WAXAHACHIE, Texas — Outside of Permian-Midland, Temple-Belton, Cameron Yoe-Rockdale, and Texas High-Arkansas High matchups, the rivalry between Ellis County’s Waxahachie and Midlothian High Schools is one of the richest in the county.
In this season’s rendition on Friday at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium, the competition pits former teammate against athletic replacement and state championship defensive coordinator against state championship offensive coordinator.
The two teams have played one another since 1927, but the teams took a 50-year hiatus in play from 1936 to 1986. In games played from 1927-1986, Waxahachie outscored Midlothian 220-6. The Panthers tied with the Indians in 1987 via a 26-26 finish and got their first victory against the Indians in 1988 (27-14).
Waxahachie, which has won 17 district championships since 1954 and the era of former Head Coach L.T. Felty, owns the series with a 31-6-1 record. Midlothian, however, has won 3 of the last 5 games — a 42-7 in 2012, a 49-14 in 2013, and 41-27 in 2014.
Each of those wins came under Lee Wiginton, the team’s former and current head coach at state-ranked 4A Midlothian Heritage High School.
Waxahachie has not lost a game in the series since Head Coach Jon Kitna’s arrival in 2015.
Both teams are currently 1-1 in district play and with a playoff spot on the line every week, getting a win is essential.
TRANSFER OF POWER
Senior Jarreth Sterns, as well as his brother Josh Sterns, transferred from Midlothian before the beginning of the 2017 season, finding a new home in the county’s Gingerbread City an with a rival less than 10 miles away.
As Midlothian’s starting quarterback in 2016, Jarreth was a powerful component of Head Coach Doug Wendel’s triple-option offense and a jab to then-junior, running-back bruiser Landry Songer’s knockout punch.
Jarreth completed 17 of his 36 passes and threw 289 yards and four touchdowns against one interception and ran for a second-leading 679 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 carries. Only Songer (137 carries, 838 yards, 11 touchdowns) accumulated more.
In kelly green garb, though, Jarreth has been a primary running back in Aaron Woods offensive scheme and a ball-hawking safety in Kitna’s defensive backfield. He has 266 yards and three touchdowns on 46 carries, 268 yards and two touchdowns on 22 receptions, and two of the Indians’ four interceptions.
Josh has the third and Quad’tavius “Momo” Donalson accounts for the fourth and a subsequent 53-yard return.
Despite Songer being sidelined by injury for a handful of games, Midlothian has found its stride behind Jarreth’s replacement, Austen Thomas, and the brother of former Panther power back Dalton Samek, Nolan Samek. The Panthers have also doubled their win total from a year ago, winning matchups against Mansfield Timberview and Richardson High Schools.
Last week in their district victory against the Wolves, the tandem of Songer and Thomas carried the ball 28 times, with both gaining more than 100 yards rushing.
THE CEDAR HILL CONNECTION
When the two teams meet, Woods, the Indians’ offensive coordinator, and Steven Lemley, the Panthers’ defensive coordinator, will step onto the same field for the first time since leaving former Cedar Hill High School Head Coach Joey McGuire’s staff during the offseason.
Lemley, who spent 12 years with CISD, won three state titles with McGuire, who accepted a position on new Baylor Head Coach Matt Rhule’s staff in December. Between 2003 and 2016, McGuire, Lemley, Woods and the Longhorns amassed a 137-77 record, won three state championships (2006, 2013, 2014) and appeared in the 2012 6A state title game.
The trio also won nine bi-district championships and seven district championships.
Waxahachie is lead by senior quarterback Bryse Salik, who leads the district is passing, completing 101 of his 137 attempts (73.7 percent) and throwing 1,387 yards. He also has 15 touchdowns against five interceptions.
His offensive savvy is powered by a reliable receiving corps, including pass-catchers like senior Tevin Wofford, Jr., who is currently second in the district receiving yards (347) and junior Keshawn Anderson (10 rec, 231 yards, 3 TD). Jerreth’s six-touchdown total is currently in third place for most touchdowns scored in the district.
Lemley’s defense has allowed opponents to score 38 points per game, but limited Mansfield Timberview to fewer than 23 in last Friday’s 29-22 victory at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium. If they plan on slowing down the Waxahachie passing attack, the unit — specifically the secondary — will need to play more effectively.
The Panthers and Indians are currently in a four-way tie for third place in district with Mansfield Timberview (3-2, 1-1) and Mansfield Summit (3-2, 1-1). Kickoff will be 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lumpkins Stadium in Waxahachie.
*Additional reporting by Marcus Matthews-Marion
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