It was a fine opening week for Boyd’s Broncos and North’s Bulldogs, but the Lions of McKinney High came up a bit short. Perhaps that first “W” awaits the Lions in their home-opener Friday.

Linebackers are the focus this week and for that we turn to three solid seniors: McKinney’s Isaac Nunez, Boyd’s Ron DeBoue and North’s Nathan Gifford.

Let’s move out!

McKINNEY BOYD BRONCOS

Friday’s 41-38 win over Mesquite Horn was most notable to Boyd coach Don Drake for this: “The thing that impressed me was the number of lead changes that existed and momentum swings that happened throughout the course of that game, and the kids just kept competing. They found a way to go grab the momentum back.”

McKinney Boyd punter Derek Dickman gets in some work on Monday.

Boyd punter Derek Dickman gets in some work on Monday.

 

Of course, big plays were key in whipsawing that momentum, including Brandon Bowling’s 99-yard kickoff return to give Boyd its first lead, 7-3; Grant Restmeyer’s 59-yard completion to Bowling that kept a late drive alive; and Landon Livingston’s third-quarter interception that set up a Broncos’ go-head touchdown.

“Landon broke on that ball perfectly,” Drake says. “You’re talking about a kid, that’s his first varsity start at safety. … A pretty impressive performance by him, no doubt.”

As for Bowlings’ kickoff return, Drake notes, “He’s so fast, that if we can just get [our blockers] to fit-up and give him a crease, he’s going to turn it into a pretty big play.” Drake also praised how well the Broncos maintained their blocks. “I thought that’s the best we’ve looked in the kickoff return game at this point in the year – ever.”

Another bright spot for Boyd was the running game, led by Doren Gibson’s game-high 89 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns, and Kaeden Markham’s 65 yards on 15 tries, with a TD.

While Horn’s explosive offense hit on a couple of deep plays, for much of the night the Broncos’ D kept things in front of them. Two-year starting linebacker Ron DeBoue says the defense was loose and ready to be aggressive. The mind-set? “Just start off enthusiastic, don’t worry about messing up,” he says. “If you mess up, go 100 miles per hour, just have fun. Don’t let anything deflate the defense.”

What makes a good linebacker? “Passion,” DeBoue says, adding, “Understand your keys and play fast. And be vocal, because you’re the leader and the heart of the defense.”

 

 

A road trip to Coppell is next on Boyd’s list – and the Cowboys (1-0) may have had this date circled for some time. It was last year at Ron Poe Stadium that Dedrick Scrivens hung a new Boyd single-game rushing record on Coppell – 341 yards – en route to a 28-21 Broncos win. In that one, Boyd’s D stopped the Cowboys cold on two occasions inside the Broncos’ 2-yard-line.

McKinney Boyd’s Ron DeBoue says playing linebacker requires "passion."

Boyd’s Ron DeBoue says playing linebacker requires “passion.”

 

“I would think that they’ll be ready to go,” Drake says of Coppell’s motivation. “I imagine they’re still a little bit bothered by the fact that we beat them last year, and the way that that happened. They had some opportunities but our kids rose up and did what they needed to do to win.”

Last week, Coppell edged Hebron, 26-20, on a late 70-yard touchdown pass from Brady McBride to Josh Fink. A Hebron fumble gave the Cowboys their game-winning opportunity, after Coppell had led early, 14-0. Cowboy running back Joe Fex led all rushers with 104 yards on 17 carries. McBride completed 21-of-26 passes for 240 yards and no picks, and Fink collected 10 catches for 138 yards.

Drake witnessed the Coppell-Hebron match-up first-hand. “They don’t make a whole lot of mistakes, in terms of what they do scheme-wise,” he says, “or in execution, whether that be offense, defense or special teams. I think one of the things Coppell does really well is their special-teams focus.”

“I think it’ll be another classic battle this year,” DeBoue says. “I just think we’ll go out there and fight hard and hope for the best, hope to pull out the win.”

McKINNEY HIGH LIONS

It’s never great to lose an opener, but McKinney coach Jeff Smith sees some positives from Friday’s 45-28 set-back at Richardson Pearce. “I thought we moved the ball really well, scored 28 points,” he says, “and at times went right down the field and scored. I thought we ran the ball really well … and made a couple of good plays in the passing game.”

