The final installment of the 2019 Plano ISD rivalries is on tap for Friday, with much to play for for a pair of teams already eliminated from the Class 6A postseason.
Plano West and Plano East will suit up for bragging rights inside a likely frigid Kimbrough Stadium, with the Wolves looking for their first win over their rivals to the East since a 2014 thrashing.
While the Wolves have still yet to snap their extended losing streak, which currently sits at 34 games following a drop to 0-8 a week ago, the program has been competitive in many of its outings in 2019.
In particular, West got up for its first rivalry match of the season against Plano Senior, as the Wildcats narrowly escaped with a 26-21 win.
Head coach Tyler Soukup and the Wolves' strides haven't gone unnoticed by their Week 10 opponent, 1-7 East, and Panther head coach Joey McCullough has cautioned his own athletes on the perils of overlooking a program the Panthers are only one game better than this fall.
"No. 1, it's a crosstown rival, and I truly believe in past years our kids have gotten up more for Plano West than they have Plano. I'm not sure exactly why, it's just a fact," he said. "I told the young men on our team, 'These guys are playing hard. You better put records out of your mind, because they believe they can beat you.' That's the key. They believe that they can beat us, and we haven't executed consistently on the offensive side of the ball.
“… We better put our big-boy pants on, and we better get ready to fight."
For Soukup's part, he said he expects his program to bring a similar effort as it did against the Wildcats in its second crosstown throwdown.
"I jokingly asked the kids, 'Guys, this is my first go around with the PISD rivalries, and I know that we came out with a great deal of emotion (and a) a great deal of energy against Plano. Can I expect the same?'" he said. "They said without a doubt, of course. It's Plano East. I'm excited about Friday. I'm really excited to see our kids come out and play hard, but the flip side of that coin is you know East is going to do the same thing."
The Panthers will be without the services of senior quarterback Ryan Foust, who suffered a broken collarbone in last week's contest against McKinney. That leaves room for off-and-on starter and junior Dylan Hayden to take the reins for the remainder of the season.
On the opposite sideline, Soukup said seniors Andrew Picco and Danny Davis will once again compete throughout the week and likely split time in the contest, a competition that he said he feels has benefited each.
Soukup said he doesn't expect a frigid forecast to slow either team, particularly if conditions are dry, noting that both sides will likely look to pound the football and work from there. However, he also said that explosive plays for either squad off of that run-game base could prove to be the difference in the game.
Defensively, senior linemen K'Von Hamilton, Travontae Johnson and Noel Oliva could all be back on the field together for East, a fact that McCullough said could be critical in slowing a multi-pronged West running game that's found success at points this season.
"They'll throw the ball, and they throw the ball well, but their whole premise is off running the football," McCullough said. "One puller, two pullers, three pullers, a bevy of running backs to bring in and keep fresh with a quarterback that will also run the ball, too ... It's going to be very important that we have all hands on deck Friday."
If West were to finally crack the win column, Soukup said, the equation would likely be a simple one.
"We can't turn the football over. If we give it back to Plano East, it probably won't go our way," he said. "I think that's indicative of whether we're playing East or a McKinney school or a Frisco school or anybody else. I think, on defense, we've got to limit any big plays. If we can make them earn it and march the football down the field, I like our chances."
Taylor's Pick: East by 6
McKinney Boyd at Plano Senior
Friday, 7 p.m. at Clark Stadium
Matt Welch: A playoff berth hangs in the balance, at least on one sideline, in Friday’s latest installment of the Plano-Boyd rivalry. A win secures a trip to the postseason for the Wildcats, while the Broncos still maintain an outside shot despite a 1-4 record in District 9-6A.
With games against Plano and McKinney left on the schedule, Boyd would have to win out while needing the Wildcats to lose out in order to secure a playoff berth.
“It’s all hands on deck. They’re a well-coached football team that is tough and disciplined,” said Jaydon McCullough, Plano head coach. “They keep getting better despite changing their personnel. It’s a great opportunity for both teams. There’s a lot on the line.”
That next-man-up mentality will be tested at wide receiver, where Plano is expected to be without seniors Nolan Williams and Jayden Chambers — the latter sustaining an injury in the team’s 34-26 loss to Jesuit last week. The Wildcats’ two leading receivers, Williams and Chambers have combined for 50 catches, 962 yards and 14 touchdowns this season — 49% of the team’s receptions, 57% of its receiving yards and 64% of its receiving touchdowns.
Plano still has options in the passing game between senior receivers Isaiah Calhoun and Umar Aruna, while senior tight end Christian Sabatini is in the midst of a career year (347 yards, four touchdowns) and senior running back Cody Crist and junior Tylan Hines are no stranger to pass-catching roles as well.
Regardless of the personnel, the Wildcats’ air attack will meet a bit of resistance on Friday with Boyd sporting one of the district’s more talented secondaries with Jake Fex, Plae Wyatt and Jaylen Shaw. Together, the Broncos limited Allen to less than 100 yards passing last week.
Fex and Wyatt double as contributors on offense, particularly in recent weeks with top rusher Ja’Tyler Shaw sidelined. Through the air, Carter Whitefield spearheads a passing attack that has flashed big-play potential this season with Kareem Coleman and Alex Taylor.
“We’ve got to keep them in front of us and wrap up. We have to take away what they do well and prevent those big plays,” McCullough said. “We have to make them earn it and not give them second chances with penalties.”
McCullough also emphasized the need to shore up issues on special teams, which reared their head in the loss to Jesuit — from dropped kickoffs to extra-point woes and even a safety following a dropped snap on a punt. Some of that could be attributed to the night’s inclement weather, but with clear skies expected for Friday, Plano looks to right the ship and procure a playoff berth.
“I just want us to go out and play with confidence and have fun,” McCullough said. “It’s homecoming and senior night, plus a great opportunity at Clark Stadium to play a team that’s well-coached and disciplined. It’s one of those nights that you play football for.”
Matt’s Pick: Plano by 10