, Mansfield Legacy beat the Indians 51-3 in 2013, 22-17 in 2014, 73-66 in 2015, and 45-33 in 2016.
The outcome of the game could also either clarify or muddle the 10-5A standings. A Bronco victory would place Mansfield Legacy — assuming Midlothian doesn’t upset Mansfield Lake Ridge — in a two-way tie for first place in the district and two games ahead of the third and fourth place teams.
An upset would place the Indians in a two-way tie with Mansfield Legacy — again assuming Midlothian doesn’t upset Mansfield Lake Ridge at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium — for second place. It would leave Waxahachie two wins away from the magic number needed to propel it into its first bi-district scenario in a near half-decade.
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