The McKinney football team racked up 320 total yards, scored 17 points and converted two crucial fourth downs, all in the second half, to beat Jesuit for the second consecutive season on Friday, 24-21.
After losing its first three games to begin district, McKinney has now won three consecutive ballgames and has a realistic path to the playoffs.
The Lions’ win, combined with crosstown rival McKinney Boyd’s 28-0 win over Plano Senior, means for the third consecutive season that the “Crosstown Showdown” matchup will have major playoff implications. If Plano loses to Prosper, whoever wins the latest edition of the Boyd-McKinney rivalry will get District 9-6A’s fourth and final playoff spot.
When asked about playing Boyd to go to the playoffs for the second consecutive season, McKinney head coach Marcus Shavers simply said, “Can’t wait.” A win by Shavers would make him the first coach in McKinney history to beat Boyd in consecutive seasons.
“A bunch of folks had us counted out on this one, Vype DFW, the Dallas Morning News and a list of others, and all I know is we are playing for a playoff spot next week and that’s what matters,” Shavers said. “The biggest thing for us was executing on offense and we didn’t do that early on but we were able to execute better late. I couldn’t be prouder of our defense and my defensive coaches, because when everyone had them out after giving up 150 points in the first three games, them boys turned things around.”
McKinney shined on both sides of the ball on the night, but it was a huge play by the offense that saved its season and might be the reason the Lions make a third consecutive trip to playoffs. While trailing 21-17 with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter, Shavers and the Lions went for it on a fourth-and-eight. On the play, McKinney sophomore quarterback Sampson Nazarko beat a Jesuit blitz by laying out a bomb just far enough for senior receiver Isaiah Rojas to run underneath and make a fingertip catch for a 38-yard touchdown.
“I didn’t feel any pressure out there. I just went out and played and we just executed the play the same way we do in practice every day and catching that touchdown was natural,” Rojas said. “My QB knows where he can put it and that I’m going to go get it for him no matter if he’s under pressure or not. We knew since the Plano game that we have to win every game and that’s what we did and we’re going to continue to do next week.”
Rojas wasn’t the only Lion to make a big play on fourth down, as junior running back R.J. Carver’s 3-yard run on fourth-and-two with a little over a minute left in the game allowed McKinney to salt the contest away. Carver’s conversion capped off a big night as the physical running back finished with a touchdown and a game-high 121 yards.
“All thanks to my O-line. They made the hole and had my back when I needed them the most, so props to all of them,” Carver said. “I did this for Adrian Solorzano, my big brother who passed away, and everything I do is for him and my other brother Isaiah Rojas. We all do it for ‘Fed’ and we love him.”
Not to be overshadowed is the outstanding play by McKinney’s defense, which held Jesuit to 286 total yards on the night and produced three turnovers. Senior defensive back Chanlor Johnson’s big, first-half interception was one of the many unheralded plays that played a big part in McKinney grabbing its biggest win of the season.
“I had got beat before and I was mad about it and was able to do something about it by getting a big pick in the red zone to set the right tone for my team,” Johnson said. “We know since we beat Boyd once we can go out and beat them again and we are excited about the challenge next week.”