McKinney North and McKinney Boyd were victorious in must-win games Thursday, setting up two more must-wins this week. (Must-wins to make the playoffs, that is.) Of this there is no doubt: If Boyd wins, they’re in. If North wins, they’re in – unless a big upset occurs in one other contest. More later.

McKinney endured another loss Thursday and will not make post-season play.

Defensive linemen provide insight in this, our final mid-week report of 2015: North’s Antonio Lopez, Boyd’s Ramon Readus and McKinney’s Marcus Ramsey.

Thanks for reading, folks!

   McKINNEY NORTH BULLDOGS

Looking at the Bulldogs’ schedule in August, you just knew that regular-season finale at Wylie would be big, right? Well …… it is. North (6-3, 3-3) must win Friday to make the playoffs.

“My hope was that I would be playing them for a district championship,” North coach Mike Fecci says. “But I knew this game would hold significance. I knew it wouldn’t just be another game. It’s funny, you make a roadmap to the playoffs as a coach – and you want to win them all, no doubt. … And I remember saying at the time, ‘What I’m not looking forward to is if we’ve got to go to Wylie in Week 10 and win to get in, because it’s a tough place to play. … But it’s where we are, you know. We’ve got a chance.”

McKinney North defensive tackle Antonio Lopez says the Bulldogs will have to "lock in" this week at Wylie.

North defensive tackle Antonio Lopez says the Bulldogs will have to “lock in” this week at Wylie.

Thursday, the Bulldogs trounced Sherman, 59-28, while Wylie was clipping playoff-bound Lovejoy, 34-31, on a literally-last-second field goal. Pirates quarterback Emilio Ames threw for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns while rushing for a team-high 99 yards.

“The first thing is the tradition they carry around,” Fecci says of Wylie (5-4, 4-2). “They’ve won a lot of football games. Coach [Bill] Howard does a really good job of having his teams play their best football at the end of the year, and they’re doing that. The constant is that they play extremely, extremely hard.”

“We’ve got to control them up-front,” Fecci says. “That’s their deal. Their guys on defense, they do a good job. We’ve got to be able to run the ball … to set up our throws. On the flip side of that, we’ve got to stop the run. Their quarterback has gotten better and better at running the ball. He’s a good thrower as well. They spread you out. They get big splits up-front, two-and-a-half, three-foot splits up-front.” Fecci adds, “They onside-kick about 65 percent of the time and you’ve got to be ready for that.”

Against Sherman (1-8, 0-6), North’s Brennan Harris nabbed a game-high nine catches for 157 yards with two touchdowns. Miguel Hudson also collected two TDs passes, as quarterback Christian Files threw five touchdown passes en route to a 350-yard performance. Files also ran for a score. K.J. Hart rushed for a Bulldog-high 82 yards with one touchdown, and safety McShane Wyatt led the team in tackles with 11.

McKinney North quarterback Christian Files fires a pass at Monday's practice.

Bulldogs quarterback Christian Files fires a pass at Monday's practice.

Senior defensive tackle Antonio Lopez is one Bulldog who’s had to step up in the face of injuries to key linemen Justin Madubuike and Ben Dutze. “We had to kind of overcome that,” Lopez says, noting that he and Spencer Vanderbilt stepped in, and LaDarian Wandick and Braylon Sibley moved over to defense from the offensive line.

“Obviously, it’s some adversity to go through having our star defensive lineman [Madubuike] go out. But that just kind of makes us have to play together, rather than hope for the best with one d-lineman that makes the plays.”

“I’m not the biggest d-lineman,” the 6-2, 220-pound Lopez says. “I’m way undersized for my position. But as long as you know how to play the technique and how to play the position, you’ll be alright.”

In district play this year, the Bulldogs are 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. “Away games, obviously, we haven’t had a lot of luck with,” Lopez says. “So we’re going to have to really lock-in on this one and not let that get to us.”

Two scenarios do come into play if North wins Friday: Denison must lose to Prosper or both Denison and Lovejoy must win for North to make the playoffs. Simply put: If North wins and Lovejoy beats McKinney as expected, North’s in. Oh, and Wylie can still make the post-season with a loss – if Prosper beats Denison.

Confusing? Not for Fecci. Just win on Friday. “It’s all on the table,” he says. “There’s nothing to hold back. Just go play.”

North trails the all-time series with Wylie, 2-3, losing last year at home, 42-20.

   McKINNEY BOYD BRONCOS

The “playoffs” start early for the Broncos as well. It’s win or go home. (OK, there’s a slim chance Boyd could lose and get in. But as it involves point-differentials and makes this scribe’s brain hurt, it will not be addressed here.)

