With 13 consecutive district championships to its name, Allen has a chance to extend that streak to 14 on Friday at Children’s Health Stadium against Prosper.
The pair of Eagles kick off at 7 p.m. in a meeting between the two teams projected to preside over the top two spots in the District 9-6A standings at the beginning of the season. That scenario has borne out through eight games, with Allen unbeaten at 8-0 (5-0 in district) and Prosper one rung below at 7-1 (4-1).
Top of mind, personnel-wise, for Allen heading into Friday’s game will be how its addresses the backfield, senior Celdon Manning — the team’s leading rusher at 659 yards and nine touchdowns — already ruled out for the contest after an injury sustained early in last week’s 24-0 win over McKinney Boyd, according to head coach Terry Gambill.
He added that Allen could also be without No. 2 running back and junior Jordan Johnson, meaning the reigning district champions could deploy a backfield rotation of sophomore Jaylen Jenkins (205 rushing yards, 6.8 yards per carry, two touchdowns) and junior Sam Hunter (77 rushing yards, 5.9 yards per carry, two touchdowns) alongside senior quarterback Raylen Sharpe.
On the year, Allen is averaging 240.3 rushing yards per game — No. 10 in the area among Class 6A programs and No. 1 in 9-6A — against a Prosper defense that sports the district’s top run-stuffing unit at just 105.4 yards allowed per game on the ground.
However, Prosper’s lone loss — a 41-14 setback to Jesuit — came in part due to struggles slowing the Rangers’ rushing attack, which totaled 50 carries for 293 yards versus just 42 offensive snaps total for Prosper.
“Defensively, they don’t ever sit still. They’re constantly moving their linemen, linebackers and secondary to try and create confusion,” Gambill said. “From an offensive line standpoint, we have to do a great job working together as a unit whether it’s in blitz pickup or if we’re running the football.”
Allen’s defense has been plenty effective in its own right, fresh off its first shutout win of the season against Boyd — a game where Allen surrendered just 34 rushing yards.
“It shows them that they can play responsibly and what you can do when you’re focused on playing team defense,” Gambill said. “When you do that, great things happen for the football team.”
They’ll be tasked with slowing a dynamic Prosper offense proficient in run-pass option schemes between quarterback Jackson Berry and an electric group of skill players that includes running back JT Lane, lead receiver Hayden Metcalf and all-purpose standout Tyler Bailey.
“It’s not anything that we haven’t seen, but at the same time, if you don’t communicate and aren’t on the same page as a defense then you can have a busted coverage and get exposed,” Gambill said. “They will get into all kinds of formations, whether it’s empty or a two-back offense, so a large portion falls on our defense about communication and getting lined up properly.”
Matt’s Pick: Allen by 17
Denison at Lovejoy
Friday, 7 p.m. at Leopard Stadium
Taylor Raglin: Though both programs are coming off shaky results, with Lovejoy narrowly escaping Lake Dallas with a win and Denison just one score better than second-year program Frisco Memorial, both programs are in the collective driver's seat in District 7-5A DII at 5-1.
In fact, the Leopards are already in the postseason thanks to their win over Frisco Reedy earlier this fall, though Denison needs one more victory over its final two games to put the Lions. away for good.
Still, Lovejoy head coach Todd Ford said, despite the games getting bigger and bigger, his program has to stick to being rooted in the present.
Regarding the near upset at the hands of the Falcons a week ago, Ford said he was proud of his team's ability to fight through adverse weather conditions and a weak second half.
"The main takeaway is that we outscored them, and that's all that matters. At the end of the year, that victory will count just as much as a Lebanon Trail, a Frisco Reedy or a Sulphur Springs," he said. "It was a tale of two halves. We played well in the first half and, in the second half, we didn't play well. ... We never panicked. We just kept playing. Under adverse situations, I was pleased with how we came through it."
With the Yellow Jackets coming to town Friday, Ford said it's no secret what they'll look to do.
Behind a stable of running backs led by star sophomore Jadarian Price, Denison is out for blood on the turf.
"I think it's what they want to do first. ... They want to run the football. They want to finish a game and see those rushing statistics where they want them to be," Ford said. "What makes them so dangerous is the fact that they also have the ability to throw it, whether it's off play-action or screens. That's why you've got to play."
Overall, he said, he expects an exciting game likely defined by the winner in the battle of costly mistakes.
"I really just want to make sure that our kids are ready to play and that, when they have the opportunity, they play well," he said. "I think the game will be about adjustments, just like it always is every week. ... In games like this, it's about protecting the football."
Taylor's Pick: Lovejoy by 7