McKinney Online

Linebacker Isaac Nunez is three-year starter for McKinney.

 

“The down-side to that side of the ball was just [our] overall consistency. We had some turnovers – one interception, and a receiver and a running back both fumbled. And we had some costly penalties that kind of killed drives that could have kept us even with them.”

Pearce senior quarterback Hank Hughes ripped McKinney for six touchdowns himself – four passing and two rushing. The Lions trailed 21-14 after one quarter, but then the Mustangs erupted for 17 unanswered points. “Defensively, we played with a lot of new guys,” Smith says. “I think we grew up a lot through the course of the game. … You could see that youth a little bit in the first half. And we played against an excellent quarterback in Hank Hughes.”

“But, I’ll say this: The kids made good adjustments at halftime. They were calm, they were poised. And we only got 7 [points] scored on us in the second half. That says a lot about our kids.”

McKinney quarterbacks Tyree Johnson and Damon Witmer shared time Friday, as planned.

 

 

The two combined for 125 yards passing, highlighted by a Johnson-to-Walker Torrain 40-yard touchdown strike that cut Pearce’s lead to 38-21. Witmer and Johnson also rushed for 30 yards each. “They both did some good things,” Smith says, “and both have some things they wish they could do again. But they kept us in it and both executed what we asked them to do.”

Torrain led McKinney rushers with 95 yards and two TDs, while Matt Gadek, in his first varsity action, carried for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Next up for McKinney are the Frisco Liberty Redhawks (0-1), who got teed-up by Denison last week, 49-7. Liberty trailed 28-7 at halftime en route to a four-turnover night. Denison tallied nearly 200 yards on the ground against the largely-inexperienced Redhawks defense.

McKinney Lions coach Jeff Smith instructs his charges before Tuesday’s practice.

Lions coach Jeff Smith instructs his charges before Tuesday’s practice.

 

But before penciling in that McKinney “W”, recall that the Redhawks blanked the Lions, 28-0, last year, aided by four McKinney turnovers. Of Liberty’s Denison loss, Smith says, “They had some plays in their kicking game that hurt them. And they had some turnovers, a pick for 6 [points]. … Then it kind of got out of hand as far as them being able to catch up. But they’re a good team. … They’ve got both those running backs back that played really well against us last year, so we’re going to have to stop them. And they’re big up-front, man. … They’re going to be hungry like we are to come out and get a win.”

Linebacker Isaac Nunez, a three-year starter, agrees that stopping Liberty’s ground game will be critical. “That’s what they’re really about.” Nunez, who has played linebacker since the second grade, is coming off an 86-tackle season. He says the Lions have worked this week on better quarterback containment. “I think we’ve got it down, and have corrected what we messed up on.” A good sign against Pearce? “Wrapping up,” Nunez says. “We didn’t miss that many tackles. We just stayed focused.”

“The attitude is positive,” he says of the Lions. “I like this group that I’m playing with this year. We all want to win.”

McKINNEY NORTH BULLDOGS

Holy mackerel, Coach. 51-0? “It was a good start,” says North coach Mike Fecci says of his team’s takedown of Carrollton Newman Smith. “We came out fast, we came out with intensity, we came out with an effort. And then we maintained that. That was the thing.”

Linebacker Nathan Gifford says McKinney North’s defense started looking for a "goose-egg"” in Friday’s third quarter.

Linebacker Nathan Gifford says North’s defense started looking for a “goose-egg” in Friday’s third quarter.

 

The Bulldogs’ last shutout? Five ago against Dallas Bryan Adams, by a 30-0 margin. “Anytime you can get a shutout,” Fecci says, “it’s huge, especially when you play a lot of backups, second- and third-string guys, in the second half.”

North led 37-0 at halftime and the Bulldogs’ defense allowed the Trojans just 35 total yards on the night. Senior running back K.J. Hart, subbing for injured Micah Bualicex, tallied an impressive 165 yards rushing and four touchdowns. “It’s that old adage that we say to kids all the time,” Fecci says. “When you get an opportunity, you’ve got to go seize it. K.J. did. He stepped up there, did a great job. He carried the ball well and made the most of his opportunity.”