McKinney Boyd quarterback Grant Restmeyer (left) warms up Monday with his backup Ryan Dempsey.

Broncos quarterback Grant Restmeyer (left) warms up Monday with his backup Ryan Dempsey.

On Thursday, Boyd (5-4, 4-3) staged a fourth-quarter rally to beat Lewisville, 42-31, and keep its post-season hopes alive. The Farmers (4-5, 3-4), fighting for their playoff lives as well, led 31-28 before Kaeden Markham and the Broncos’ offensive line responded with two rushing touchdowns – one from 37 yards out. And, of course, in the late going Boyd’s defense got big stops.

“I was really proud of the kids,” Broncos coach Don Drake says. “They just kept competing. It was a hard-fought football game, went back and forth most of the night. … Lewisville was fighting for a playoff spot too, so they came out and battled and played really, really well.”

Boyd quarterback Grant Restmeyer threw for 275 yards and four touchdowns – three to Stephen Driskell – as Driskell and Brandon Bowling each topped 100 receiving yards. Markham rushed for 194 yards, surpassing 1,000 for the season. Defensively, linebacker Braydon Webb tallied two sacks and led Broncos tacklers with 12 stops.

How about trailing late in that must-win game, Coach? “It’s pretty stressful, I’m not going to lie,” Drake says. “You’re sitting in that position and you know you’ve got to win. … It takes a team effort.” He adds, “We’ve been in that position – close games – many times this year.” Save for losses to Coppell and Allen, Drake notes, all of Boyd’s games have been close affairs. “Hopefully, that experience paid off for us against Lewisville, and hopefully that experience continues to pay off for us as we keep moving forward.”

McKinney Boyd's Ramon Readus returned this season after a serious shoulder injury in 2014.

Boyd's Ramon Readus returned this season after a serious shoulder injury in 2014.

Broncos senior defensive lineman Ramon Readus says the fourth-quarter intensity level at Lewisville was “huge.” He adds, “Usually I’m quiet on the sidelines, trying to, like, focus. But this week I had to keep our defense up. I had to keep us excited and thinking and knowing in our head that we were going to win.”

After Boyd went up, 35-31, on Markham’s first TD, the Broncos’ D stopped two successive Farmers drives before Markham scored again to ice it. “It was very nerve-wracking because it was on us,” Readus says. “All eyes were on us. We just had to keep fighting and do it again.”

Readus, who suffered a serious, season-ending shoulder injury last year, plays both nose guard and defensive end. He says the injury has healed up fine. “It’s been really good. I’ve been getting ‘nicks and nacks’ but it hasn’t been my shoulder. My shoulder has been 100 percent, so that’s been a blessing to me.”

Next up, Boyd hosts Hebron (3-6, 3-4), a team coming off a 21-14 loss to Plano East but still with a path to the playoffs. The Hawks’ top rusher, Derian Vaughn, has 700-plus yards and five touchdowns to his credit, and quarterback Clayton Tune is closing in on 1,300 yards passing with 14 TDs.

The Broncos won the only other meeting between the two schools, 48-10, last year, but Drake puts no stock in that history now. “Last year, we go into Hebron and it’s Week 10. We’d already sealed a playoff spot and they were already out of the playoff race. … I’m very impressed with them,” Drake says of the 2015 Hawks. “This year’s Hebron team is a whole lot different. They’re in a position where they’re fighting to go make the playoffs themselves. They’ve been playing very hard and they continue to get better every week.”

“It’ll be a dog-fight, man, for four quarters. I really expect it to be that way.”

Says Readus, “It’s going to take physicality from us. … It’s going to come down to physicality and it starts with the d-line. Being on the d-line, I have faith in my boys and I know it’s going to be a great game for us.”

   McKINNEY HIGH LIONS

Last week’s McKinney-Prosper game was one of the last to make that weather-switch from Friday to Thursday. “We were scrambling a little bit, both teams were, I’m sure,” McKinney coach Jeff Smith says. “It was [Prosper coach Chris Ross’s] Senior Night and he was trying to hold out and do what’s best for everybody, so he was kind of waiting.” Once the move finally came late Tuesday afternoon, Smith adds, “We were both kind of scrambling, making sure we had officials and making sure everything was set up for the sub-varsity games. But it worked out well. Everything went smooth, we got all the games in.”

McKinney receivers drill downfield-blocking technique on Tuesday.

