WAXAHACHIE — Fresh off of a verbal commitment to a Division I university, Jerreth Sterns showed his former teammates precisely what they already knew — No. 4 can play football and play it well.
Behind a bend-but-don’t break defense and offensive showcase, (4-2, 2-1) Waxahachie trounced (2-4, 1-2) Midlothian in front of the homecoming crowd, 49-20.
By now it is no secret that Sterns transferred from Midlothian to Waxahachie last spring. It is also pretty evident he made sure to bring his speed and hands along, too.
The senior torched the Panther defense for 294 total yards and 4 touchdowns just a few days after committing to play football at Army West Point. But it was not his 259 yards on 9 catches or 6 carries for 35 yards that stood out. Instead, Sterns’ knack for finding the football after it left the hand of Midlothian quarterback Austen Thomas was the real difference maker Friday night at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.
To the surprise of few, Bryse Salik and his right arm stole the show through the first quarter and a half. The senior finished the game with a new season-high 497 yards on 21-of-27 passing and six touchdowns.
Salik first found Tevin Wofford in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown on the Indians’ first drive of the ballgame. He then connected with Jeff Alexander on a textbook corner route inside the right pylon for a 15-yard score. The signal called capped his first half when he hit Jerreth Sterns in the flats for a 30-yard touchdown.
The touchdown pass to Sterns came after Midlothian quarterback Austen Thomas fumble the football on the Indian 22-yard line. It was the second turnover for the Panthers in Indian territory but would not be the last.
With 1:11 on the first quarter clock and the Panthers inside the Waxahachie red zone, Sterns turned into a center fielder. His one-handed interception in the back of the Panther end zone came with the Indians leading 21-7.
Had Sterns of not reached out with his left hand to pull in the Thomas pass, the Panthers had a man all alone on the other end for an easy touchdown.
The lone score for Midlothian came via a 2-yard carry by Landry Songer that capped a nine-play, 40-yard drive midway through the second quarter.
It took Salik and the Indian offense all of two plays to score after Analeigh Flores and Noah Wallace were crowned the Waxahachie Homecoming Queen and King during halftime.
Quad’Tavius Donalson (3-27) carried the ball for nine yards on first down and Salik then connected with Keshawn Anderson (2-76) for a 75-yard touchdown. The Raymond Kennedy extra point put the Indians up 28-7 and would prove to be all the scoring Waxahachie would need.
But the Indians were not finished.
Waxahachie found the end zone three more times before the final buzzer — and all three involved Sterns.
First, he scored on a three-yard run. Then again when he and Salik hooked up for a 50-yard pitch-and-catch. The tandem connected for the third time through the air by way of a 60-yard touchdown with 7:12 to play in the contest.
The last Indian score came after Songer added his second rushing touchdown, this time from 1-yard out, with 8:14 to play.
In total, the Panthers turned the football over four times in Waxahachie territory — two interceptions, one fumble and once on downs.
As a team, Midlothian ran 62 times for 353 yards (5.7 YPC). Thomas led all ball carries with a game-high 164 yards on 20 carries, while Landry Songer ran 24 times for 105 yards and Nolan Samek added 50 yards on his nine totes.
Thomas and Tate Corbin combined to finish 7-of-18 through the air for 62 yards.
In addition to Sterns and Anderson, Tevin Wofford had four catches for 72 yards, Jeff Alexander caught three Salik passes for 27 yards, and Will Morgan had one reception for 30 yards.
Waxahachie will travel to Vernon Newsome Stadium for a showdown against Mansfield Legacy. The Broncos defeated Mansfield Timberview 31-7 to improve to 5-1 on the season and 3-0 in District 10-5A.
Midlothian returns home to host Mansfield Lake Ridge, who thumped Red Oak on Thursday 45-13. The Eagles will fly into Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium a perfect 3-0 in district play and 5-1 on the season.
Both games are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith