To McKinney North goes the Crosstown Showdown spoils and McKinney Boyd grabbed another important district win. McKinney’s Lions, meanwhile, face a tremendous short-week challenge with District 10-5A’s top team coming to town.
We visit the trenches again in this edition, with insight administered by three defensive ends: North’s Collin Pratt, McKinney’s Jackson Hill and Boyd’s Bradley Hume.
McKINNEY NORTH BULLDOGS
Upon further review of North’s 52-21 victory over McKinney, Bulldogs coach Mike Fecci says he thinks his team “played pretty well,” adding, “The game did not start off any way like we wanted it to – but we kept perspective, we kept playing, we settled down. I was very proud of our second-half performance on both sides.”
North coach Mike Fecci addresses the Bulldogs after Monday’s practice.
The “start” to which Fecci refers: 21-21 in the second quarter. “Settled down” means: 31 unanswered Bulldog points the rest of the way. When it was over, quarterback Christian Files had thrown for 272 yards and accounted for six touchdowns, Miguel Hudson had five catches for 110 yards and two TDs, Brennan Harris had four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns, and Micah Baulicex averaged five yards per carry on 13 attempts.
Besides the offensive outburst, two big defensive stands by the Bulldogs (5-2, 2-2) figured big. After McKinney’s successful second-quarter onside kick, North’s D stopped the Lions on fourth-and-9. Then, after McKinney’s Matt Gadek ran 67 yards to North’s 4-yard-line to open the second half, the Bulldogs stopped the Lions on downs again.
“To come out in the second half and make a big stop early, goal-line-stand them right there, was a huge momentum-swinger for us,” Fecci says.
“They had four plays from inside the five,” senior defensive end Collin Pratt says. “Especially up-front, we just kind of bowed our necks and we got real low in there. We really penetrated up-front, so they had to bounce the ball outside and our outside linebackers could make a play out there.”
Other Bulldog defensive highlights include McShane Wyatt’s late-game interception in the end zone, returned to midfield, and Ruston Travis’ team-leading 13 tackles.
Pratt says beating McKinney “felt good,” adding, “They talked a whole bunch on social media before the game and we were pretty quiet.” He says to play defensive end, “You’ve got to be disciplined – and you’ve got to know how to deal with a 300-plus-pound offensive tackle.” Getting used to it? “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it, honestly.”
North defensive end Collin Pratt says he and the Bulldogs “bowed our necks” in Friday’s goalline stand.
The Bulldogs travel Friday to battle the Denison Yellowjackets (4-3, 2-2) in a game with major playoff implications. Denison comes off a 41-14 beat-down of Sherman, with Yellowjackets quarterback Hunter Watson tossing three touchdown passes en route to 174 yards through the air. He also ran for a TD and led the team in rushing. “The quarterback, number one, is an ultimate competitor,” Fecci says. “You could see that as a freshman. He was on the varsity as a freshman, played receiver. I’ve watched him play baseball. I know he’s a major, big-time baseball recruit. … He’s very athletic, he’s impressive looking.”
The ‘Jackets also feature District 10-5A’s leading receiver Steven Wagoner, who’s totaled 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 16 touchdowns to date. “They love to get him the football,” Fecci says, “as I would if he was mine. … They pose a big issue for us. Those two kids, you’ve got to know where they are all the time.”
Fecci notes that Denison’s game atmosphere is unique, and not in a good way for opponents. “It’s the only place that you go where their student section and their band are on your sidelines. Their general admission fans are on your sidelines, which is different. And there’s no track around [the field], so it’s real tight.” Throw in travel time, he says, and “It’s just a tough place to go up and play.”
The Bulldogs now share in a log-jam of four 2-2 teams, including Denison, Prosper and Wylie. “Our message is we want to start playing our best football at this time of the year,” Fecci says. “Some separation is going to happen this week, and we’ll see. We just want to be on the plus side of it, for sure.”
“We’re right there in the mix for the playoff hunt,” Pratt says. “We’re still taking it week-by- week. … We’re just doing everything we can to make sure we’re in those top four to make the playoffs.”
North trails in the all-time series with Denison, 4-5, but has won the last three meetings. The Bulldogs prevailed last year at home, 38-29.
