Thanks to major defensive adjustments at halftime, and the dynamic quarterback/running back duo of Dillon Markiewicz and Manny Fincher consistently making big plays, McKinney North was able to beat defending district 7-5A D1 champion John Tyler 36-28 at MISD Stadium Thursday night.
With the win, North is now one-game away from the programs first outright district championship and clinched a home game in the bi-district round of the playoffs which will be the first ever playoff game to be played at MISD Stadium. North now enters their bye week undefeated in district with a piece of the district title thanks to West Mesquite's victory over Mesquite Poteet before even taking the field in two weeks against Poteet.
“This is our biggest win this season as John Tyler is a quality football team and a very well coached and athletic football team and the defending district champions and they showed that tonight and I give them a lot of credit,” said Mike Fecci, North head coach. “We struggled early, but our defense answered the call at halftime and that’s a credit to those guys for sticking with it. We are going to enjoy this one tonight and go watch Poteet tomorrow night, but we are going to enjoy this win tonight.”
John Tyler came out the shoot running as the Lions star running back and Texas pledge Kitan Crawford broke the Bulldogs backs with touchdown runs of 80 and 68 yards to give John Tyler a quick 21-9 lead. After North made two uncharacteristic turnovers on two of their first three drives, Markiewicz & Fincher and company turned things around and went to work.
Fincher was the first to make a big play as his 40-yard touchdown run answered Crawford’s long TD run to cut the Lions lead to 21-16. Next Markiewicz got his time to shine, the talented quarterback made a nimble 15-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left in the first half to make it 22-21 North and give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game and a lead they would never relinquish.
Markiewicz followed that up by putting his name in the MISD history book by throwing a strike to sure handed senior receiver Sean Monsour for a 41-yard touchdown to set the MISD district’s single season record for most touchdown passes in a season and gave North a 29-21 lead to close out the third quarter.
“Stats and records are great and all, but like I told you all season long, I’m focused on taking this team far in the playoffs over records,” Markiewicz said. “I told our guys before the game if we go out and win tonight this won’t be the last home game for our seniors and we were able to get it done tonight and don’t have to worry about travelling two hours to play a playoff game.”
Despite being bottled up most of the night, Fincher would strike again in the fourth quarter by busting a 61-yard TD run to make it 36-21 Bulldogs and finish the night with 166 yards to go with his two touchdowns.
“The line told me they were going to make some holes for me, and I saw one and just took my path for the score,” Fincher said. “I’m proud that my runs kept the wagon rolling and just added to the electric atmosphere we had tonight.”
After busting loose for 280 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, Crawford was held to 26 yards in the second half to finish with a game-high 306 rushing yards rushing four touchdowns. North’s entire defensive unit showed up and showed out in the second half as the Bulldogs forced John Tyler to punt on five consecutive possessions while holding the Lions to 161 total yards after giving up 335 total yards in the first half.
Captain senior linebacker Max Fecci was a difference maker for North’s defensive unit as he got a huge safety sack in the first half, led the Bulldogs in tackles on the night and help a much-maligned unit come up big when they were leaned on the most.
“We made huge adjustments at halftime because we had to stop (Crawford), once we made the adjustment to take him away, we really took their main weapon and forced them to do somethings they don’t like to do and played a good half,” Max Fecci said. “Tonight, we were able to play complimentary football and pick up our offense who did well despite playing a tough defensive unit. Now we know we can stop anyone, and we got to keep that confidence going against Mesquite Poteet because it’s going to be a good game.”