McKinney has quickly moved on after Friday’s 67-14 loss to Allen, the No. 7-ranked team in the state. The Lions have this week’s huge cross-town rivalry game with McKinney Boyd to consider, along with a shot at the playoffs.
“Allen’s a very good team,” McKinney Head Coach Jeff Smith said on Monday, “and we knew that. I’m very proud of the effort. Our kids played really hard. We didn’t take advantage of some opportunities and they’re a really good team, so we give them a lot of credit. Now it’s time to focus on next week.”
McKinney quarterback Robert Somborn (on left), receiver Red Shannon and the rest of the Lions' receiving corps look to put up big numbers on Friday versus McKinney Boyd.
Just beating Boyd this week won’t enough for McKinney, with the five-team log-jam behind Allen in District 10-5A. (Allen is in, and three more will make it.) This week’s Plano West-Plano East game has major playoff implications for the Lions.
As Smith explained, if Plano West beats Plano East, McKinney must beat Boyd by at least eight points to make the playoffs. If East beats West, its winning point-margin will dictate the Lions’ required margin of victory. If East wins by five, McKinney must win by 14. The bigger East’s margin, the smaller McKinney’s can be.
Smith will have observers at the Plano East-Plano West game to keep him informed.
“Obviously, it can play in the strategy,” he said. “It’s crazy enough, you can be beating Boyd by a couple of points, but really have to take a lot of risks, because it doesn’t matter. You’ve to try to get to plus-8, [for instance.]”
Smith knows his team will have to slow one Bronco, in particular.
“Bryan Driskell, obviously, it starts with him,” he said of Boyd’s All-State running back with over 1,400 yards rushing this season. “They run the ball extremely well, and Driskell’s the key to that running game.”
“Their quarterback Curtis Ladd is a really good player, as well,” Smith said. “He can run it and throw it. Offensively, they’ve scored points on people all year long. … And they do a good job, scheme-wise.”
The Lions will counter with a potent passing attack led by quarterback Robert Somborn and leading receivers TV Williams, Connor Fuentes and Red Shannon. Somborn threw for 250 yards against Allen and has over 2,500 yards for the season.
Smith noted that Boyd’s defense has “taken a lot of strides” this year. “They bring a lot of pressure. I think they’re also pretty good in the secondary and linebacker positions, so we’re going to have to be pretty balanced in what we do … and not make mistakes.”
Running back Tommy Candela, who tallied 90 yards rushing against Allen, will be called on to provide that balance. Injury-wise, the Lions lost center Jonathan Shuster to a broken ankle last week, requiring changes in the offensive line.
No matter what happens Friday, McKinney is in a much better place this year at season’s end compared to recent times.
“It’s a far cry from the last couple of years, where we didn’t really have much of a chance going the playoffs,” Smith said. “This year we do. We’ve got a chance and it’s a good chance. We’ve got to play the best we can play and we’ve got to take care of us. Boyd’s going to be a great challenge.”
Prediction: Boyd rises to the occasion, but it’s close: 31-28.
The Broncos’ 22-20 loss to Plano East on Friday put off their clinching a playoff spot, but they have another chance against McKinney this week. Win, and Boyd is in. Lose, and Boyd can still get in, but it would depend on other games and tie-breakers.
“We still control our own destiny,” Broncos Head Coach Don Drake said on Monday.
McKinney Boyd quarterback Curtis Ladd (on left) hands off to running back Bryan Driskell on Monday. Friday's match-up pits Boyd's potent running game against McKinney's strong passing attack.
Against Plano East on Friday, it came down to a two-point conversion try after Bryan Driskell had drawn the Broncos to within 22-20 on a five-yard touchdown run with five minutes left to play. The try failed and the Panthers hung on to win.
Boyd had converted two earlier two-point tries, but both were reversed by penalty.
Plano East led, 15-14, at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, Lionel Wills’ touchdown run gave Plano East a 22-14 lead with six minutes left. Boyd responded with a 7-play, 77-yard touchdown drive, capped by Driskell’s score. Boyd had one more shot with seconds left, but the drive stalled at the Plano East 36-yard-line.
Two Bronco fumbles in the first quarter were especially costly. The first gave Plano East the ball deep in Boyd territory, resulting in the Panthers’ first touchdown. The second ended Boyd’s ensuing scoring threat at Plano East’s 23-yard-line.
“I thought the two turnovers we had were pretty significant in the outcome of that football game,” Drake said. “You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win.”