McKINNEY HIGH LIONS
The Lions (3-4, 1-3) most definitely had their chances Friday. To wit: the successful onside kick after having tied the score, 21-21; and Matt Gadek’s long run to the Bulldogs’ goal-line when McKinney trailed, 35-21. In both instances, the Lions’ offense failed to capitalize.
McKinney’s Jackson Hill is a sophomore starter at defensive end.
“I guess you’ve got to kind of credit McKinney North for bowing up on defense a little bit,” McKinney coach Jeff Smith says. “We got down to the goal-line [on Gadek’s run] and they did a good job against our heavier formation. We just had a hard time getting into the end zone – and we’ve done a pretty good job of that this year.”
That series ended with a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1. “Right off the bat in that third quarter, that could’ve been a good chance to grab some momentum,” Smith says. Earlier, after the onside kick, McKinney’s drive stalled after five plays at the Bulldogs’ 29 when the Lions were stopped two yards short on fourth-and-9.
Gadek tallied 24 carries for 185 yards – both game-highs – with two rushing touchdowns. His 4-yard TD run gave the Lions an early 7-0 lead after North fumbled the opening kickoff. A 22-yard scamper by Gadek in the first quarter tied the score at 14. Quarterback Tyree Johnson’s 6-yard touchdown run tied the game again in the second.
Defensive end Cameron Calhoun led McKinney with 19 tackles.
“We had hard time slowing them down on offense,” Smith says. “They moved the ball pretty well and they hit a couple of big plays on us in the passing game.”
Sophomore defensive end Jackson Hill says the Lions needed “a little bit more effort in the second half. Everything was pretty much going our way [at first]. We were feeling pretty good, but then I’m not quite sure what happened in the second half. I guess we lost our fire.”
As a first-year starter, Hill says he’s learned this about playing D-line: “Effort is pretty much all of it. You can be the biggest and the strongest, but if you don’t want it the most then you won’t win. … My teammates, we all help each other pretty evenly.”
“Focus,” Hills says, “is big on our team. If you’re not focused, then you won’t … take care of your assignments. So we try to get as focused as we can and get out there and win.”
The Lions' varsity defense (blue jerseys) drills against JV players on Tuesday.
Next up, McKinney gets District 10-5A leader Wylie East (6-1, 4-0), a powerful team fresh off a 42-28 schooling of now second-place Lovejoy. In that one, the Raiders held Lovejoy to its second-lowest point total of the season and nabbed the first interception of a Leopards’ pass this year.
Offensively, Wylie East invades Ron Poe Stadium Thursday with the near-unstoppable Eno Benjamin – the district’s leading rusher with 1,385 yards. Benjamin plowed for 200-plus yards and three TDs against Lovejoy as quarterback Braden Shewmake rushed for just over 100 yards and threw for 138 more. Shewmake is closing in on 1,400 passing yards, with 18 TDs. Top receiver Jared Wyatt has ten touchdown catches and approaches 450 receiving yards for the season.
“Their offense is very potent,” Smith says. “They’ve got a great running back over there and a good little quarterback. They’ve scored a lot of points. So we’ve got to control the clock more than ever.”
“I think Wyle East is a good football team and our kids know that and respect that. But we’re coming off a short week and I think that’s good for us. Who knows, they may look past us a little bit. The bottom line is, we’ve got to put it together for four quarters and play well. And we’ve got to keep the ball out of their hands.”
“Our kids, they play hard,” Smith says, “and I believe they’ve got a chance every time they walk out there and play. Our kids believe that. … It’s another opportunity for us to go out and play a great game and hopefully win. But I know it will be a challenge.”
McKinney trails in the all-time series, 1-2, having lost the last two. Wylie East triumphed last year, 35-14, though the Raiders didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter.
McKINNEY BOYD BRONCOS
Boyd (4-3, 3-2) took another step toward a sixth-straight playoff berth Friday, wearing down determined Plano for a 21-7 win. In typical Broncos-Wildcats fashion, this game was tied, 7-7, late in the third quarter and anything could’ve happened.
Defensive end Bradley Hume and his Broncos teammates turned back Plano at the goalline Friday.
“That’s the sixth time that we’ve played them,” Drake says, “and it’s been a battle every year. I wasn’t surprised to be in that kind of ball game.”
