It took 86 points and 913 combined yards, but, when the dust settled, McKinney North outlasted crosstown rival McKinney, 44-42, in a classic shootout at McKinney ISD stadium Friday night.
The final score is the most combined points scored in the 12-game series, and the win is North’s fifth consecutive over the original high school of McKinney. After a perfect start led to a 34-14 lead at halftime, the Bulldogs faltered down the stretch, but found a way to begin their season with a win over the Lions for the second straight year.
“Keeping the winning streak alive is important, but I’m really proud of how we fought and came in there at the end and won it,” said Mike Fecci, North head coach. “Big credit to those guys across the field for almost coming back from three scores down in a rivalry game like this, which says a lot about coach (Marcus) Shavers and his staff and where they are going with their program. All in all, I’m proud of the way we stepped up, and we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to enjoy the victory.”
North came out the gates swinging, as senior quarterback Dillon Markiewicz connected with Noah Ford on a 69-yard touchdown on the Bulldogs’ first passing play of the season and third play, overall. The bomb through the air was only a prelude to North’s second drive, when senior running back Manny Fincher made a house call from 55 yards out on North’s fifth play from scrimmage.
Fincher would go on to lead all rushers on the night with 155 yards on the ground while scoring his first two touchdowns of the season.
North racked up 137 total yards and a 14-0 lead over McKinney courtesy of the Bulldogs’ explosive start.
Markiewicz lit the McKinney secondary up the entire first half on his way to going 11-for-13 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. The right-hander rode the hot start to his second four-touchdown game of his career, passing for 332 yards. Despite the great statistical performance, Markiewicz, like his coach, knows there is a lot of work that needs to happen for he and his teammates to consistently produce like they did in the first half.
“There’s a lot of emotion and passion that fuels this game, and it’s a fiery game, but we are really glad we pulled it out once again,” Markiewicz said. “I think our offense is one of the best in the state, and to do this every game won’t surprise me, because we can do this every week. But we have to keep getting better. Now we’ve got to watch some tape so we are aren’t a rollercoaster in the second half and finish so we can keep the train rolling.”
With North’s offense hot heading into halftime, as evidenced by the Bulldogs’ 20-point lead at the break, McKinney made some necessary adjustments and gave itself a chance.
With a mountain to climb, the young Lions rode the back of sophomore running back Lamarrya Ransem, who gave the Bulldogs all they could handle in the second half. Ransem scored on emphatic 23 and 10-yard runs in third quarter to get McKinney back in the game and the Lions’ offense back on track.
Though their dramatic comeback bid came up just short in the end, Ransem, who finished with 144 yards, and the Lions got a huge momentum boost from almost pulling off a “Crosstown Showdown” miracle.
“I just started busting in there, because I wasn’t playing with them, and they just started talking smack and forced me to put my mind to it and do it,” Ransem said. “This game gives me, individually, a lot of confidence, because I prayed to play like this. Going forward, we know we have to focus on ourselves and play our game the right way.”
Despite coming up short on the scoreboard, McKinney outscored North, 28-10, in the second half while outgaining the Bulldogs 251-102.
With North clinging to a 41-35 lead, a member of the Bulldogs’ maligned defense would make the play of the game, as North senior cornerback R.J. Bendert stepped in to pick off McKinney’s Sampson Nazarko with three minutes to go and ended the game for all intents and purposes. Bendert’s pick and 16-yard return put the nail in McKinney’s coffin while giving him a lifelong memory.
“They tested me a couple times last year, and I knew it was coming, so I jumped on the 5-yard slant and, thankfully enough, (made) a play,” Bendert said. “Making a play like this and going crazy and spreading water all over through the air is something that I’m never going to forget. I’ll be bragging about this the rest of my life – that we went 2-0 against the team across 75.”