Allen Defense

Allen’s defense bent but didn’t break against run-heavy Atascocita. On Friday, the Eagles will try and slow a dynamic Cedar Hill attack led by one of the top quarterbacks in the state in Kaidon Salter.

Allen passed its first test of the season with flying colors, cruising past state-ranked Atascocita for a 52-27 victory — a contest where Allen led 35-7 at halftime and 52-14 early in the fourth quarter.

The caliber of opponent doesn’t change, but the stylistic challenges ramp up Friday when the Eagles visit Longhorn Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against state-ranked Cedar Hill. 

The Longhorns pose a different set of problems for a young Allen defense, particularly the plight of trying to contain Cedar Hill quarterback Kaidon Salter. The Tennessee commit made his debut with the Longhorns last season against the Eagles, fittingly enough, and tallied 342 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 43-28 loss. Allen managed to bottle up the signal-caller’s mobility, limiting Salter to just 16 yards on the ground.

Salter went on to amass an MVP campaign in arguably the toughest district in the area and returns alongside Cedar Hill’s second-leading rusher Kevin Young Jr., who averaged more than 8 yards per carry last year. The Longhorns are young both up front and out wide, but got a big game from receiver Anthony Thomas IV, who matched his entire 2019 reception total with a seven-catch, 110-yard effort in a 28-21 win over state-ranked Arlington.

Defensively, Cedar Hill has seven players back who earned all-district honors last season, led by a talented linebacker corps of Jahleim Lowe, Stefan Ingram and Demari Ward. That unit helped limit Arlington to just 210 yards.

Expect Allen to challenge the Longhorn defense a bit more after compiling 530 yards against Atascocita. The Eagles’ offense didn’t lack in explosion, producing six pass plays of at least 30 yards gained between seniors Blaine Green, Bryson Green and Touray Green. Senior quarterback General Booty completed his first 11 passes en route to 260 yards and three touchdowns to pace a 2-0 start.

 

Wolves look to make it 3-0 vs. Little Elm

Plano West has already doubled its win total from last season following wins over Wylie (28-10) and North Mesquite (28-14) and looks to stay unbeaten at 7 p.m. Friday when it travels to Little Elm.

The Wolves are allowing just 7.5 points per game during head coach Tyler Soukup’s second year at the helm — something he attributed to his team’s defensive depth following Friday’s win over the Stallions.

Offensively, senior Tabren Yates has shouldered the load with back-to-back 100-yard performances, but Soukup noted that he hopes to find ways to reduce his workload so as to keep the running back fresher as the game wears on. One player Soukup said could start contributing to the run game is senior linebacker Jacob Stephens.

West looks to strike that balance Friday in its last tune-up before district play. The Wolves draw a Little Elm squad making its debut as a Class 6A program and sporting a 1-1 record after splitting matchups with L.D. Bell and state-ranked North Forney.

The Lobos have the benefit of an experienced crop of returners with 17 returning starters, including 10 on offense. The continuity of that side of the ball includes quarterback John Mateer and top rusher Jason Jackson. One of the biggest surprises for Little Elm has been the growth of receiver Vashawn Thomas II, who after logging 276 receiving yards last season is already up to 180 yards and two touchdowns this year.

Little Elm, which recorded its first shutout win since October 2017 following a 37-0 win over Bell on Sept. 25, had a tougher time in last week’s 30-14 loss to the state-ranked Falcons, who benefited from a big game from Nevada commit Ty Collins, who ran for 189 yards. Look for West to deploy a similar blueprint with Yates.

 

East shaking things up vs. Jesuit

Plano East looks to put an 0-2 start to rest with a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff from Kimbrough Stadium against longtime rival Jesuit.

For East, the prospect of lining up opposite the Rangers is nothing new — the Panthers have played Jesuit every year since head coach Joey McCullough was hired in 2014. East is 4-2 against the Rangers over that span, winning four straight before last year’s 34-28 loss in a game that McCullough still regarded as one of his team’s better showings of the season.

“We know what they like and they know what we like,” McCullough said. “[Jesuit head coach Brandon Hickman] likes to run a lot of power and outside zone. It’s going to be a smash-mouth game. They don’t change a lot and that’s a big reason why they’re so successful. It’s the kind of test that we need going into district.”

For the past few years, East has been tasked with slowing one of the top running backs in the country in EJ Smith. With Smith now at Stanford, the Rangers have leaned on Jake Taylor — who eclipsed 1,200 rushing yards as a junior — to anchor an offense low on experience. Taylor doubles as a threat in the pass game, leading Jesuit on the year with 13 receptions.

Defensively, the Rangers are surrendering 54 points per game, albeit against a pair of high-powered offense in Marcus and Rockwall. Both resulted in setbacks for the Rangers.

East hopes to right the ship on offense after fizzling during the second half of last week’s 42-21 loss to Lake Highlands. McCullough hinted some personnel changes could be on the way on both sides of the ball, noting that some of the Panthers’ underclassmen could see more time, including some reps behind center for sophomore quarterback Harris Boyd. McCullough said Boyd will be used every three series on Friday against Jesuit — spelling senior Dylan Hayden, who accounted for 200 yards of offense and scored two touchdowns against Lake Highlands.

East also has its work cut out on defense with injuries plaguing the unit early on. McCullough lamented the loss of senior linebacker Reese Woertink early in the team’s opener against Allen as a pivotal blow to the Panthers’ defense and anticipates East approaching Jesuit with a willingness to try players at different positions and adjust its substitution patterns to try and weather the early injury bug.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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