Boyd’s Kaeden Markham rushed for 176 yards, with second-half touchdown runs of 8 and 6 yards that spelled the difference. “I’m real proud of those kids up front,” Drake says. “That’s three weeks in a row now where we’ve come out in the second half and really been able to establish the running game like we need to be able to do.”
After Markham’s first score, Plano (3-5, 1-5) drove to Boyd’s goal line with a chance to tie, only to be turned away by Bronco defenders. Boyd quarterback Grant Restmeyer then led a 97-yard touchdown drive, with key catches by Jeremiah Campbell and Stephen Driskell along the way. “The goal-line stand, the 97-yard drive after that, is no doubt the turning point in the game,” Drake says.
Senior defensive end Bradley Hume says of the Wildcats’ fourth-down-goal-line try, “We were expecting them to run right up the middle, a quarterback sneak, so our line crashed in – made a big pile – and forced the quarterback to run it out. Then one of our outside linebackers or safeties hit him.”
“You’ve just got to work hard,” Hume says of playing defensive end. “I am not the biggest guy out there, for sure, so I’ve got to stick with my game.”
The Broncos run a tip drill on Monday.
Markham carried the rock 31 times at Plano and is becoming a real workhorse for the Broncos. Drake notes this was Markham’s third straight week with 30 or more carries. “Kaeden’s done a good job of being a physical, tough runner, seeing those creases and getting those extra yards after first contact. … Oftentimes that’s a stat that most people don’t really recognize, but yards-after-contact is huge for a back.”
Boyd opened the night with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Restmeyer to Brandon Bowling. Bowling finished with four catches for a game-high 85 yards. Boyd’s leading tackler this night was linebacker Braydon Webb, with 12 stops. Safety Parker Noren and cornerback Armani Jenkins had interceptions for Boyd.
With the win, the Broncos complete a Plano ISD “hat-trick” for the second time in three years – i.e., beating all three Plano schools in one season. In fact, over the last three seasons, Boyd has just one loss to PISD – versus Plano West, last year.
“I think it’s really important, I do,” Drake says. “They’re quality programs. … We feel like over the last several years that we’ve been able to compete very, very well with them. I think that’s a pretty good benchmark [for our program].”
A big test looms Friday for the Broncos: Flower Mound Marcus (7-1, 5-1), which just dismantled Plano East, 41-20, to take sole possession of second place in District 6-6A. The Marauders crushed it for 380 yards rushing, with C.J. Respass surging for 235 of that on 28 carries and Nate Hopkins adding 130 more.
Some may recall the Marauders playing No. 1-ranked Allen toe-to-toe into the fourth quarter before falling, 38-28, on Sept. 25.
“Coach [Gerry] Stanford does a great job over there,” Drake says of his Marcus counterpart. “They’re big up front now. I mean, they’re big in the offensive line, the defensive line. … And they’ve got several quality backs,” he adds. “Defensively, they play very physical. They haven’t given up a whole lot of points all year. So we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
As for facing the Marauders’ big o-line and stout ground attack, Hume says, “We’re just going to have to move around as a line, head-up, or it’s going to be tough.”
Over these final three weeks, the Broncos find themselves in a fight with Plano East, Hebron and Lewisville for two playoff spots – as Allen and Marcus should make it in. Boyd has beaten Plano East, but Hebron and Lewisville remain on the Broncos’ docket.
“We’ve just got to keep battling and keep working,” Drake says, “and hopefully, we’ll go do that.”
Boyd won its only other meeting with Marcus, 20-15, last year on the road.
Thursday, Oct. 22
McKinney vs. Wylie East, 7 p.m., Ron Poe Stadium
Friday, Oct. 23
McKinney Boyd vs. Flower Mound Marcus, 7:30 p.m., Ron Poe Stadium
McKinney North at Denison, 7:30 p.m.
FEARLESS (AND WORTHLESS) PREDICTIONS
(Last week 2-0; Season 13-7)
Wylie East 42, McKinney 24
(The Raiders’ offense gets loose – again.)
McKinney Boyd 27, FM Marcus 25
(Field-goal kickers, get ready!)
McKinney North 31, Denison 27
(A fall classic in Texomaland.)
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.