Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: QB Ayers accounts for 4 TDs as Lancaster rebounds, ends Ennis’ perfect season
LANCASTER — After suffering its first loss last week, Lancaster had to answer a lot of questions about what happened. On Friday, with a bounce-back performance by its offense and another dominant display by its defense, the Tigers showed what could still happen this season.
Don’t count out Lancaster as a state championship contender. The Tigers made that clear in a 51-14 win over previously undefeated Ennis at Beverly D. Humphrey Tiger Stadium.
“That loss, overall it helped us,” said senior defensive back Dakota Austin, who returned an interception for a touchdown. “It took us to a new level. We were riding too high.”
The 17-0 loss to Red Oak was painted over with a balanced display Friday that clinched a playoff berth for Lancaster (8-1, 5-1 in District 15-4A). Demarcus Ayers threw two touchdown passes, ran for a score and also had a touchdown reception as Lancaster, No. 9 in the area 4A rankings, beat Ennis for the third straight time.
The lead was 30-6 by halftime, and it was made more comfortable by the play of the Lancaster defense, which held No. 7 Ennis to 206 yards and recovered four fumbles, including one that it returned for a touchdown.
Ennis (8-1, 5-1) got into the end zone on its opening drive, but it struggled to get anywhere after that. Lancaster’s defense stuffed runs and didn’t allow receivers to get loose when they caught short passes. In the first half, Ennis — which had already clinched a playoff spot — had only one play of more than 10 yards.
Lancaster had eight such plays by halftime, including an 18-yard touchdown run by Ayers and a 22-yard scoring pass from Nick Harvey to Ayers, who rotated with Harvey at receiver and quarterback.
Ayers, who is orally committed to Washington State, also made a tremendous play just before halftime when he took a snap, scrambled right, and as his jersey was being tugged by an Ennis defender, threw to Kamrhon Dupas for a 6-yard touchdown.
Lancaster’s offense made a huge turnaround from last week, when it managed only 125 yards in the loss to Red Oak. Lancaster finished with 347 yards against Ennis, and its defense made sure that no amount of offensive struggles would prevent a win.
When the Ennis defense made a big play with a fourth-down stop midway through the second quarter, Lancaster’s defense responded with a bigger play. Austin picked off a pass and raced 50 yards for a touchdown that gave Lancaster a 20-6 lead.
It was a huge momentum swing, and Lancaster made sure it never swung back. Now the Tigers, who were No. 1 in the area rankings before the loss to Red Oak, hope their season’s momentum is locked into forward.
“Someone took our undefeated belt from us, and we needed to bounce back,” Ayers said. “We won seven straight games before and now we need to win seven more.”
Seven more would include a state championship. That’s a long road, but Lancaster is again headed in the right direction.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.