Chan Amie + Opportunistic Defense Carry Waskom Past Franklin For Second Consecutive State Title
HOUSTON -- Waskom officially arrived as a state power with last season's state championship. Despite heavy graduation losses, 2015 proved the Wildcats had staying power.
Waskom capped off a perfect regular season with a 33-21 win over Franklin -- its 31st consecutive victory -- late Thursday night before 9,291 fans at NRG Stadium in the Class 3A Division II championship game.
The game began more than two hours later than its scheduled 8 p.m. start time, and didn't wrap up until nearly 1 a.m.
Nobody from Waskom seemed to mind.
"No one thought we'd be here, probably not anybody on our staff and probably not any of our kids if you asked them in August," said Keeling, whose teams have gone 45-2 since 2013. "But the resilience of our kids, it showed tonight."
Waskom (16-0) senior two-way standout Chan Amie shined once again on the big stage. Last season's championship game Defensive MVP ended his high school career in style.
Amie fought through a nagging shoulder injury that flared up early in the second half to finish with 257 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries to claim Offensive MVP honors. He added 11 tackles and forced a fumble on defense.
"I had to make plays," said Amie, who finished the season with an East Texas-best 2,672 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns. "I couldn't let my team down."
Amie's first two touchdown runs gave Waskom leads, and his last -- an 8-yarder with 1:12 remaining -- capped a 99-yard drive that sealed the deal. His 67-yard run advanced Waskom all the way to the Franklin 15 with 2:40 to play.
"The guy is unbelievable," Keeling said of Amie. "He puts the team on his shoulders and he carries us all the way to the state championship from Week 1 all the way to now. He's fought injuries over the last three weeks, and just guts it out."
Waskom senior linebacker Mike Reason took home Defensive MVP honors after racking up a team-high 13 tackles, and recovering a fumble -- one of five Franklin (15-1) turnovers on the night.
"We just basically stayed disciplined, keyed in on the tight end and the backfield," said Waskom senior cornerback Eric Stephens III, who had an interception and fumble recovery. "It worked out perfectly fine for us."
Franklin, which marched right down the field and scored on the game's opening possession, turned it over in Waskom territory on its next two possessions, giving the Wildcats' offense time to settle into a rhythm.
"We just told (our defense) to keep fighting," Keeling said. "When somebody like (Franklin) is just going to inch the ball along you get frustrated. When they've got to drive the length of the field over and over again it's going to create some opportunities for our defense to make plays, and they did."
Waskom, which rolled up exactly 400 yards on the ground, got a quality performance from senior quarterback Dylan Harkrider, who passed for the Wildcats' first score of the night and ran for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
Harkrider, who fought through a broken bone in his lower back suffered last season, passed for 86 yards on 6-of-11 completions and ran for 73 yards on 11 attempts.
"As a father you couldn't be more proud," said Keeling, Harkrider's stepfather. "He's done everything that we've asked. He's battled through injuries when nobody thought that he'd be the quarterback. He's so resilient and so tough, can't say enough about him."
The two shared a special moment once the final seconds had lapsed.
"We've come a long way in football and to share that moment, it's crazy," Harkrider said. "He was just telling me how proud he was. It was an honor to play for him."
Franklin, which came into Thursday's game averaging more than 450 yards per game, was limited to 305 -- all on the ground. The Lions were also without a 100-yard rusher, as Rodrick Green finished with a team-best 99 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
With the game knotted, 21-21, to begin the fourth quarter, a broken gadget play eventually led to Waskom's Logan Hughes throwing an interception at the Franklin 36.
Franklin quickly got into Waskom territory, but Amie forced a Clayton Rosprim fumble, and Reason scooped up the loose ball at the Wiaskom 36 with 10:23 remaining in the fourth.
A heavy dose of Amie got the Wildcats inside Franklin's 30, and Harkrider did the rest, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 14-yard run with 6:22 to play. The Wildcats opted to go for two, but it was unsuccessful, leaving Waskom up, 27-21.
Franklin's ensuing drive stalled, but Thomas Box's 57-yard punt pinned Waskom at its own 1-yard line with 4:50 remaining.
