Thursday marks the first night on the district schedule in 5-6A football — a seven-team conference that includes three programs ranked in the state’s top 25.
All three have turned in strong starts to the season, as Allen — tabbed No. 5 in Class 6A — eyes a 15th consecutive district title, but expect powerhouses in Denton Guyer and Prosper to have their say as well.
McKinney, meanwhile, is targeting a fourth straight playoff berth — a trend opposite that of rival McKinney Boyd, which hopes to snap a five-year postseason drought. Little Elm and Braswell make their respective debuts in 6A district play as well.
It all gets underway Thursday, and prior to that opening kickoff, Star Local Media laid out the projected league standings in what figures to be one of the more talent-rich districts in the area.
The Eagles enter 5-6A having only played two of their four scheduled non-district games — matchups with Cedar Hill and Tyler Legacy were nixed amid a COVID-19 outbreak within the football program.
Beforehand, Allen looked like its usual dominant self — topping Plano East and Atascocita by an average of 24 points, and scoring with a marksman-like precision in the latter. Senior quarterback General Booty, senior running back Jordan Johnson and senior receivers Bryson and Blaine Green have clicked to pace to the offense to the tune of 552 yards per game.
Time will tell if Allen can retain that rhythm in the coming weeks after going 28 days in between games, particularly as the Eagles build toward an anticipated Nov. 13 showdown against Guyer.
2. Denton Guyer
The Wildcats have a valid case for the top spot here. Even with a 23-20 loss to Denton Ryan, the top-ranked team in Class 5A Division I, Guyer’s run game — reloaded behind Byron Phillips — is still averaging more than 7 yards per carry and quarterback Eli Stowers is completing almost 73% of his passes. Their defense has been aggressive in creating turnovers as well, having forced eight fumbles through three games.
Specific to the Allen matchup, expect Guyer to be the more battle-tested of the two as well. In addition to cutting its teeth against Ryan, the Wildcats will also play state-ranked Prosper before squaring off with the Eagles.
Allen gets the edge here due to home-field advantage and its track record in high-profile regular-season games — they have won 77 straight, after all — but Guyer presents the most viable threat to Allen’s reign of 14 consecutive district titles since the Rex Burkhead-led Plano teams of the late-2000s.
Prosper continues to elevate its game at the 6A level. The Eagles were 2-0 before incurring a COVID-related shutdown of their own, but impressed in rallying for a 29-21 road win over state-ranked Euless Trinity.
The transfer of all-purpose skill player Tyler Bailey definitely impacts Prosper’s dynamism on offense, but senior quarterback Jackson Berry remains steady behind center and senior receiver Cameron Harpole has found the end zone twice already.
Defensively, the Eagles have been electric — smothering Trinity’s potent run game behind seniors Aidan Siano, Mason Jolley and Herman Lee. In total, Prosper is allowing just 19 points per game.
They’ll need to remain stout against the upper-echelon offenses in the district, but the Eagles are a justified top-three pick in this district, with the potential to elevate a bit higher.
Plenty can change in the coming weeks, but a McKinney-Braswell tug of war for the fourth playoff spot seems plausible. The Lions are 2-for-2 in playoff qualifications under head coach Marcus Shavers and have resumed the brand of football that paced the team’s 2019 run to the postseason — meshing a versatile run game with a shut-down defense. Since giving up 35 points to Plano in its opener, something Shavers attributed to lapses in conditioning, the Lions have allowed just 18 points per game.
In the backfield, senior RJ Carver has towed the rock to the tune of 367 yards across four games.
McKinney has a tough draw to begin district, squaring off with Prosper, Guyer, Braswell and Allen. If the Lions can emerge from that gauntlet with at least one win, their chances of a playoff berth should swell.
5. Denton Braswell
Much like McKinney, Braswell is a program on the rise under a promising head coach. That’s pretty much where the similarities end — the Bengals’ first four games would make Big 12 football fans swoon. Braswell is averaging almost 48 points per game and has posted some of the area’s top offensive numbers, but the Bengals are allowing 49 points per game and have actually been outscored, 196-191, on the year.
Fifty-nine of those points came in a season-opening loss to Rockwall, but the Bengals have shown a flair for the dramatic ever since — its next three wins were all decided by seven points or less.
There’s obviously talent within Denton ISD’s youngest football program, and that offense can put a scare into anyone, but too many more high-wire shootouts is a dangerous path in a district this talented.
6. Little Elm
The Lobos have a tall order ahead of them in their first year as a 6A program but managed to put together a 2-2 record that included wins over LD Bell and Plano West. The Lobos fell a hairline shy of a 3-1 mark, unable to find the end zone from the Keller Fossil Ridge 2-yard line during the final minute of last Friday’s 21-17 loss.
Even in defeat, Little Elm’s defense has shined in holding opponents to 15 points per game, including a 37-0 shutout of Bell. Junior quarterback John Mateer continues to grow behind center in his third year as the Lobos’ starter.
Little Elm also has continuity in its favor with 17 returning starters — the most of any team in 5-6A. Much of that experience resides in the program’s 2022 class, which might be a year away from contending for a playoff spot.
7. McKinney Boyd
Boyd got a much-needed win last week to avoid an 0-4 start in head coach Joe McBride’s second year at the helm. The Broncos have taken their lumps on offense, totaling just three offensive touchdowns in four games so far and are working in a new face at quarterback in sophomore Ryan Shackleton following an injury to starter Carter Whitefield.
As the Broncos look to up their output on that side of the ball, they’ll be afforded opportunities if the team’s defense continues its stellar performance so far. Led by one of the district’s top linebacker corps in Matteo Bianchi and Luke Reber, Boyd is surrendering just 18.3 points per game.
They’ll need to get some help from the offense to make some headway in the 5-6A standings, however.