Wildcats, Lions go toe-to-toe in district debut

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Following a break for all six of the District 17-5A football teams, the race for the district title and playoff seeds will start Friday, Oct. 13.

For Whitehouse, that quest will begin at home where the Wildcats will host Ennis. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Lions shared the district crown with Corsicana last season, while Whitehouse finished as the fourth seed in 2016.

Whitehouse and Ennis will meet in loop competition for the fourth consecutive season. The Lions won all three previous matches, including a 24-21 squeaker last season. Ennis dominated the 2015 game with a 43-21 score, and the Lions held on for a 29-14 win in 2014.

The only other match-up between the two schools was in a bi-district contest in 2012. Whitehouse won the game 42-32.

While the Lions were the consensus pre-season favorite to win the District 17-5A title, Ennis has had some unexpected difficulty in the pre-district slate. The Lions are 2-3 heading into the potential playoff stretch. Ennis opened the season 0-3 with losses that included a one-point, 29-28 defeat to Class-5A powerhouse South Oak Cliff. Class-6A John Tyler edged Ennis 27-23, but Waxahachie had little trouble drubbing the Lions 42-28.

Ennis turned things around with an 82-7 thrashing of Kimball in the fourth week, and followed that with a 17-13 quality victory over Class-6A Del Valle.

Despite their record, the Lions likely remain the favorite to win the district crown. While a spot in the State playoffs certainly is a goal for the Wildcats, the district title is always the number one quest. To achieve that, Whitehouse will have to start with a victory over Ennis this week. It is a home game and the Wildcats are coming off a bye week, which could give them an edge.

Regardless of the outcome Friday, the Wildcats will have to gain momentum each week through the district slate. Following the loss to Ennis in 2016, the Wildcats were unable to regroup and mentally prepare for their next opponent, Jacksonville. The Indians upset Whitehouse 18-14. The Wildcats were able to bounce back for a 27-17 win over Nacogdoches, but followed that win with a 17-9 loss to Corsicana.

Ennis is a run-oriented offense. Tycen Thompson is the leading rusher with 79 carries for 457 yards and eight touchdowns. James Harris has 53 carries for 438 yards and four touchdowns, while Kyrie Holloway has 22 totes for 160 yards and a trio of scores. The three backs have a combined 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Quarterback Kade Graff has completed 46 of 78 attempts for 512 yards and three touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception. Thompson and Harris are his leading receivers, so most of the passes are to running backs.

The Ennis defense is led by K.D. Davis, an outstanding outside linebacker, and middle linebacker Brayan Gonzalez, who has 44 tackles through five games.

That forced Whitehouse into a must-win game to conclude last season with a victory over Lindale to advance into the playoffs. The Wildcats were able to deliver a 28-17 blow to the Eagles, but as the fourth seed in the district, Whitehouse played the top seed from District 18-5A in the first round of the playoffs. College Station obliterated the Wildcats 51-14.

A consistent run through the 17-5A schedule should help Whitehouse prepare for a better playoff performance.

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