From their opening drive to the final seconds of the game, the Ennis Mustangs never trailed the Wibaux Longhorns in the Class C 8-man State Championship game on Nov. 23.
In 1982 Wibaux left a state championship game without the first place trophy—losing it to the scrappy Ennis Mustangs. Now, 31 years later, history has repeated itself.
In their first championship appearance in 30 years—and first win in 31—the Ennis Mustangs rose to the occasion and played a hard-fought game for the title. Junior Walker McKitrick, who totaled 566 all-purpose yards and had a hand in all 10 of his team’s touchdowns, led the determined group.
McKitrick scored six running touchdowns, returned a punt and had three passes to senior Chad Johnerson that resulted in points.
“[Walker] is an exceptionally talented athlete and as he’s progressed through his first year as a varsity quarterback, his speed in reading defenses and accuracy in how he throws has made defenses worry,” said Head Coach Jay Fredrickson. “He gets a lot of well-deserved personal accolades—obviously—but in my heart of hearts I know he is all about the team.”
Ennis kicked the ball off to the Longhorns to start the game and then held the Wibaux squad scoreless on its first drive. The Mustangs amped up play early—wrapping up their opening drive with a 51-yard McKitrick pass to Johnerson for the score and an opening lead.
Wibaux proved why they were undefeated in the regular season, returning the Mustang’s drive with a 77-yard run and a touchdown to tie the game with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Undeterred by the Longhorns, Ennis marched back down the field and took the lead 14-6 at the end of the first quarter.
A minute into the second quarter, McKitrick returned Wibaux’s punt 58 yards for a touchdown for a score of 22-6.
“I just kept saying, ‘that’s not enough, that’s not enough… we need a defensive stop and we need to score again’,” Fredrickson stated. “I never felt any breathing room. Wibaux dialed us in defensively and they were tough to stop.”
By halftime, McKitrick had run the ball in two more times and the Mustangs exited the field leading 34-20.
McKitrick opened the second half utilizing Johnerson, Connor Sullivan and Reid Farnes to take the ball down the field, eventually running it in for a 40-20 lead.
By the end of the game, senior Farnes had five catches for a total of 86 receiving yards.
“Farnes is a warrior,” Coach Fredrickson explained. “That boy was playing on bad knees and a beat up ankle—he only stepped out of the game long enough to get it taped and then he was back in.”
Remaining a modest team player, Farnes credited the Mustangs’ senior leadership with being the determining factor in the game.
“I mean, there was [Sullivan] with a huge interception and our line—[B. McKitrick] and [Wham]—they were outsized all game but they fought that whole game,” Farnes said. “And then Gabe Liam made a huge stop on our special teams… we’re all seniors and it really depended on our leadership.”
Wibaux’s formidable defense double-teamed Sullivan and worked hard to shut him down so McKitrick was able to find Johnerson for two more touchdowns in the third quarter alone.
“[Sullivan] is the best receiver in the state,” Coach Fredrickson emphasized. “They had to double up on him and when they dedicated so much of their defense there, it opened up Johnerson on the other side.”
With a little more than three minutes left in the game, Wibaux scored a touchdown and brought the score to 60-48. Then, after a clever onside kick and a lucky recovery, Wibaux drove to the end zone again and the score was 60-56—a close four-point game with just over two minutes left.
The Mustangs, however, were unflinching. For the final drive of the game, McKitrick led his team down the field and scored on a two-yard run—the Mustang’s 10th touchdown, bringing the final score to 68-56.
Fans were cautioned to stay clear of the field until after the trophy ceremony. Once the Mustangs had their championship plaque in hand, cheering fans rushed the field to celebrate with the team.
Fredrickson was quick to give credit to the Mustang’s offensive line.
“The Wibaux defensive line was big, strong and aggressive,” he said. “We have some unsung heroes up front that made our passing and running game possible—as far as I’m concerned, the best Class C offensive lineman in the state is Derek Wham and our guards Braydon McKitrick and Trevor Cross just kept battling.”
Wibaux has a long, storied history of winning Class C 8-man championship titles. Fredrickson attributes that to intense community pride and long-term coaches, as well as talented athletes.
“We knew they were going to be a tough team and that we were going to have to play hard all four quarters,” he said. “We absolutely respect [Wibaux] but in the end—and this is not arrogance, but the truth—Ennis is the best team in the state and these kids have the bragging rights now. They should feel good in a humble way about beating one of the best teams in a shootout game and one of the best championships there has ever been.”
For the Mustangs’ 11 graduating seniors, a state title was a perfect way to conclude an impressive season.
“The coaches and the team made this season fun all the way through, and worthwhile,” Sullivan explained. “I have the upmost respect for Wibaux—they’re a hell of a ball club and they gave us a fight, but that’s how a championship game should always be played… down in the trenches.”
Farnes echoed his teammate’s sentiment.
“The fact that we won a state championship didn’t really hit us at the time, but now, two days later, our dreams completely came true,” he said. “Winning the championship was a real goal but an unreal game—being awake at that moment was better than dreaming.”