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Red meets maroon in battle of Lions to open 16-4A

Balanced Ennis attack set to match up with Waco ground game
In a pair of very different ballgames, Ennis (3-0) earned a split with the Waco High Lions (2-1) during the ’07 season.
The two groups of big cats will renew their recent rivalry on Friday at Lion Memorial Stadium. While many pundits would put their money on E-town in the matchup, coach Sam Harrell is never one to overlook the opposition.
“Waco is a talented team that runs the football well,” he said.
“That group is as athletic as Lancaster and defense is definitely the strong point.”
In week one, Waco rolled over 4A San Marcos 35-6 as it scored all of the game’s 28 second-half points. The red Lions dominated despite tallying just nine of the 26-overall first downs thanks to three touchdown runs totaling 168 yards.
The passing-challenged squads combined for only three completions. Tailback Toylon Clark (7-81-1) was Waco’s top offensive player while linebacker Lamarquet Jones scored on a 45-yard fumble return.
Week two saw Waco on the wrong end of a whipping as former district foe and new 5A squad Copperas Cove rolled to a 41-20 victory behind a 20-0 second half. The red Lions scored once again on defense via a 33-yard fumble return by Andrew Weaver, but four Waco turnovers combined with five Cove rushing scores to make for a long night. Waco did run the ball very well once again, however, as Clark (18-121-0) had another strong showing.
“Cove is a really good team on both sides of the ball,” Harrell said.
“Waco High had been right up there with them the past couple of years and probably isn’t quite at the same level as far as this year’s team. Cove has gone back to 5A and would’ve been a definite favorite to win the whole thing if they were still in 4A.”
Week three put the “D” in defensive struggle as Waco beat 5A Round Rock Stony Point 9-3. In a shocking pair of stats, Waco won with just three first downs and 73-total yards.
Quarterback Kollin Kahler threw three interceptions in the ballgame, giving him five picks to go with one touchdown for the season. Kicker Ernesto Guevara booted a 55-yard field goal as Larry Jordan emerged out of nowhere to be Waco’s top runner (17-49-1).
“Stony Point’s defense was very strong and you could tell that game was going to be a defensive struggle,” Harrell said.
“Stony Point had some opportunities to score more points, but didn’t take advantage of them. Cove and Stony Point just had great defenses, so the stats for Waco’s offense in those games are a little misleading. They do have some quality options in the run game and we’ll see a lot of the option.
“That means we have to be sound and tackle well. Unless you’re Cove or Stony Point [defensively], it concerns you to have to tackle those guys over and over.”
At the quarterback position, Harrell believes if Waco was going to replace Kahler it would’ve done so before the 16-4A opener.
“If they weren’t sold on him, they probably would’ve brought someone else in against Stony Point,” he said.
“He’s not going to beat you throwing the ball and is mainly a threat on option keepers.”
The running back position is either a mess or a deep pool of talent depending on how you look at it. Fullback Keyshun Russell is the lone Lion to be an active rusher in all three games.
“Stopping Russell is the first priority because I think he keys their offense,” the coach said.
“They run a lot of traps and belly option with him that you have to stop. Waco has a lot of tailbacks, but they’ll never replace him at fullback.”
After notching just two carries through two games, Larry Jordan was heavily relied upon against Stony Point. Harrell said he looked pretty good considering the defense awaiting him across the line of scrimmage.
Bronsha Dugas was expected to be the main man, but he was knocked out for the season against San Marcos with a knee injury. Clark was injured before the Stony Point game and could make a surprise return.
Receiver Denzel Mitchell scored a regular-season touchdown against Ennis last year and is clearly Waco’s top aerial threat. In fact, he has seven of the team’s 12 receptions this season. To put that in perspective, Ennis receiver Deonte McDade had 12 catches against Mesquite Horn last week.
“Kevin Hill is really fast at outside receiver; he just hasn’t gotten the ball much,” Harrell said.
On the offensive line, Harrell said left tackle Quintin Evans is a standout. Overall, the coach sees a solid, senior-heavy group.
Kicker Guevara attended camps with Ennis kicker Colby Threet this past summer and Harrell is impressed with the strong-legged junior.
The red Lions’ defense has played a four front against most teams this year, but Harrell won’t be surprised to see a three front with nickel coverage behind it on Friday.
“They’re normally in a 4-2 with Cover 3 or Cover 4 behind it, but we’re the first true spread team they’ve faced this year,” he said.
“They run to the football very well and are capable of scoring on that side of the ball very quickly if you make a mistake.”
Waco’s defensive line is probably the best Ennis has faced thus far. Harrell is impressed with defensive ends Andrew Weaver and Tywan Benjamin, but also has his eye on a smaller player in the form of defensive tackle Xavier Johnson because he’s very quick and hard to block.
Lamarquet Jones and Cameron Terry are the inside linebackers and Harrell said they’ll fly to the football in a hurry. Clarence Willis was the Waco quarterback in 2007, but he’s really impressed Harrell on film with his ability to cover a lot of ground at free safety.
Oklahoma State recruit Victor Johnson, a safety for Waco last year who scored a defensive touchdown against Ennis, is long gone and that’s good news for the maroon Lion aerial attack.
“Johnson was the type of guy who only comes around every 10 years, so they are a little more vulnerable to the pass without him,” Harrell said.
Waco wouldn’t be a better passing team than Mesquite Horn if the red Lions were facing scarecrows, but that doesn’t mean the Ennis defense can mail it in.
“We’re facing a more one-sided offensive attack than Horn, but Waco is so much better and more athletic,” Harrell said.
“There are still teams out there who can hurt you just running the ball and this is one of them. We’ve got to do a great job against the run and especially against Russell.”
Regarding the biggest bright spot for Ennis in the victory over Horn, look no further than senior running back Tim Hearne.
“All of our other backs play defense too and it’s been tough on them,” Harrell said.
“We’ve been looking for a guy to give us some more help at either running back or linebacker and Tim stepped up. We’re happy for him and look for more of that (11-95-2) in the future.
“We’d seen flashes of it, but Tim hadn’t been consistent and had dealt with ball security problems. Now he’s doing the things in practice where coaches say he deserves a chance.”
Looking to the injury report, Jyavon King and Jason Minchew will play after getting banged up against Horn; it’s just a matter of how effective they’ll be. Ronnie McCullar, Nathan Dixon and Joel Cox all remain out of action, but Harrell said Dixon is getting closer to a return by the day.
As for taking care of business prior to district, Harrell is pleased with his team but keeping things in perspective as well.
“I’m glad we’re 3-0, but I don’t think we’re where we want to be just yet,” he said.
“We have to keep the snowball rolling and there are a whole lot of places for us to get better.”

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Posted by on Sep 25 2008. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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