Waskom Rushing Attack Carries Wildcats to Upset Win Over Hughes Springs, Unbeaten Regular Season
[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]
HUGHES SPRINGS -- The Waskom Wildcats are well known for their ability to run the football. The Hughes Springs Mustangs are well known for stopping opposing offenses.
The Mustangs knew what was coming at them Friday, but they just couldn’t stop it.
The Wildcats forced three turnovers and ran the ball right at their opponent 65 times, averaging six yards per attempt in a 56-38 victory over No. 10 Hughes Springs at Mustang Stadium to clinch the District 9-2A Division II title.
Waskom (10-0, 7-0) enters the playoffs for the first time since 1992 against Union Grove next Thursday night in Hallsville.
The duo of Dillon Benton and Junebug Johnson dominated all night behind an offensive line that helped produce 416 yards and scored on all but one possession, accounting for seven scores between them. Benton carried the ball 19 times for 146 yards and three TDs, each of which came in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“Offensive line played unbelievable, very excited about that, we start three seniors, leaders of our football team,” said Waskom coach Whitney Keeling. “Our running backs have been special all season and they continued to do it tonight.”
Johnson contributed in all facets of the offense. The junior accounted for four scores on the night, throwing a TD pass, catching one and rushing for two more to lead an offense that put up 35 more points than any other team this season on the Mustangs.
Things started well for the Mustangs as they scored on the games second play with Chris Royal darting to the end zone from 54 yards out, with the two-point conversion giving them their only lead of the night at 8-0.
Johnson would get his first score on the evening as the Wildcats would respond with a 10-play drive that would set the tone for what was to come.
The Wildcats never looked back after that, as they held the Mustangs scorelss on their next three possessions, forcing a punt, a fumble and intercepting their first pass attempt of the night.
“Our defense probably had the best game we’ve had all season. I know the score doesn’t indicate it with how many points they scored, but they’re a great football team and for us to play that well defensively, I’m very proud of that group,” Keeling said.
Quarterback Trace Carter would finish off a 16-play drive that covered 73 yards following the Mustangs punt, converting a fourth-and-inches at the goal line for a 14-8 lead. The junior signal-caller threw the first of his two passes on the night following a Nigel Brown fumble recovery, lofting it in the end zone where Johnson got up and above a Mustang defender to haul down the 38-yard strike.
Johnson would turn into a passer on the next Wildcats possession as he took a handoff from Carter and found Eric Stephens III for a 30-yard score.
The Mustangs (9-1, 6-1) used two 15-yard penalties on Waskom to go 65 yards just before the half, with quarterback Michael Martinez, in his first start of the season for the injured Chad McKinney completing passes to Hunter Smith and then finding Malik Chism for a 28-yard touchdown and a 28-14 halftime score.
Martinez finished the night completing 7 of 10 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 34 yards.
Waskom opened the second half by fumbling on the first play, giving the Mustangs a chance to gain serious momentum, but the Wildcats defense forced a three and out.
The Wildcats then went on their fourth drive of ten plays or more, capped off by Johnson once again finding the end zone, this time from 42 yards out as he broke and spun through tackles on his way to paydirt.
A Fred Hopkins score from 8 yards out just before the end of the third quarter kept it a two-possession game. Hopkins would add another touchdowns late and finish with 75 yards on nine carries.
Dillon Benton closed it out from that point for the Wildcats.
The junior tailback would score on the next three possessions from 4, 10, and 31 yards out to seal the victory for the Wildcats and give them their first district title in some time, just a year removed from a season that included the forfeiture of all games due to player eligibility issues.
“I don’t harp on it much (last season), but it does make it that much more special. I knew this group was special on the first day of two-a-days and they proved it tonight,” Keeling said.