CLICK HERE for the results of the games from Week Zero.

It’s here, folks: high school football, The National Sport of Texas. Each week, we’ll get you up to speed on the exploits of McKinney’s high school teams with a special feature story, plus results and details on upcoming games.

For now, questions to be answered before the cold winds blow:

•  Can McKinney North ride its seasoned offensive line into the playoffs after missing out by one game last year?

•  Can McKinney Boyd adjust to losing all-time leading rusher Bryan Driskell to graduation and make a fourth-straight playoff appearance?

•  Can McKinney High fill the void left by the graduation of prolific passer Robert Somborn and surprise a few more teams this year?

We’ll start the season featuring three of the biggest, most experienced offensive linemen in McKinney. Guys who get it done in the trenches with little fanfare or notoriety, but have plenty to say: McKinney High’s David Tachie, McKinney North’s Austin Horton and McKinney Boyd’s Zeus Barrio, seniors all.

McKINNEY HIGH LIONS

David Tachie of McKinney High

All photos by Rick Atkinson

David Tachie of McKinney High

 

The 6-3, 286-pound Tachie says don’t overlook the Lions, who finished 5-5 last year – 1-4 in powerful District 10-5A – in their first Class 5A season. “A lot of people think we’ve lost our playmakers but we’ve got a lot of kids that are willing to work,” Tachie says. “We should have a good team.”

The Lions indeed still have some playmakers. Speedy senior wide receiver T.V. Williams is back for more aerial heroics, and explosive running back Tommy Candela, injured most of last season, returns as well. Running the show will be Brian Sutter, who takes over at quarterback after an impressive turn as the JV starter.

“We’ve got a bigger offensive line than we’ve had in a while,” Tachie says. “If I do my job and if the whole O-line does our job, we should definitely put up points.”

On defense, McKinney has more holes to fill, but fourth-year Lions head coach Jeff Smith is buoyed by a nucleus of experience – especially in the secondary, where senior safety Jontrell Roquemore returns. “I think we have a chance to be pretty good in the secondary,” Smith says. “I think that can be a strength of our team.”

 

Standout defensive end Kennan Samuel and senior linebackers Ross Chan and Reed Taylor will also provide needed expertise.

McKinney head coach Jeff Smith (hands on knees) gets a close look at a special teams drill.

McKinney head coach Jeff Smith (hands on knees) gets a close look at a special teams drill.

“The guys are excited about the year,” Smith says. “We’ve just got to sharpen-up what we’re doing and get better at some of the fundamentals that we’re working on.”

Smith says getting through the Lions’ first 5A season, with one of the smallest 5A enrollments in Texas, was a positive experience for his team. “I think the biggest thing is just the belief that we can play with some of the best teams in the state,” he says. “Obviously, we have a great district, full of a lot of great teams and very challenging games. But our kids overcame a lot of obstacles [last year] and overachieved in many areas and had a chance to make the playoffs.”

“This year, the kids now kind of know what to expect. They know what’s coming and how to prepare for that. It doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging. It’s going to be extremely challenging.”

McKINNEY NORTH BULLDOGS

Austin Horton of McKinney North

Austin Horton of McKinney North

McKinney North’s Horton says he’sfeeling good” about the new season. “We’ve got a new O-line coach [Monty Leaf] who really knows what he’s talking about. … Honestly, there’s a whole new atmosphere. The coaches came in with a new attitude this year. I think it’s going to be way better.”

Fifth-year Bulldogs head coach Mike Fecci echoes that: “It’s a different mindset right now than where we were this time last year,” he says.

All five North offensive linemen have played together since their freshman years, but this year all five have varsity experience. “We’ve been together so long we all know what we’re all thinking,” says the 6-3, 260-pound Horton.

“There’s nothing like it,” Fecci says of having a seasoned O-line. “They know what it takes to be successful. … So we’ll play to our strength with those guys.”

Fecci says this team has a solid group of seniors who are “very driven, very focused and very team-oriented.”

 

Senior quarterback Ben Dutze is back but will share time with Gabe Constantine for now. “We don’t really right now have a true frontrunner,” Fecci says. “They’re both working and battling. … “[Dutze] ran the ball real well the last two scrimmages, and I was really impressed with that. He’s throwing the ball well too.”

McKinney North head coach Mike Fecci (right) addresses the Bulldogs after Monday's practice.

