A tough non-district schedule has prepared the Coppell football team for the grind that is District 6-6A.
The Cowboys are off to a 2-1 start with wins over two playoff teams from a year ago (Mesquite and Sachse) and almost pulled off a furious rally last week against six-time state champion Highland Park.
"Anytime you can play a tough non-district schedule, it's going to make you better," said Mike DeWitt, Coppell head football coach.
Coppell and the other seven teams in 6-6A are off this week as they heal their injuries before returning to the field next week for the start of district play.
"We're approaching it the same way that we do every year,” DeWitt said. “We want to try to rest, get our legs under us. Whether that's working through some injuries or getting our guys a couple of extra days to sleep in. We want to see what we've done well and see the things that we need to improve on."
Coppell opens 6-6A play Oct. 23 against Plano at Clark Stadium.
The Wildcats are one of three new teams in 6-6A. Gone are three Irving ISD schools. Plano, Plano East and Plano West have replaced Irving, Irving MacArthur and Irving Nimitz on the schedule for the next two years after the UIL’s biennial realignment. Reigning district champion Marcus, as well as Flower Mound, Lewisville and Hebron, remain in the fold.
Plano is off to a 0-2 start under first-year head coach Todd Ford with slow starts being the culprit. The Wildcats trailed 42-17 at halftime of last week’s 42-24 loss to Lake Highlands and nearly pulled off a furious rally in a heartbreaking 36-35 loss in Week One to McKinney.
East, meanwhile, is 0-3 but the Panthers had Allen, Lake Highlands and Dallas Jesuit as their competition.
Plano West started the season 2-0 for the first since 2014, including the program’s first shutout in more than a decade, before losing a defensive-minded 23-9 contest last week to Little Elm.
Marcus (3-0) is clicking on all cylinders as it prepares to defend its district crown. LSU pledge Garrett Nussmeier ranks third among area quarterbacks in passing statistics, having thrown for 910 yards on 79-of-112 through the air with 12 touchdowns against two interceptions. The Marauders have won all three games by an average of 24.3 points.
Fresh off its first playoff win in program history a year ago, Flower Mound is 2-1 to start the season and the Jaguars came close to knocking off Mansfield Timberview, ranked No. 7 in Class 5A Division II by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, a week ago in an 18-13 loss. Flower Mound lost a bulk of its offensive starters from its 2019 team to graduation, including quarterback Blake Short. But, the Jaguars have been stingy defensively, yielding just 34 points through three games.
Lewisville (2-1) boasts the second best offense in the area, averaging 587 yards per game. The Farmers can score points in bunches. They hung up 52 points on Rockwall Heath in Week One, 48 on Wylie in Week Two and 51 on Arlington Lamar a week ago. Junior Damien Martinez has rushed for 599 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The injury bug has hit Hebron (1-1) with several players unavailable for last week’s game against Eaton. That included junior quarterback Weston Conaway, senior receiver Nick Frazier and senior defensive back Mason Williamson. Still, the Hawks persevered through those setbacks and earned their first win of the season over Eaton, 31-7.
DeWitt knows each of the eight teams that comprise 6-6A will have to play their best brand of football week in and week out.
"I think anybody can beat anybody on any given week,” he said. “We need to continue to get better and improve on what we need to. We need to play hard each week, no matter who we are playing."
Coppell is a well-oiled machine on offense.
Senior quarterback Ryan Walker has thrown for 890 yards with 10 touchdowns to zero interceptions. Senior wide-out KJ Liggins, who transferred back to Coppell after spending his junior season at Denton Guyer, leads the team in receiving yards with 368 to go along with five touchdowns. Junior Anthony Black caught three touchdown passes in the loss to Highland Park. Junior Dylan Nelson is averaging 24.7 yards per catch.
Senior running back Jason Ngwu has spearheaded Coppell's ground game, going for 309 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively, Coppell has given up several big plays but has adjusted as the game went along.
Senior Tim O'Hearn has three sacks and 29 tackles (four for loss), while fellow senior Zach Stricker has two interceptions, including a pick-six against Sachse. Senior Preston Rogers has stepped in admirably at Mike linebacker. Junior Simisani Ncube-Socks had a fumble recovery to seal Coppell’s Week Two win over Sachse.
“I feel like if we can eliminate the big plays, we'll be fine,” DeWitt said. “Apart from those, I feel like we're playing pretty good defense."