Allen Football

Allen senior Jaylen Jenkins and the Eagles got back on track last week against Cedar Hill.

After a momentary return to normalcy inside Eagle Stadium last week, the Allen football team has a game like no other on its schedule set for Thursday.

The Eagles will close out non-district play with a trip east to Tyler for a 7 p.m. kickoff from Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium against Tyler Legacy — Allen’s first-ever meeting with the Raiders. The two were scheduled to play last season but the contest was scrapped due to COVID-19-related circumstances within the Eagles’ football program.

Thursday’s kickoff not only doubles as a rare road non-district game for Allen — the Eagles have played away from their home stadium during the preseason only twice since 2015, and both times were at Coppell — but is also the farthest the team will travel for a regular season game in a decade.

Allen last ventured to East Texas during a four-year home-and-home series against Longview from 2008-11, playing on the road in 2009 and 2011. The Eagles split those two away games against the Lobos.

Fortunately for Allen, preparations for the unique road contest come on the heels of a win. The Eagles bounced back from a 41-20 loss to Atascocita on Sept. 3 — a result that snapped the program’s state-record 84-game regular-season winning streak — by topping perennial powerhouse Cedar Hill, 35-16, on Friday.

The Eagles relied on a similar formula from their season-opening win over Plano East and rode the legs of senior running back Jaylen Jenkins to the finish line against the Longhorns. Allen’s go-to rusher carried the ball 20 times and 156 yards and three touchdowns, good for nearly 8 yards per carry in the win. 

Establishing the ground game bolstered sophomore Mike Hawkins and the passing game, as the signal-caller completed 9-of-15 passes for 121 yards.

Allen bounced back defensively as well. After being pillaged for 21 second-half points by Atascocita, the Eagles surrendered just six to Cedar Hill despite giving up 386 yards on the night. Allen also came up on the winning end of the turnover battle at 2-0.

The Eagles hope to further steady the ship against a Legacy team that offers some explosiveness of its own out of the backfield. Through three games, leading rusher Jamarion Miller is averaging 150.3 yards per game and 10.3 yards per carry.

He’s one of three viable threats to carry the ball for the Raiders — leading receiver Bryson Donnell and quarterback Bruce Bruckner can do damage on the ground as well. Bruckner has 366 passing yards on the season with 191 thrown the way of Donnell.

Defensively, Jordan Ford has shined early on for Legacy with a team-high 20 tackles and two interceptions out of the secondary.

The Raiders sport a 2-1 record heading into Thursday’s ballgame, posting wins over Lufkin (35-17) and Tyler (62-55) before falling to Longview, 46-20. The program is in the midst of an upswing, tallying a 6-6 record and winning a playoff game for the first time since 2009 last season under first-year head coach Joe Willis.

Just as Allen looks to close out its non-district schedule on a productive note, Lovejoy has ambitions of keeping its perfect record intact against the toughest draw of its 2021 campaign thus far. The Leopards, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A Division II, welcome District 7-5A Division II foe Denison for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff.

Lovejoy stayed perfect after opening conference play with a 69-21 rout at Princeton in a game that has become commonplace during the team’s early-season onslaught. The Leopards are yet to play a meaningful snap of second-half football thanks to outscoring their three opponents in the first half by a combined margin of 141-14.

Friday’s lopsided win was more of the same — Lovejoy led Princeton 49-7 at the break and continued to cook on both sides of the ball. Sophomore quarterback Alexander Franklin furthered his ascent with 380 passing yards and five touchdowns. Three went the way of junior Jaxson Lavender, who caught 10 balls for 164 yards in the win. Sophomore Matthew Mainord made the most of his eight carries on the ground, rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Denison should offer a stiffer threat, looking to build off a 2-0 start to its first season under new head coach Brent Whitson. The Yellow Jackets had a bye last week following wins over Sherman (37-13) and Fort Worth Brewer (42-21) and shouldn’t lack motivation after last year’s meeting against the Leopards.

Lovejoy, also unbeaten at the time, trailed by 14 points through three quarters before mounting a run of 21 consecutive points in the fourth to rally past Denison 31-24 in 2020. 

The Yellow Jackets have plenty of familiar faces back from that meeting, including veteran running back Jadarian Price, who’s averaging 204.5 rushing yards per game, as well as quarterback Caleb Heavner, who’s completing nearly 70% of his passes so far. Linebacker William Wallis is averaging more than 13 tackles per game as an anchor for the Denison defense.

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

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