It’s an easy accolade to overlook for a program whose sights are annually set on a state championship, but Allen has never been one to diminish the value of a district title.
This week, for the 13th consecutive year, Allen has a chance to secure that very accolade when they welcome Prosper.
Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff from Eagle Stadium marks the first meeting since 1969 between the pair of Eagles, with second-place Prosper just one rung below Allen on the 9-6A totem pole.
Wading through its first year in Class 6A, Prosper has handled the transition well and brings one of the area’s most productive offenses into Allen at 427.8 yards and 41.5 points per game. District rushing leader Wayne Anderson, quarterback Keegan Shoemaker and a mammoth offensive line have helped ignite that productivity, with Prosper scoring at least 30 points all but once this season.
Defensively, Allen’s biggest challenge will come at the line of scrimmage where Prosper’s three-man front is adept at stunts to create unique pathways to generate pressure.
“They like to move their guys around and bring lots of stunts,” said Terry Gambill, Allen head coach. “They bring them from everywhere. They don’t give up lots of big plays and they’re really good at getting people into long-yardage situations. If we’re throwing the football, we’ve got to throw and catch and protect extremely well.”
Allen is coming off a 66-7 blowout of McKinney Boyd that featured a combined 56 points scored in the second and third quarters. Although the rout marked the second straight game the Eagles have been held without a first-quarter touchdown, the totality of Allen’s onslaught hasn’t hurt its bottom line.
“The game’s not played in the first quarter. It’s four quarters and I think we’re still playing well,” Gambill said. “Early on, it’s just a matter of possessions. We haven’t scored in the first quarter on those possessions, but I look at it as us needing to be more consistent early in the ballgame.”
Matt’s Pick: Allen by 31
Plano Senior at McKinney Boyd
Friday, 7 p.m. at McKinney ISD Stadium
Matt Welch: Spirits are high on the practice fields of Plano ISD’s eldest high school, with Plano carrying back-to-back wins over Plano East and Jesuit into Friday’s potential playoff eliminator with the Broncos.
The Wildcats have rediscovered their offense in recent weeks, averaging nearly 8.0 yards per game in wins over the Rangers and Panthers, and hope that carries over against a Boyd squad that prides itself on physicality. Head coach Jaydon McCullough sees particularly within the play of Broncos linebacker Brent Matiscik.
“There’s no doubt the guy who exemplifies their team is [Matisicik],” he said. “He’s a big H-back, tight end who also plays inside linebacker. To me, his play exemplifies their whole football team. He’s a really good player.”
McCullough lauded the explosiveness of the Boyd offense, which features one of the area’s most formidable deep threats in receiver Kareem Coleman (26.7 yards per catch) and a run game where six of the team’s top seven rushers are averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry.
Explosive plays are routine for both offenses, with Plano senior Kyron Cumby averaging 8.3 yards per touch this season as the Wildcats’ leading rusher and receiver, including plenty of work out of the slot.
“Kyron has really grown as a player this year,” McCullough said. “He’s always been talented, but he has really improved his blocking, which is huge. His route-running is phenomenal. We were doing 1-on-1s yesterday and the way he’s able to create separation from the defender is pretty phenomenal.
“… I feel like he has really grown and performed really well. To me, he has really opened up our offense because of how many different ways we can use him, and that really keeps the defense guessing.”
Matt’s Pick: Plano by 7
Plano East at Plano West
Friday, 7 p.m. at Clark Stadium
Taylor Raglin: Two weeks ago, Plano East paid the price for overlooking a PISD opponent, falling to Plano Senior by a convincing final count of 41-19.
After being taken to the brink by McKinney in a narrow, 45-42 win in double overtime last week, the Panthers appear to be finished undervaluing any 9-6A program heading into their Week 10 matchup with 0-8 Plano West.
“Plano West is going to give us their very best. They’re competitors. They have a lot of pride in what they do, and you can’t ever look at records during this game,” said Joey McCullough, East head coach. “Our kids understand that for us to make the playoffs, we have to win this game.”
At West, with the Wolves already out of playoff contention, head coach Scott Smith said there’s an energy around his program that comes along with having nothing to lose.
“This week and next week, we’ll throw caution to the wind. We don’t have anything to lose, and we’re not expected to win,” he said. “I think that creates a little bit more of a relaxed feeling. … [I think it] gives them a little bit more comfort to be able to just go play. Go play a game.”
Turnovers have plagued both programs in recent weeks, but they’ve been especially prevalent for East – after turning the ball over just five times during the Panthers’ 5-0 start, East has coughed it up nine times over its last three contests.
With a defense that’s given up 770 yards over the last two weeks, which McCullough said was in no small part thanks to those turnovers and an offense that hasn’t kept its stoppers off the field for long as of late, the Panthers will need better efforts on both sides of the ball going forward.
To that end, McCullough said his program has to focus in on getting 11 players to do their job on defense, especially when presented with a chance to get off the field (like McKinney’s converted fourth-and-14 in overtime a week ago), and renew its commitment to running the football on the attack.
The Wolves, who Smith said were disappointed with a “flat” effort in the first half of their Week Nine 55-7 loss to Prosper and whose issues again boiled down to execution, there’s both encouragement and caution to be found in East’s recent disappointing performances.
“[Anybody can win] any given Friday night, and we’ve obviously harped on that this week,” Smith said. “But we’ve also gone to the other side. They’re a good football team, and good football teams learn from their mistakes and what they’ve done. … I expect Plano East to kind of regroup and get themselves focused and ready to play on Friday night, and we’ve got to do the same thing.”
Taylor’s Pick: East by 21