McKinney nabbed its first district win on Friday, as McKinney North was dropping a close one on the road. McKinney Boyd returns to action this week after a bye – and know this: All three teams still have paths to the playoffs with four games left.
By the way, it’s that week, McKinnians: Bulldogs versus Lions – The Cross-town Showdown – The Crape Myrtle Mash-up – The ThriIla Better Than Skrilla! (OK, sorry.)
We meet with three more difference-makers in this edition: McKinney cornerback Tyson Wilson, North receiver Brennan Harris and Boyd offensive lineman Patrick Quintana.
Let the final push begin!
With its bye week over, Boyd’s home stretch begins. “I think it was a good week for us, Broncos coach Don Drake says. “We had a chance to get a little extra practice in and at the same time, I think, get a mental break, too, which I think is real necessary at this point in the season.”
Boyd three-year starter Patrick Quintana says “focus” will be the key versus Plano.
“I think we’re in as good a position as we can be in at this point, health-wise. I think we’re in pretty good shape there, probably as good as we’ve been all season to be honest with you. We were in this [district-record] position a year ago – the exact same spot, as a matter of fact. So it’s obviously going to be important that we go out and take one game at a time and, hopefully, find ways to keep stringing some wins together.”
“The bye week was definitely needed, for sure,” says senior left tackle Patrick Quintana, a three-year starter. “We have a lot of guys that are banged up and it let them get a little bit of rest.” Still, he says, the Broncos didn’t take the week off. “We continued to get better. … We definitely took advantage of the bye week.”
Boyd (3-3, 2-2) gets back to business Friday versus the Plano Wildcats (3-4, 1-4), a team coming off a 32-15 loss to Plano East and desperately in need of a win. The ground-oriented Wildcats rely again on senior running back Brandon Stephens, who’s closing in on 900 yards rushing while mulling multiple big-time scholarship offers. Quarterback Matt Keys has thrown for 900-plus yards with four TDS and six interceptions.
Against Plano East, Plano allowed 250 yards rushing, including fourth-quarter TD runs of 59 and 67 yards that put the game away. Drake attended the game. “[Plano] struggled the other night running the football against East,” he says, “but [Stephens] is a kid, if you give him a crease, he’s going to go the distance. That’s how dangerous he is. … He is a talented back, so you’d better keep him contained and not let him get going.”
“They’ve got a lot of pride there, a lot of tradition,” Drake says of the Wildcats, noting that Friday is Plano’s Homecoming and one of their seven state-championship squads will be honored. “I’m sure they’ll have a little bit of that special kind of environment going on there Friday. It’s a tough place to play. … I know they’ve had struggles here of late, but most people don’t understand what it takes to win a game. It’s about match-ups, it’s about how well you show up and play that night. And turnovers play a big factor in it. … You can’t look at it like the average fan and go, ‘OK, Plano West beat Plano and Plano East beat Plano and Boyd beat both West and East, therefore Boyd should beat Plano.’ That’s not how it works.”
Boyd quarterback Grant Restmeyer (1) and the offense drill the passing game at Monday's practice.
Boyd leads all-time series, 3-2, having won the last three meetings. The Broncos took last year’s contest, 29-7, but the two wins before that were 1-point affairs. “It’s been a very hard-fought game with us and Plano all the years we’ve played,” Drake says.
Quintana says “focus” will be needed Friday. “With the bye week, there are no excuses for our mental focus not to be there. We have a great group of guys and I think it’s really going to come down to our focus prior to the game and then during the game itself, making sure we execute well.”
As for what he’s learned since his first start, Quintana says, “You’ve got to play for others. Playing offensive lineman, you don’t get any of the credit a lot of the times, other than when you have a great quarterback like Grant, you know, giving you some credit. You’ve got to be really unselfish as an offensive lineman.”
The Lions (3-3, 1-2) picked up a much needed win Friday, 42-18 over Sherman (1-5, 0-3), but in the process, lost a valuable cog in their offense: sophomore quarterback Damon Witmer, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter.
Coach Clint Coffman works with linebackers at Tuesday's practice.
McKinney coach Jeff Smith says Tyree Johnson – who missed last season with a knee injury – will start in Witmer’s absence, adding that fellow senior Cade Galyean will also get lots of reps this week. Witmer threw for 108 yards Friday, with a 37-yard touchdown toss to Quinton Quirrenbach, and he rushed six times for 37 yards.
Running back Walker Torrain, who left the game limping before halftime, will likely play though, Smith says. Torrain finished with 52 yards on nine carries, including a 20-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter.
Sophomore running back Matt Gadek gashed the Bearcats for 124 yards on the ground, with a 58-yard second-quarter TD run that broke a 7-7 tie. “He’s scored the last couple of weeks on a couple of pretty long runs,” Smith says. “That’s encouraging. Having some big-play ability helps, instead of having to drive for four or five yards, or drive down the field with a big, 15-play drive. … [Gadek’s] got some speed and he also breaks a lot of tackles.”
Sophomore Josh Whytus came on for Torrain and scored two late touchdowns. “Josh did some good things,” Smith says. “He’s a little different than Torrain, obviously, and little bit different than Gadek too. He just brings a little different dimension. … We’re excited about having another weapon to use, especially if we’ve got some injuries like the other night.”
Cameron Calhoun led Lions tacklers with 17 stops.
McKinney defensive backs snatched four interceptions this night, all in the second half. Cornerback Tyson Wilson led the way with two – his second straight two-pick outing – and safeties Jonathan Hobart and Matt Wagner nabbed one each.
