With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the District 9-6A playoff picture is somehow getting more and more congested.
As many as seven of the district’s eight teams can stake viable claims to contending for a postseason slot, with only first-place Allen likely assured any breathing room from the rat race matriculating beneath in the standings.
Some hold stronger claims than others, but by the end of Friday’s rain-soaked night of football, six teams had tallied district records of 2-2 or better and four of them sat in a tie for third place.
The biggest winners of the night were Plano Senior and Prosper, with the Eagles leap-frogging Plano East for second place in the district at 3-1 and the Wildcats picking up a crucial victory over the Panthers in surprisingly convincing fashion, 41-19.
One week removed from succumbing to a 17-7 loss to McKinney, one that saw them go more than 47 minutes without a single point, the Wildcats looked nothing of resurgent against their biggest rival.
A run game that had struggled to find its way since Week Two against El Paso Eastwood ravaged the Panthers for 256 yards and 6.1 yards per carry – headlined by a 15-carry, 153-yard, three-touchdown effort by senior Kyron Cumby. Through the air, senior Cole Winnett and junior Oliver Towns combined to go 9-of-11.
It’s a blueprint for the kind of offensive performance Plano needed to complement a defense that hummed once again on Friday, shutting out one of the area’s most explosive offenses for three quarters.
It doesn’t make the team’s performance one week prior any less confounding, but Friday’s win was much-needed for Plano with a difficult homestretch of matchups with Jesuit, McKinney Boyd and Prosper left to play.
The margin for error remains slim, given the closely-knit standings, but for the first time all season, Plano strung together a playoff-caliber performance. Given what’s left on the schedule, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Meanwhile on the eastside…
The simple-minded narrative heading into Friday’s rivalry game was that East would be foaming at the mouth for revenge against a Plano team that appeared more shell-shocked than anything after being nearly blanked by McKinney.
So much for that nonsense.
A two-game losing streak might have seemed implausible back when the Panthers were rampaging their way to a convincing victory over Prosper, but East enters its homestretch in desperate need of restoking the fire that propelled the team to a 5-0 start.
East’s offense, among the best in the area entering Friday’s game, averaged just 4.5 yards per play and was held under 20 points for just the second time since September 2016. Defensively, the Panthers’ surrendered more than 6.5 yards per play and breathed life into a Plano offense averaging just 16.5 points per game over its prior four contests.
For all the talk surrounding 9-6A’s bevy of backfield burners heading into the season – names like Plano’s Kyron Cumby, McKinney’s Cordrick Dunn and Jesuit’s E.J. Smith – it’s Prosper’s Wayne Anderson who is primed to seize the district’s rushing crown.
Following Thursday’s win over McKinney Boyd, Anderson upped his season total to 1,076 rushing yards (7.9 yards per carry), 133 ahead of Dunn’s second-most-in-the-district count of 943.
A converted cornerback, Anderson’s rushing total ranks fifth in the Metroplex, and thanks in no small part to running behind one of the district’s top offensive lines, Prosper’s tried-and-true run game ranks only behind Allen in 9-6A and is front and center on reasons why the Eagles are looking to be playoff-bound in their first-ever 6A campaign.
Coleman’s breakout year continues
Despite Thursday’s loss, Boyd senior Kareem Coleman continues to eviscerate opposing secondaries.
Consider this: Coleman entered the week averaging just a shade under 31.0 yards per catch. The next closest average among the area’s top 25 Class 6A receivers was 23.0 yards.
And yet, Coleman still improved on that figure following Thursday’s three-catch, 114-yard performance against Prosper. Tallying 38.0 yards per reception, he’s now at 32.1 yards per catch on the season – as a reminder, that’s nearly one-third of an entire football field – and has eclipsed 100 yards receiving his past four outings.
West’s tough road to hoe
Speaking of a difficult homestretch, 9-6A’s toughest road to the finish line will be traversed by the one team that can least afford it.
Following Friday’s 17-12 loss to McKinney, Plano West dipped to 0-7 on the season and extended its slump to 23 consecutive setbacks. The Wolves’ three remaining games: Prosper, East and Allen – a combined 18-2 in the standings.
Despite the setback, West can take solace in leading the Lions at the half 10-7 and getting its most meaningful fourth-quarter snaps of the season. The Wolves had two chances to seize a go-ahead score, but for the second consecutive week, McKinney’s defense made the difference.
It’s ultimately a tough pill to swallow for West, and with games solely against the district’s elite still to go, the Wolves’ last chance at a victory may very well have departed Clark Stadium on Friday.