Waskom Shuts Out West Rusk In Battle Of Undefeated Teams
NEW LONDON -- It was the single most important game within East Texas. Unfortunately, rain hurt the final product.
No bands, no halftime and two lightning delays of more than an hour apiece took away the pageantry.
But a football game was still played Friday at Bruce Bradshaw Stadium in New London. And still-undefeated Waskom ran away with it, 40-0, to take control of District 8-3A Division II in favor of previously undefeated West Rusk.
Running back and linebacker Chan Amie led the way with four total touchdowns and 147 rushing yards on 10 carries.
"It's one of those deals we talked about in the locker room," winning head coach Whitney Keeling said. "When adversity hits, you have to rise open to the challenge. My goodness. To go in and come out, go in and come out -- Our kids just stayed focussed. And I'm just glad we got it in."
Reaching a final score was an accomplishment in perseverance. Many games incorporating East Texas teams Friday didn't even get off the ground.
Waskom (8-0, 5-0), which entered the game ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press' weekly Class 3A poll, and West Rusk (7-1, 4-1) weren't phased by a forecast spelling trouble throughout the weekend. Together, the two programs held their ground all week and hoped a standard 7:30 p.m. kickoff would work.
Lightning moved into the New London area after pregame warm ups and delayed the start to 8:45 p.m.
The Wildcats' visiting band didn't make the trip and the Raiders' band was released from the stadium prior to the delayed kickoff. About half the fans also sought shelter at home.
Once underway, it looked like it the holdovers were going to be treated to the defensive stalemate. Both teams turned the ball over on downs their first possessions.
Amie broke the ice, however, with an 11-yard run off a pitch from quarterback Dylan Harkrider on 4th-and-nine. Victor Tapia knocked in the point after with 1:08 left in the period.
West Rusk reached midfield on its second drive only to set up a bad exchange. Defensive end Kevy Luster scooped the sliding ball up at the 37-yard line and took it in for a two-possession lead as the lightning detector and first quarter buzzer simultaneously went off.
The point after attempt, a failed reverse pass from a field goal formation to hold the lead at 13-0, was withheld until after the all-clear.
"We didn't think we were going to get to play after that," Harkrider said. "We just kept waiting and waiting. Finally, we were lucky enough to come out here and battle it out with them. But we were definitely stressed out because we had the momentum before the delay. We're glad we got to continue."
Friday's game resumed at 10:16 p.m. It was in the books 67 minutes later.
West Rusk opened the second quarter with an 18-play drive that took 9:05 off the clock. It ended with a missed 22-yard field goal attempt.
Waskom drove 80 yards in eight plays. Amie scored from 16 yards for a 20-0 lead with 22 seconds left on the clock.
Since there were no halftime performers -- and since the two teams had retaken the field less than 20 minutes beforehand -- the break between the second and third quarters was treated like a break between quarters of the same half.
The Raiders started the second half by recovering their own kick at Waskom's 28-yard line. Amie's fumble recovery and 65-yard run the other direction put an end to that threat.
West Rusk drove to Waskom's 38-yard line its next drive but ultimately punted.
Amie made the Raiders pay with a 60-yard run for a 34-0 lead late in the third quarter.
West Rusk went three-and-out its next possession, and a running clock was initiated for the fourth quarter.
Harkrider hit Eric Stephens III in stride for a 54-yard touchdown throw less than a minute later to close scoring. It was the game's only completed pass.
Waskom's two-point run with a mix of first and second-teamers was stuffed.
"Chan is an unbelievable player," Keeling said. "He's the heart and soul of our football team and we go with him. He's had a great year and we hope he continues to do more."
Running back Nick Ballard led the Raiders with 29 carries for 95 yards. He was averaging 161 yards per game.
The Wildcats' win allowed them to tie Gilmer's East Texas-best, 23-game winning streak on a technicality. Gilmer's game against Bullard was postponed Friday and will be played today.
More importantly, Keeling's squad took the district lead by beating West Rusk head-to-head. The group also clinched a playoff berth of some fashion. It's hard to say what spot it secured in a worst-case scenario because two other district games were postponed.
The team is officially halfway to a perfect season though. Not a bad place to be.
Waskom will visit Troup this week. The Raiders simultaneously will be on the road at Frankston.
"We were preparing for it like a playoff game, winner-takes-all," Harkrider said. "We knew that whoever won this game would likely finish as district champs. We knew the weather would probably be like this, so we prepared with footballs in different scenarios. I'm glad we stayed together and stuck it out."
No. 6 Waskom 40, West Rusk 0
District 8-3A Division II
Bruce Bradshaw Stadium, New London
Waskom 13 7 14 6 -- 40
West Rusk 0 0 0 0 -- 0
WAS--Chan Amie 11 run (Victor Tapia kick), 1:08
WAS--Kevy Luster 37 fumble return (pass failed), :00
WAS--Amie 16 run (Tapia kick), :22
WAS--Amie 65 fumble return (Tapia kick), 10:28
WAS--Amie 60 run (Tapia kick), 1:57
WAS--Eric Stephens III 54 pass from Dylan Harkrider (run failed), 3:15
First Downs 13 11
Total Yards 362 153
Rushes-Yards 32-308 27-153
Passing Yards 54 0
Comp.-Att.-Int. 1-2-0--54 0--8-0--0
Punts-Avg. 1-36 4-28.8
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 5-2
Penalties-Yards 8-60 4-30
RUSHING--Waskom, Chan Amie 10-147, Dylan Harkrider 7-60, Kaleb Haynes 3-36, Lucas Norton 5-36, Keileon Johnson 3-22, Kevy Luster 2-12, Logan Hughes 1-(-1), Tay Green 1-(-4). West Rusk, Nick Ballard 29-95, D.J. Hicks 11-60, Unlisted Player 1-2, Dee Starling 2(-2), Levi Hughes 1-(-2).
PASSING--Waskom, Harkrider 1-1-0--54, Hughes 0-1-0--0. West Rusk, Starling 0-8-0--0.
RECEIVING--Waskom, Eric Stephens III 1-54.