Cornerback Tyson Wilson has four inceptions in McKinney's last two games.
Wilson’s first pick was perhaps the play of the game. With McKinney leading, 28-18, and Sherman threatening to score, Wilson grabbed a Bearcat pass at his own 11-yard-line and raced 58 yards into Sherman territory. Whytus scored his first TD three plays later.
“They ran a little hitch route,” Wilson says of the crucial play. “I was praying all game that they would throw it to my side. When I saw it, it was a little bit high. So I took the opportunity to cut back and go get it, and take it down to [Sherman’s] 30-yard-line.”
“He’s played really well,” Smith says of Wilson. “In fact, our secondary has played really well all year and has been a strength on our defense. He’s made some picks at really important times too.”
Wilson says playing cornerback requires a good “skill set,” adding, “You’ve got to be very disciplined.” As for facing McKinney North’s potent offense, “I’ve heard they’ve got some good receivers,” Wilson says. “But honestly me and my other cornerback Akayleb [Evans], I think we can handle it.”
For this year’s crosstown match-up, the situation is flipped from last year, with the Lions coming off a win and the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2) arriving after a loss. North was handled Friday by Lovejoy, 27-20, and finds itself in a 4-way log-jam with McKinney for fourth place in District 10-5A.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 6-3, and have won the last three meetings. McKinney’s last victory? 2009, by a 49-3 margin. “It’s always a big game for our schools and for the community,” Smith says. “It’ll be a great atmosphere Friday night. McKinney North’s got another solid team again this year and they do a great job. … We’re coming off a win and excited about a chance to play these guys.”
“It’s going to be big, it’s going to be loud,” Wilson says of Friday’s expected scene. “Lots of people there, fans – everybody, you know? Just loud.”
No way: A Lovejoy-McKinney North tilt that stayed under 50 combined points? Well, way – but unfortunately for the Bulldogs, this 27-20 battle ended with the Leopards (5-1, 3-0) on top.
“I think we played pretty well defensively,” North coach Mike Fecci says. “To hold Lovejoy to 27 points was a big accomplishment. On the flip side, the attitude our defense it taking is, ‘We should have held them to 19.’ … But it didn’t work out. We sputtered offensively for the first time in a long time, for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t exclusive to one area.”
Lovejoy’s Bowman Sells threw for nearly 270 yards and two touchdowns, with two rushing TDs. His early fourth-quarter 14-yard scoring run put the Leopards up, 27-17, then an interception in Lovejoy’s end zone killed North’s ensuing response.
Quarterback Christian Files’ 20-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Barany gave North a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Files finished with 124 yards passing, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Defensive back Ruston Travis’ 11 tackles led the Bulldogs.
North coach Charles Benson (right) observes defensive end Jawan Palmer's technique in Monday's heat.
Lamar Lucas, who’s seen limited action this season, was North’s leading rusher with 14 carries for 67 yards. “He’s a little guy,” Fecci says, “but he’s got a lot of burst, he’s got good vision and he keeps his feet moving after contact – all the things you want to see in a back.”
Brennan Harris led North receivers again, this night with four catches for 54 yards. Files’ 36-yard touchdown toss to Harris drew the Bulldogs to within 20-17 after three quarters. To date, Harris’ 39 catches for nearly 500 yards is tops for North.
A two-year starter, Harris says he and Files connect well. “Chris is like my best friend. We hang out on the weekends. He’s been my quarterback since freshman year. We play seven-on-seven on the weekends sometimes. … That’s why our chemistry is so good together.”
Concerning the Bulldogs’ situation, Harris says, “Right now, we just have to get focused. That’s our main goal. When we focus, no one can stop us. Once we find our rhythm and we just keep pounding it, we’ll be straight.”
“You’re 1-2 and that ain’t good, there’s no doubt,” Fecci notes. “But there’s four other teams that are 1-2 right now … There’s a lot of football left. And there are some really, really big games coming up.”
North's leading receiver Brennan Harris looks forward to Friday's match-up with McKinney.
One of them, of course, is North versus McKinney Friday, which pits two of those 1-2 squads. “McKinney is a hard-nosed football team,” Fecci says. “You’ve got to stop the run when you play McKinney, there’s no doubt about it. Those five seniors [McKinney coach Jeff Smith] has up front are great linemen. … They’ve got two backs that will hit you down-hill and run hard.”
“I’m not saying this because [Smith] is one of my better friends or because I coach in the same town as him,” Fecci says. “I honestly, truthfully, mean that they’re the best-coached team in the district, hands down. They don’t always have the better players … but they get as much or more out of their players than anybody. And that’s scary, because their kids are believing, their kids are playing with passion, their kids are playing with desire.”
Fecci calls Witmer’s injury “a tough loss” for the Lions. “That kid was really starting to come on as a sophomore, and really getting better and better and better. My heart goes out to that kid in that situation.”
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Harris says of Friday’s match-up. “I’ve got a whole bunch of friends, some family, who go there and play. It doesn’t matter what the record is between us, they’re always going to give us their best and we’re going to give them our best.”
Friday, Oct. 16
McKinney vs. McKinney North, 7:30 p.m., Ron Poe Stadium
McKinney Boyd at Plano, 7:30 p.m.
(Last week 1-1; Season 11-7)
McKinney North 38, McKinney 20
(The Lions miss Witmer.)
McKinney Boyd 34, Plano 21
(The Broncos pull away late.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.