Bualicex suffered a foot sprain in the Frisco scrimmage. “Unfortunately,” Fecci says, “when you play what he plays, that’s a pretty big deal because he can’t push off on it.” Bualicex’ status for Friday, Fecci says, is day-to-day.

 

 

Senior quarterback Christian Files, in first start, threw for 120 yards, with a 12-yard touchdown toss to Brennan Harris in the first quarter. “I thought he did a real good job,” Fecci says. “He managed the game, played within the scheme – and carried the ball for 90 yards, which was big. He did what we wanted him to do. He operated, made good decisions.”

Senior kicker Sam Ashun’s first-quarter 42-yard field goal boosted the Bulldogs’ lead to 23-0.

North’s Nathan Gifford, a two-year starting linebacker, says the Bulldog defense took control early. “On the first couple of drives,” he says, “we stopped them, we forced a couple of fumbles. Then they weren’t really doing anything on offense after that. … By like the third quarter, Coach [Joe] Welock was talking about getting the ‘goose-egg.’”

“We feel good, we play well together,” Gifford says of North’s linebacking corps. “And all of our linebackers can play the run and pass really well.” He says a good linebacker must diagnose a play quickly, then react.

McKinney North’s offense runs a two-minute drill near the end of Monday’s practice.

North’s offense runs a two-minute drill near the end of Monday’s practice.

 

The Bulldogs face Little Elm (0-1) Friday, a team coming off a 33-7 thumping at Terrell. This one was over at halftime too, 33-0. Though putting up 270 yards of offense to Terrell’s 290, six turnovers – including five interceptions – doomed the Lobos. Little Elm’s offensive production came mostly via three rushers, led by Joshua Seale’s 70 yards on 15 carries.

How does North stay focused after a blow-out win and perhaps-down Little Elm up next? “It’s about us,” Fecci says. “Our message in preseason, with our kids, is … who we’re playing is irrelevant to us. I mean, we’re going to work on the plays that [opponents] run, we’re going to work on defenses that they play. We’re going to scheme them … but it’s about us getting better, it’s about us finding our identity. … It’s about Little Elm [too] – don’t get me wrong. They’ve got a bunch of big kids, they’ve got a bunch of athletic kids and they’re one of those teams, you can tell when you watch them, they’re on the verge of doing something.”

Last year versus Little Elm, North jumped out to a 35-7 first-half lead and rolled to a 49-35 win. “Just never underestimate an opponent,” Gifford says of avoiding let-downs, “and always play to the best of our ability. Then we’ll win, I believe.”

THIS WEEK

Friday, Sept. 4

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

McKinney North at Little Elm, 7:30 p.m.

McKinney Boyd at Coppell, 7:30 p.m.

FEARLESS (AND WORTHLESS) PREDICTIONS

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

McKinney 27, Frisco Liberty 14

(I see rushers. Blue-and-gold rushers.)

McKinney North 45, Little Elm 14

(Could get ugly. Just sayin’.)

McKinney Boyd 28, Coppell 27

(Another classic, it says here.)

STANDINGS

District 6-6A
School District Overall
McKinney Boyd Broncos 0-0 1-0
Allen 0-0 1-0
Flower Mound Marcus 0-0 1-0
Plano 0-0 1-0
Plano East 0-0 1-0
Plano West 0-0 1-0
Flower Mound 0-0 0-1
Hebron 0-0 0-1
Lewisville 0-0 0-1
 
District 10-5A
School District Overall
McKinney North Bulldogs 0-0 1-0
Denison 0-0 1-0
Lovejoy 0-0 1-0
Prosper 0-0 1-0
Wylie East 0-0 1-0
McKinney Lions 0-0 0-1
Sherman 0-0 0-1
Wylie 0-0 0-1

 

About the author: Rick Atkinson is a McKinney-based freelance writer and cartoonist. He has covered McKinney high school football for McKinneyOnline.com for the last three seasons. You can reach him via email at rikat2@att.net.