McKinney North head coach Mike Fecci (right) addresses the Bulldogs after Monday's practice.

On defense, North returns one starter, defensive back Tyler Files. “We’ve got some guys that have played some varsity football over there,” Fecci says. “We’ve got some really good guys coming up off our JV football team. But for the most part they’re all brand new, and they’re all hungry, and they all have a passion and desire to be good.”

Junior running back Ronald Jones is the starter, with senior Trey Smith still hobbled by a knee injury. “We’ll ease him back in,” Fecci says of Smith, noting that sophomore K.J. Hart will also get some carries. “Once Trey is full-tilt again, we feel like we’re going to have three really good backs that we can rely on.”

Fecci says while District 13-4A still has its “front-running teams” – Lovejoy, Wylie, Wylie East and Sherman – the gap between them and the other teams has narrowed. North finished 3-7 and fifth place last year, just missing the playoffs with a 3-4 district mark.

McKINNEY BOYD BRONCOS

Zeus Barrio of McKinney Boyd

Zeus Barrio of McKinney Boyd

Boyd’s 6-5, 265-pound Barrio has packed on 50 pounds since last season, mostly with protein shakes. “I feel good heading into [the season],” he says. “I feel like we have a strong team. We can be better than we’ve ever been.”

As far as tough District 10-5A opponents, including defending state champion Allen, Barrio says, “They put on their shoes the same way we do. We just have to go out and attack it.”

Barrio adds that the Broncos’ offensive line is ready. “It’s a really strong connection with the group. It’s a family, almost. You put anybody out there in front of us and we’ll do our job.”

Head coach Don Drake, in his eighth season at Boyd, says he was pleased overall with how his team performed at Friday’s scrimmage. “Obviously, it’s way too early to tell where we’re going to be, where we are, really, but so far so good.”

 

Third-year starting quarterback Curtis Ladd also impressed on Friday. “He threw the ball well, he ran the ball well,” Drake says. “You could tell he was very comfortable, very poised in the pocket.”

No doubt, a favorite target for Ladd this season will be talented senior wide receiver Slater Brown.

McKinney Boyd head coach Don Drake (left) keeps a watchful on quarterback Curtis Ladd this week at practice.

McKinney Boyd head coach Don Drake (left) keeps a watchful on quarterback Curtis Ladd this week at practice.

Junior running back Dedrick Scrivens will shoulder much of the rushing attack A.D. (After Driskell) and Drake says he’s liked Scrivens’ play. “Right now I feel pretty good with where we are, in terms of how we’ll fill those duties.”

On defense, starters Tyler Ferguson and Kiel Simus are back on the line, providing stability, along with linebackers Ross Matiscik and Adam Brown, the Broncos’ leading tackler last year.

“We obviously have some new faces, like everybody does,” Drake says. “Overall, it’s a really good group of kids that work hard and have a great attitude and are very coachable.”

While keeping the playoffs streak alive is an obvious goal, Drake says just getting in, playing that 11th game, is not enough. (After last year’s 6-4 regular season, Boyd lost in the first round to Jesuit.) “Let’s go play 12, like we did a couple of years ago,” he says. “Let’s go play 13, like we did back in ’07. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

• • •

Topping things off with what the big men like about playing offensive line:

Tachie – “I like that we get to do the dirty work. We don’t get as much ‘shine,’ but we do get a chance to hit somebody every play.”

Horton – “It’s that feeling that you know – your whole team, your quarterback, the running backs, the receivers, they all know – when it comes to someone they can trust, they go to the offensive line. It’s that feeling that everyone is counting on you.”

Barrio – “I love the fact that, if you screw up, everybody knows. And if you do your job, and you put [your opponent] on his butt, everybody will also know.”

THIS WEEK

Thursday, Aug. 29

McKinney North vs. Carrollton Newman Smith, 7 p.m., Ron Poe Stadium

Friday, Aug. 30

McKinney Boyd at Mesquite Horn, 7:30 p.m.

McKinney High vs. Mansfield Legacy, 7:30 p.m., Ron Poe Stadium

FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

McKinney High 38, Mansfield Legacy 28: The Lions have another nice opener against the Broncos.

McKinney North 24, Carrollton Newman Smith 13: The Bulldogs let this one slip away last year after leading, 17-0. Not this time.

McKinney Boyd 31, Mesquite Horn 29: The Broncos’ O shows a post-Driskell glimpse. Ladd airs it out.