From the day he returned to campus as Allen’s head football coach, one of Terry Gambill’s more consistent refrains has been the importance of consistency within his program.
The Eagles have handled business in that area more often than not — they’re 55-3 overall under Gambill — but the state’s No. 4-ranked team enters Friday’s marquee showdown against fellow powerhouse Denton Guyer in search of a more even keel after a pair of unsteady wins following the program’s lengthy COVID-19 shutdown.
“Consistency is how you practice and how that carries into the ballgame,” Gambill said. “When you play games like this, that consistency factor has to be for all four quarters. To me, that’s going to be the key for this game. We have to be consistent in everything we’re doing on the field — offense, defense and special teams.”
Allen enters Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup from Eagle Stadium at 4-0, familiar territory for a program that has won its past 79 regular-season ballgames. However, the Eagles are coming off district wins over McKinney Boyd (42-9) and Little Elm (68-44) that offered starkly different showings.
Against the Broncos on Oct. 30, Allen’s offense needed three quarters to find its footing and blow open a 21-9 ballgame with a 21-point fourth quarter. One week later, the Eagles logged a season-high 68 points against Little Elm but allowed 44 points on more than 600 yards.
“We gave up the most big plays that we’ve given up all year (five),” Gambill said. “We had some penalties that hurt us and tacked on extra yardage. When we graded video, we didn’t do a great job tackling either.”
Gambill lauded the execution of Little Elm’s offense in creating those problems, particularly at quarterback where John Mateer had a career-high 497 passing yards, ran for 98 yards and totaled five touchdowns. Allen had enough firepower within its own offense to weather that storm, also cracking the 600-yard plateau and getting some key contributions on special teams.
As the Eagles look to correct their defensive shortcomings from the Little Elm game, Gambill stressed the need for better complementary football — requiring all three phases to help one another. Although Allen had no trouble piling up points against the Lobos, scoring 68 points across just 48 offensive snaps, Little Elm’s penchant of sustaining drives and working clock amounted to a 92-48 disparity in offensive snaps between the two teams.
“It’s a team game. Our offense can take some of the pressure off the defense with the drives they have and keep them off the field,” Gambill said. “There were moments last week when our offensive line did a great job. They’ll need to have a great week.”
Allen’s margin for error will be thin on Friday, with Guyer sporting a litany of firepower on both sides of the ball and one of the state’s premier offensive coaches in head coach Rodney Webb — a name all too familiar to Allen fans after coaching Rockwall to a second-round playoff upset of the Eagles last season, 60-59.
“It’s very similar from an offensive standpoint to what we do also. It’s a very similar offense with the (run-pass option) game, screens, run game — everything they’re doing presents great challenges,” Gambill said. “You’ve got to be able to match up. They have an outstanding quarterback and there are a lot of challenges when the ball snaps. We’ve got to make plays and eliminate big plays.”
Quarterback Eli Stowers poses threats with his arm (1,148 yards, nine touchdowns) and legs (295 yards, seven touchdowns), while junior Byron Phillips has adapted nicely as the team’s lead running back (614 yards on 6 yards per carry). Junior Grayson O’Bara is a big-play threat through the air at more than 21 yards per catch.
Defensively, Guyer has multiple Division I prospects anchoring a unit that has surrendered 23.5 points per game and has forced two turnovers per game. Baylor commit Cooper Lanz leads the team in tackles (44) and sacks (four), complemented in the middle by Florida State pledge Jordan Eubanks (40 tackles). On the back line, Texas A&M commit Deuce Harmon is one of the state’s premier cornerbacks and has showcased as much with four interceptions this season.
The Wildcats have held opponents to 23 points or less in four of their six games this season, including a 23-20 loss to rival Denton Ryan, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A Division I.
By contrast, Allen’s offense is averaging nearly 53 points and 541.5 yards per game. The 68 points totaled against Little Elm included a litany of big plays, with the Eagles’ top three rushers — Jordan Johnson, Devyn Turner and Jaylen Jenkins — all averaging greater than 7.5 yards per carry against the Lobos.
All three found the end zone, while senior quarterbacks General Booty and Jacob Wolff combined for four touchdown passes in the win. Senior Bryson Green led the receiving corps with 90 yards and a touchdown.