McKinney receivers drill downfield-blocking technique on Tuesday.

Prosper (5-4, 3-3) prevailed this night, 59-28, behind Austin Lind’s four rushing touchdowns and Jay Bias’ team-high 102 yards on the ground. Eagles’ quarterback Easton Murrell also connected with Lind for a 66-yard TD pass in the first quarter to break a 7-7 tie. Prosper led, 42-21, at halftime.

A Lions highlight Thursday: McKinney sophomore running back Matt Gadek surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for season. In totaling 114 yards at Prosper, Gadek closed out the game’s scoring with a 75-yard touchdown run. “That was pretty awesome,” Smith says of eclipsing the 1000-yard mark. “It’s just a compliment to the offensive line and all the offensive guys. They’ve done a good job.”

“I thought we ran the ball and moved the ball pretty well at times,” Smith says, noting Walker Torrain’s “good night” as well, with 75 yards rushing and a TD.

Lions quarterback Tyree Johnson threw for 166 yards in the loss, including a 59-yard scoring strike to Joseph Robinson in the second quarter. Robinson finished with five catches for 120 yards, both game-highs. Lions cornerback Tyson Wilson collected a team-high 13 tackles and also nabbed an interception. Tyson’s six picks on the season are tied for second-best in District 10-5A.

Sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Ramsey says Prosper’s blocking up-front was the difference in the contest. “I feel like if we would have handled the offensive zone [blocking] better, it could have been a totally different ball game. Our offense played well, the defense just struggled a little bit because of the zoning. And they had really good linemen. That’s probably the best linemen we’ve faced all year.”

Sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Ramsey says he'll be playing Friday for McKinney's seniors.

Sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Ramsey says he'll be playing Friday for McKinney's seniors.

Friday, the Lions (3-6, 1-5) entertain Lovejoy (6-3, 4-2) and its prolific passer Bowman Sells – if he plays. (The Leopards have made the playoffs.) Sells, a University of Houston commit, has tallied nearly 2,400 yards through the air this season, with 21 touchdown passes and one interception. Without Sells, though, Lovejoy is still loaded with weapons on offense.

“We want to come out and play with great energy and passion,” Smith says of the Lions’ finale. “We’ve got a lot of seniors and this is their last time to play at [Ron] Poe [Stadium]. It’s their last time to put on a gold helmet, so it’s a big deal for them. … We want to go out on a great note. Beating Lovejoy would be a great way to send these seniors on. And, obviously, we have a lot of underclassmen that are trying to improve, trying to get better, because they have other years ahead of them.”

“We want to see our guys just come out and play in front of the home crowd, play at a high level with a lot of energy, and just kind of leave it all out there.” Ramsey, one of the underclassmen Smith referenced, says, “My mindset is just to do the best I can and play for the seniors. It’s their last game. We all have a tight bond with them. It’s going to be hard seeing them leave, you know?”

McKinney has faced Lovejoy just once before, a 57-28 Lions loss last year.

   THIS WEEK

Thursday, Nov. 5

McKinney Boyd vs. Hebron, 7 p.m., Ron Poe Stadium

Friday, Nov. 6

McKinney North at Wylie, 7:30 p.m.

McKinney vs. Lovejoy, 7:30 p.m., Ron Poe Stadium

   FEARLESS (AND WORTHLESS) PREDICTIONS

(Last week 2-1; Season 16-10)

Lovejoy 34, McKinney 17

(Leopards’ offensive fire-power prevails.)

McKinney Boyd 37, Hebron 20

(Boyd’s in! Big passing game does it.)

McKinney North 44, Wylie 42

(Bulldogs in too – but keep a defibrillator handy.)

div style="font-family: arial, verdana; font-size: 17px; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #e5e5e5; margin-top: 14px; margin-bottom: 14px; padding: 5px;">   STANDINGS

District 6-6A

(> – clinched district crown; * – clinched playoff spot)

>Allen                          7-0       9-0                              

*FM Marcus                7-1       9-1      

*Plano East                 5-2       7-2

McKinney Boyd           4-3       5-4

Lewisville                    3-4       4-5

Hebron                        3-4       3-6

Plano West                  1-6       2-7

Plano                           1-6       3-6

Flower Mound             1-6       1-8      

District 10-5A

>Wylie East                 6-0 8-1            

Lovejoy                        4-2 6-3

Wylie                           4-2 5-4

Denison                       3-3 5-4

McKinney North          3-3 6-3

Prosper                        3-3 5-4

McKinney                    1-5 3-6

Sherman                      0-6 1-8