MANSFIELD — Down 21 points and reeling from two red zone interceptions Friday at Vernon Newsom Stadium, Waxahachie almost did something no team has done this season — rally from behind to beat Associated Press 5A No. 8 Broncos on their own turf.
If the Indians had pulled off the upset, it would’ve been the first team to notch a win against the one-loss Broncos since No. 2 Aledo High School beat them 24-3 in week three. It would have deadlocked the Waxahachie and Mansfield Legacy in a two-way tie for second place behind undefeated Mansfield Lake Ridge High School, which beat Midlothian in its Friday night matchup.
According to defensive back and wide receiver-turned-quarterback Jalen Catalon, winning at Newsome, though, comes with a price.
“Our team had to stop them and do whatever we needed to do to pull out a victory tonight. It was a tough win but we had to protect our turf on our homecoming,” Catalon said. “Hats off to Waxahachie, they gave us a really tough fight. They forced turnovers and capitalized on them and you have to give them credit for that.”
The Mansfield Legacy junior survived Waxahachie’s furious rush and three near backbreaking turnovers via a Jerreth Sterns’ first-half near pick-6 and a pair of late-game fumbles — one by Johnson recovered by Quad’Tavius Donalson that put the Indians in scoring position down only nine points — deep in their own territory.
OFFENSE’S SECOND-HALF SAVING GRACE
Catalon finished with 5-for-10, 79-yard, one-touchdown and one-interception performance through the air but added 76 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Only one of his 13 rushes was unproductive — the fumble — and each of his four completions fell into the hands of a different receiver. That included a 13-yard, second quarter scoring strike to Nathan Rooney that gave Mansfield a commanding 22-7 advantage.
The Bronco offense that scored three of the six touchdowns in the second quarter, though, was considerably less explosive in the final two quarters. It padded its lead by only a single score in the second half, after Catalon pushed the total to 39 points after hurdling a defender, sprinting 8 yards and diving into the end zone.
Building off a 21-yard, back-shoulder touchdown reception by Tevin Wofford II and last-second touchdown connection between Indian starting quarterback Bryse Salik and all-purpose back Jarreth Sterns, Waxahachie turned a 32-7 deficit into a five-point gap in the mater of a quarter and a half.
“The offense didn’t help them out much in the second half and we got lazy on both sides, but I’m glad the defense stepped up, pulled together, stood tall and made a stop we had to have,” Catalon said.
Behind the arm of Salik (24-43, 227 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT) and the legs of its running back committee, the Indians struck first with 6:03 mark with Sterns’ one-yard rumble, his second score of the game, that sheared the deficit to nine points. They struck again less than 30 seconds later — after Donalson’s recovery — when Salik found Sterns cutting through the heart of Mansfield Legacy’s defense and streaking toward the end zone for 13 yards.
“We learned we can’t be complacent or satisfied,” Catalon said. “We have to do our jobs. When we didn’t, that’s when Waxahachie capitalized and got those fumbles and before you knew it, it was a game. We just have to realize you have to play all four quarters, regardless of who is standing on the other side of the field.”
The stop, capped by Nolan Williams’ 4th and 6 sack of Salik to drain the clock of its final 11 seconds, came at a time the Broncos needed it most and when Waxahachie was in a position to stage arguably one of the biggest upset of the high school football season.
“Our defense played tough because they had to,” Bronco Head Coach Chris Melson added. “We had our backs against the wall after three turnovers in a row and on our own 25-yard line. I don’t like the fact we fumbled but I’m very proud of the way we responded — especially Jaydn Ishmael’s fourth-down pass deflection on [Wofford} to effectively end the game. That was big.”
THE 1,000-YARD GRANT
While Salik’s 212 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 20-for-38 passing lead all signal callers and Sterns 104 total yards (70 rec, 34 rush) dominated the all-purpose statistical category, Johnson ruled Friday night’s running back realm.
Johnson needed only 168 yards to run for 1,000 yards for the first time in his two-year varsity career. He got 183 on 26 carries. His 64-yard sprint to paydirt with 11:24 left in the second quarter, too, provided the cushion needed to retain their District 10-5A undefeated status.
Johnson’s century-mark achievement marks the seventh consecutive season Mansfield Legacy has housed at least one 1,000-yard rusher. Former Bronco Kameron Session did it in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and Kijana Amous ran for 1,821 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2013.
BATTLE OF EAGLE RIDGE LOOMS
Mansfield Legacy High School (6-1, 4-0) has yet to lose a game in district play, but it’s next opponent — also undefeated in the 10-5A — could produce the antidote to the Broncos’ winning elixir.
Mansfield Lake Ridge High School, fresh off a sound 51-3 defeat of Midlothian High School on Friday at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium, will meet the Broncos at Vernon Newsom as the AP’s No. 18 state-ranked team. The lessons learned against Waxahachie, however, may be invaluable to a team that has designs on a deep postseason run and hopes for its first state title.
“Keep your composure. Keep it between the whistle so you don’t hurt your team at the end,” said Taurean Carter, who gathered his first three sacks of the season Friday. “We knew Waxahachie had a very strong wide receiver corps and when a team has that, you have to expect the pass. After we started shutting down the run, it was straight-up play action or pass and slant. Coach came up with a plan and we executed. We learned if you’re patient, bigger and better things will come down the road.”
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