Beginning again

Varsity football takes field for first time in new season

It's time // Four-star running back Eno Benjamin relishes his time on the field at AT&T Stadium in the playoff game against The Colony.

photo credit: Gwen Murphy

It’s time // Four-star running back Eno Benjamin relishes his time on the field at AT&T Stadium in the playoff game against The Colony.

With every season, new opportunities arise. The varsity team, following a district championship amidst a 10-2 season, hopes to build upon its prior season’s success even through a district realignment. Graduating most of the offense and only returning eight starters on defense, the varsity team will look to four-star running back recruit Eno Benjamin to lead them to postseason success.

The first stop on the road was in the season opener against the Rockwall-Heath Hawks. Following the graduation of quarterback Braden Shewmake, head coach Joe Lepsis had a few options as to who would step up to play quarterback in the 2016 season. It became evident at the end of the night what his choice was. Benjamin was the team’s leading passer, completing two of the only passes thrown all night for 37 yards.

As the season goes on, our confidence will rise.”

— Eno Benjamin, running back

The game was a thrill-ride, after being delayed for over two hours due to lightning strikes in the area. With both offenses stalling in the first quarter, the Raiders struck first in the second quarter off Benjamin’s 7-yard touchdown run. Cody Thomas’ kick failed and the Raiders led 6-0. The Hawks quickly took a 7-6 lead, before Benjamin took a 27-yard run to the house and subsequently followed that up with a successful run on the two point conversion. The Raiders raced to the lockers with a 14-7 lead safely in their grasp.

“I was on the edge of my stadium seat for the entire game,” senior Alydia Stark said.

The third quarter continued to play out back and forth, before Heath’s own Tanner McAllister passed the pylon to tie the game at 14 all. The Raider offense struck quickly, electrifying the crowd as well as the field as sophomore Corbin Johnson dove over the line for a touchdown to regain the lead, 21-14. Not one to stand down, the persistent Rockwall-Heath Hawks scored a minute later to tie the game once more.

“I was saying all game that ‘We got this’,” senior Meghan O’Brien said. “This was a good game, but then when Heath tied up the game, it got even better. It was a little nerve-wracking, but those are the best games, right?”

The teams traded possession as the game went down to the wire, although the Raiders prevailed at the last second. On the final possession, beginning at their 20-yard line, the varsity team chipped away at the Hawks’ defense before Benjamin set loose a 19-yard pass to Corey Eggins to set up Thomas’ leg with the opportunity to open the season with a win. As he lined up, the snap sailed to the holder and Thomas sent the pigskin straight through the uprights as time expired to take home a 24-21 win against Rockwall-Heath.

“It was a big moment in the game,” Benjamin said. “[Thomas] has done a lot for us in the past few years. I’m glad he got his time to shine.”

The Raiders move onto their next roadstop, facing the Hallsville Bobcats in Hallsville, east of Wylie.