For all the promise that encompassed the McKinney football team’s opening drive on Thursday, Denton Braswell was quick to reverse the whip in their District 5-6A clash at McKinney ISD Stadium.
An early lead for the Lions gave way to a scourge of 35 consecutive points by the Bengals, bolstered by a quarterback-receiver connection for which McKinney had no answer. Behind four touchdown passes thrown from Braswell quarterback Keegan Byrd to top receiver Ja’Ryan Wallace, the Bengals dealt the Lions their third straight loss in a 49-14 setback.
“[Braswell] just did an outstanding job tonight and all the credit goes to them,” said Marcus Shavers, McKinney head coach. “They outplayed and outcoached us tonight.”
The Lions fell to 0-3 in district play and 3-4 overall, held to 14 points for the second straight ballgame. Half of that total came on McKinney’s opening drive of the ballgame, despite the Bengals making their intentions known from the start. Braswell loaded up the box versus the Lions’ potent rushing attack and reaped the benefits — McKinney only mustered 10 rushing yards in the first half and registered 10 plays that resulted in negative yardage.
Those early hardships staked the Lions to multiple third downs of at least 15 yards, but McKinney answered the call early on. Senior quarterback Sampson Nazarko navigated the Lions out of their first three third downs of the night despite facing distances of 15, 16 and 19 yards to pick up a first down. The middle of those two conversions resulted in McKinney’s lone points of the first half — a dump-off to junior Dylan Rhodes that resulted in a 29-yard touchdown after the receiver broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and scampered untouched the rest of the way.
“We always talk about the importance of trying to start each half off with a score or a stop,” Shavers said. “We were able to do that and felt like it could give us some momentum.”
McKinney 7, Braswell 0 @ 6:57/1QBacked into 3rd and 16, McKinney gets on the board after QB Sampson Nazarko dumps off a screen to Dylan Rhodes. He breaks a tackle and busts off a 29 yd TD. Nazarko converted a 3rd and 15 earlier in the drive on a pass to Dylan Brown. pic.twitter.com/u6rggneyQ5— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) October 15, 2021
The rest of the half belonged to Braswell, which fired off 21 unanswered points — all on the connection between Byrd and Wallace. The duo accounted for touchdowns of 43, 61 and 36 yards to stake the Bengals to a 21-7 lead with 4:42 left in the first half.
Wallace alone logged seven catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns in the half, good for 58% of Braswell’s total yardage over that stretch. He finished the night with 12 catches for 232 yards and four touchdowns.
“You’ve got to give credit to [Wallace] and their game plan. He’s a phenomenal athlete and a really good football player,” Shavers said. “He outplayed us tonight. I wouldn’t have thought coming into this one that our guys at the corner position would have played like that, but credit to them. That’s a good offense with some good wide receivers.”
The Lions couldn’t muster a counter — after logging 81 yards and a touchdown on its opening drive, McKinney gained just 53 yards for the rest of the half and 264 for the night versus 512 for the Bengals.
Sophomore Bryan Jackson logged 68 rushing yards in the loss, halting the Lions’ scoring drought with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run. He set up the score with a 13-yard carry to convert a fourth-and-one.
Braswell 35, McKinney 14 @ 9:31/4QLions have their first points since their opening drive. Bryan Jackson does the heavy lifting, converting 4th-1 with a 13 yd run and then scoring from 2 yds out. pic.twitter.com/ebTzaxeiAt— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) October 15, 2021
The Bengals promptly answered in just two plays, however, finding the end zone on a 43-yard scamper by Jaylon Burton, who logged more carries than the entire McKinney backfield at 37 for 167 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Although the Lions had done well to avoid the big gain on the ground prior to Burton's aforementioned touchdown run, Braswell hammered away at the McKinney defense with a steady diet of 4- to 6-yard carries by its leading rusher.
Nazarko added 175 passing yards on the night, completing 16-of-31 passes with a touchdown and interception. Sophomore Xavier Filsaime logged five catches for 46 yards.
“It’s been tough for us to get into a rhythm offensively. We’ve struggled to get into a rhythm and have given up some big plays. You can’t do that, especially in the toughest district in the state,” Shavers said.
That plight won’t get any easier next week with McKinney scheduled to visit state-ranked Allen for a 7 p.m. Oct. 22 kickoff from Eagle Stadium.