CRANDALL — If you were to hear the complexity of the offensive play calls streaming from Head Coach Lee Wiginton, one might be led to think the offense is the Jaguars primary weapon.
After Midlothian Heritage High School (3-1) decisively dealt a defensive gut punch to Crandall High School (2-2) on Friday at Pirate Stadium, the 3A class may not know how to dodge the seeming unending flurry of jabs.
"We knew we had to come in and play as hard as we could and give it everything we have because it was their house," said Jaguar running back Nathan Gaskamp. "Nobody knew who we were and we wanted to ake a statement for ourselves: You're gonna have to play your best game against us if you want to beat us.
"I think our defense had a lot to do with that. They had a lot of heart and came out and were clutch for us. We're a smashmouth football team — on both sides of the ball. We're going to get in your face, get after it, play to the whistle and let you know we can do other things than throw and run the ball."
Against Crandall, he had 20 carries for 124 yards and scored three touchdowns, the third time District 6-4A-1's leading rusher ran for 100 or more yards this season. Gaskamp's brash running style offered gunslinging quarterback Landon Ledbetter some rest and his lowest passing game of the season as well as the defense the recovery time they needed to break a faltering Crandall offense.
Throughout the game, the Jaguars accumulated 274 yards on 39 carries and used four different running backs — Gaskamp, Kerrion Fields, Raja Banks and Nolan Ast — to gash the Pirate defense. Though Ledbetter (172 yds, 2 TDs) threw less than 200 yards for the first time this season, his strong arm wasn't really needed after MHHS took a 13-point lead in the second quarter.
In fact, behind their defense, the Jaguars effectively landed the game-ending TKO by halftime with the help of Fields (5 Rec, 82 yds, 1 TD) and Noah Parker (4 Rec, 73 yards 1 TD).
"We went into the half and we were in good shape and we go the ball to start the second half in a good position to make the game a very comfortable situation for us," Wiginton said. "We went back-to-back drives without producing points and our defense came up huge with a couple of key stops. It was really the entire second half they played well. Every game I think we're getting a little better each week. We want to be district ready because it's about what you do in district play to prepare yourself to put yourself in a position to make the playoffs and build momentum going into them.
"We know we have five district ball games against five good teams. We hope we'll be district ready after this Sanger (High School) game parlay that into a good district schedule and use that momentum to enter the playoff picture. It's all about piling wins on top of wins."
The defense accounted for — either directly or otherwise — for 21 of the Jaguars' final 48 points. MHHS forced three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. Wiginton said Sanger's Indians may be the best team his Jaguars have faced, both offensively and defensively.
MHHS is scheduled to play Sanger at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at M.I.S.D. Multipurpose Stadium during the school's Homecoming week. Sanger (3-1) has scored an average of 26.5 points per game and allowed their opponents only 11.8 ppg — including nine total points during the last two contests.
Despite Sanger's dangerous edge, Gaskamp smiled, chuckled and stared quizzically down the barrel of the loaded question he was handed.
"It's pretty simple, really," he said, sweeping a tuft of hair back from his sweat-drenched brow. "We know who we are and now they know too. They know who Midlothian Heritage is and hopefully, they know they can't take us easy and that we'll work hard and do whatever it takes to win."