A smile spread across Terrance Hamilton’s face. Friday night, the Waco High Lions will travel across town to take on No. 9 Midway. And Hamilton is pumped.
As he lifted his eyes to the sky, Hamilton shook his head and said, “It’s a feeling I can’t even explain.”
For the first time ever, these two programs are undefeated heading into Friday’s gridiron contest. Waco High has defeated Roosevelt (41-17), Killeen (52-20) and Harker Heights (42-35). Midway has topped then-No. 5 Cedar Park (35-28), Cedar Ridge (34-19) and then-No. 3 Temple (40-28).
“A 3-0 start is always a good start,” Waco High coach Marty Herbst said. “I’m not surprised but I’m probably a little surprised on the inside how we got there. We’ve got a lot of work to do there. Those are some of the things we’ve been working on and talking about this week.”
The Panthers also enter Friday’s matchup with the No. 9 ranking in the Associated Press Class 6A high school football poll.
“We’re still going to do what we do, but it’s great for our kids and great for the program,” Midway coach Jeff Hulme said. “We’re going to try to get better and do what we do.”
When these teams met a year ago, Waco High was 3-0, while Midway was 1-2. The Panthers won, 28-7, in the first meeting between the two programs since 2011. Overall, the Waco High vs. Midway match-up has taken place only seven times since 2006. Six of those games were district contests.
Because the history is limited, Herbst doesn’t call it a rivalry.
“We haven’t played them every year,” Herbst said. “It’s not a rivalry because we haven’t been playing long enough. It’s an of interest game for the community more than anything.”
Hulme agrees that the game is great for the community, especially with the schools only six miles away. But he calls the contest a rivalry.
“The athletic director over there, Coach (Johnny) Tusa is a good man,” Hulme said. “He was the coach at Waco when I played. I think it’s a good rivalry. I hope we keep it going. I know Coach Herbst and those coaches do a good job. It will be a lot of fun.”
The Lions are coming off a big win over Harker Heights on Friday where Waco High had to hold off a comeback from the Knights. Harker Heights trailed by 14 in the third quarter before back-to-back touchdowns tied the game with 10 minutes to play. Waco High had the answer as Jaylen Harris connected with Michael Stimpson for a 53-yard touchdown pass.
While a passing play was huge for the Lions a week ago, it’s been their run game that has propelled them to their undefeated start. Hamilton leads the ground attack with 337 yards on 46 carries with five touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Jaylen Harris is 11 for 30 for 202 yards with three touchdowns to one interception.
“We have to stop the run,” Midway defender Jaxon Player said. “They have a good run game. Their offensive line cuts a lot. It’s a little different than what we’ve been playing against.”
When the Midway Panthers watched film of their upcoming opponent, Waco High, one thing stood out in particular — they had to stop the run game. And in order to do that, they have to find some way to contain Terrance Hamilton.
While the offense has produced, Herbst says the key for Waco High’s success thus far has come on the other side of the ball.
“We know we have the skill people on offense to score some points,” Herbst said. “The key is that our defense and special teams have put our offense in short field situations. We haven’t had to take the ball the length of the field too many times to put points on the board. If we can continue to do that, we’ll continue to put points on the board.”
Waco High’s defense will have its toughest test of the season against Midway on Friday. The Panthers are led by quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who is 52 for 98 for 680 yards with eight touchdowns against three interceptions. Clayton Williams is his top target with 17 catches for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In the backfield is James Fullbright with 59 carries for 448 yards and five touchdowns. Last week, linebacker Marcus Johnson got some time at running back and finished with 76 yards and two scores.
“They just have everything,” Herbst said. “They’ve got a big, aggressive defensive line and a quarterback going Division I, a running back that we’ve known about for a couple of years and another they threw in as a surprise last week unexpectedly and they’re solid at the receiver position. They’ll create quite a challenge for our defense.”
Midway is just as strong, if not stronger, on the defensive side. Matthew Barnhill leads the way with 43 tackles.
And the senior linebacker, like Hamilton, can’t wait for Friday’s contest.
“It’s an awesome deal,” Barnhill said. “We grew up playing against these guys. We love playing against them. It can get heated sometimes. It’s what we go for. It’s an awesome rivalry.”
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