Plano East went for and made a two-point conversion after its first TD, a play that hounded Boyd the rest of the way. “We fought kind of an uphill battle all night trying to chase that one extra point that we needed,” Drake said.
“It was a tough loss for us,” he said, “obviously, a win that we needed to block out a playoff spot and we didn’t get it done. But credit Plano East. They came out and played well.”
Plano East was lifted by the return of its quarterback, Mario Smalls, who had been out a month due to injury. Smalls threw for 270 yards and one touchdown. “I think they’re significantly different [with Smalls] – and not just offensively,” Drake said. “I think he brings an emotional spark to that team that they’ve not had when he’s been on the sidelines.”
This week, Boyd’s job will be to try to ground another aerial circus in McKinney’s Robert Somborn and his talented stable of receivers. “They’re pretty explosive, offensively,” Drake said. “I’m very, very impressed with the job the quarterback’s done and they’ve got several skill kids that are very, very explosive. They create some match-up issues for us.”
“It should be exciting,” Drake said. The Broncos are fine, health-wise, he said.
Prediction: Boyd, 31-28.
While the Bulldogs’ 50-26 loss to Wylie East on Friday eliminated them from the playoffs, North Head Coach Mike Fecci has an important message for his squad this week.
“We’ve just got to finish the right way,” he said after Monday’s practice. “Do things right, finish the right way. It hasn’t been the year we wanted. That’s the way it goes. We’ve got to go out and finish the week the right way.”
Wylie East jumped on North quickly last week -- 22-0, after one quarter -- with touchdown strikes to Marcell Ateman and Quan Jones. Then, just before halftime, Jones hauled in quarterback Garrett McCain’s second 80-yard TD pass of the game.
The Bulldogs run defensive drills in long shadows near the end of Monday's practice.
Bulldog quarterback Ben Dutze put up 245 yards, with a touchdown toss to Evan Jones during North’s 19-point third-quarter rally. Justin Jones led the team in rushing with 117 yards and a touchdown. Ronald Jones added two rushing touchdowns.
The Bulldogs (2-7, 2-4) will close out the season on Thursday at home, hosting Denison, a team with a record identical to North’s. Denison is coming off a 21-16 win at Greenville, where the Yellowjackets rushed for 200-plus yards. Tailback Denard Whitfield led the way with 190 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s a good player,” Fecci said. “He’s shifty, fast, and can run. If we don’t play well, they’ll run it right down our neck. Hopefully, we can get out there and do that.”
Fecci said a win on Thursday would boost the program for next year. “It’s important for us to give us a good feeling going into off-season. And, hopefully, we’ll get our seniors walking out the door feeling good about themselves.”
Bulldog statistical leaders for the season to-date include:
*leading rusher Justin Jones, with 535 yards on 102 carries (Justin and Ronald Jones assumed rushing duties mid-season, after starter Trey Smith was injured.)
*leading passer Ben Dutze, with 1,250 yards (Dutze was also leading scorer, with 32 points.)
*leading receiver Evan Jones, with 28 catches for 280 yards
*leading tackler Anthony Lozoya, with 46 stops
Playoff teams from District 13-4A are set: Lovejoy, Sherman, Wylie East and Wylie.
Prediction: North ends on a good note at home, 24-17.
Another 1-2 week for your embattled predictor. The season record sinks to 17-10 (.629)
McKinney vs. McKinney Boyd: Friday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., @ McKinney’s Ron Poe Stadium
McKinney North vs. Denison: Thursday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m., @ McKinney’s Ron Poe Stadium
District 10-5A Standings (remaining game in parenthesis; ** made playoffs)
•Allen ** 8-1, 4-0 (Plano)
•McKinney Boyd 5-4, 2-2 (McKinney)
•Plano 5-4, 2-2 (Allen)
•Plano West 5-4, 2-2 (Plano East)
•McKinney 5-4, 1-3 (Boyd)
•Plano East 4-4, 1-3 (Plano West)
District 13-4A Standings (remaining game in parenthesis)
•Lovejoy ** 9-0, 6-0 (Wylie East)
•Sherman ** 7-2, 5-1 (Wylie, Greenville)
•Wylie East ** 7-2, 5-1 (Lovejoy)
•Wylie ** 3-6, 3-3 (Royse City)
•McKinney North 2-7, 2-4 (Denison)
•Denison 2-7, 2-4 (McKinney North)
•Royse City 1-8, 1-5 (Wylie)
•Greenville 0-9, 0-6 (Sherman)