"We told them whenever we huddled up, I said, 'alright, this is the deal. There's (five minutes) left in the ballgame, we're on our own (1-yard line). This will be the drive of the season right here. If you can go down and punch it in, and take the time off the clock the game is over.'"
And Amie's 67-yard run to the Franklin 15 applied the pressure squarely on the Lions. Franklin used its final timeout before fourth-and-3 with 1:17 to go, and Amie's 8-yard scoring run on the next play put the game out of reach.
"Everyone doubted us," Amie said. "We had to get to the weight room and work in the offseason to come back better."
It took Franklin nine plays and just 2:27 to take a 7-0 lead, as Rosprim's 7-yard run allowed the Lions to draw first blood.
Waskom had to punt on its first two possessions, but the Wildcats' defense came up big with Stephens' fumble recovery and Jason Jinks' interception to end Franklin's next two series.
The Wildcats evened the game early in the second quarter when Harkrider's 23-yard touchdown pass to Kaleb Haynes capped a nine-play, 87-yard drive.
Waskom forced a punt on the ensuing series, and the Wildcats drove 95 yards in a little more than five minutes, taking the lead, 14-7, on Amie's 16-yard touchdown with 1:41 before halftime.
"We couldn't get anything going (early), but our defense really stepped up and gave us the opportunity," Harkrider said. "We kinda swung the momentum right before halftime."
Jared Pedraza's 16-yard touchdown run on Franklin's first possession of the third quarter tied the game, 14-14, which was followed by Amie's 14-yard scoring burst on the ensuing series that regained the lead for Waskom.
But it took Franklin just two plays to tie game again, as Green broke free for a 42-yard touchdown, evening the score at 21-21 with 1:53 remaining in the third.
That set the stage for Waskom's dominant fourth quarter, which put the finishing touches on another state championship.
"We've been pretty far in the playoffs the last few years, and we won it last year," Harkrider said. "So we've been there and done it, and these guys we don't let it get to us. We don't get nervous and we don't get rattled. We're just ready to play, and that's why I love these guys and I love to play with them."
Waskom 33, Franklin 21
Class 3A Division II Championship
At NRG Stadium, Houston
Waskom 0 14 7 12 -- 33
Franklin 7 0 14 0 -- 21
FRA--Clayton Rosprim 7 run (Jacob Dorsett kick), 9:38.
WAS--Kaleb Haynes 23 pass from Dylan Harkrider (Victor Tapia kick), 8:59.
WAS--Chan Amie 16 run (Tapia kick), 1:41.
FRA--Jared Pedraza 16 run (Dorsett kick), 5:29.
WAS--Amie 14 run (Tapia kick), 2:21.
FRA--Rodrick Green 42 run (Dorsett kick), 1:53.
WAS--Harkrider 14 run (run failed), 6:22.
WAS--Amie 8 run (pass failed), 1:12.
First Downs 26 21
Total Yards 486 305
Rushes-Yards 55-400 51-305
Passing Yards 86 0
Comp.-Att.-Int. 6-12-2 0-3-2
Punts-Avg. 2-35.0 2-49.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-3
Penalties-Yards 7-40 4-35
RUSHING--Waskom, Chan Amie 29-257, Dylan Harkrider 11-73, Kaleb Haynes 8-56, Keileon Johnson 1-16, Team 2-(-1), Lucas Norton 4-(-1). Franklin, Rodrick Green 10-99, Clayton Rosprim 12-86, Bobby Graham 10-57, Jared Pedraza 6-44, Drew Fannin 4-17, Stephen Commander 3-10, Brandon Graham 2-8, Will Phillips 1-6, Jacob Dorsett 1-2, Kameron Fuller 2-(-24).
PASSING--Waskom, Harkrider 6-11-1--86, Logan Hughes 0-1-1--0. Franklin, Fuller 0-3-2--0.
RECEIVING--Waskom, Amie 1-30, Haynes 1-23, Eric Stephens III 1-15, Mike Reason 1-10, Norton 1-9, Hughes 1-(-1).