Kaden Gardner

Plano East junior Kaden Gardner and the Panthers lost to Lake Highlands Friday, 17-7.

DALLAS – Missing its most impactful offensive piece in senior running back Trey Jones-Scott for the entirety of the first half, the Plano East football team dropped to 0-2 by way of a 17-7 setback against Lake Highlands in the 2019 Cotton Bowl Stadium Prep Showcase’s Friday finale.

Despite another lackluster effort from the young Panthers, head coach Joey McCullough said he appreciated the fight his group showed in a second half that saw the team produce its lone score and move the ball more efficiently.

“The defense played their tail off. … They did a great job of holding them off, and we’ve got to do our part, offensively,” McCullough said. “We’re going to do it. We’re going to go back to work on Monday, and we’re going to get better and build on the positives.”

The Panthers mustered just 10 offensive yards on 14 plays in the first two quarters of the loss, moving the chains just once and seeing senior Ryan Foust go 1-for-5 for 6 yards and an interception.

Jones-Scott entered the game in the second half and combined with junior quarterback Dylan Hayden, who took over under center for Foust and scored a touchdown on the turf, to spark some offensive life. Still, the lone score wasn’t enough, and a late score from the Wildcats’ do-it-all quarterback Mitch Coulson sealed the 10-point victory.

McCullough said the decision to put Jones-Scott in the game in the second half was a product of the team’s policy that players who don’t practice throughout the week don’t start, injury or otherwise.

“I know it was an injury, but (sophomore David Johnson) worked hard all week and did that,” he said. “We started off in such a hole. … We came in at half time, and we just said that we needed a spark (from Jones-Scott and Hayden). We needed to give it a shot.”

As for Hayden, the East head coach said the switch from Foust to the Wyoming transfer was made to both alter the look of the offense after the flat first half and to utilize Hayden’s talent running the football.

Hayden finished with 87 yards rushing, including a 14-yard score, plus 50 yards through the air on 7-of-11 passing.

Moving forward, McCullough stopped short of confirming a change under center, asserting that the position is still in flux.

“We had a good drive going there out of the halftime, and we had two penalties, again,” he said. “Two penalties that negate an opportunity to score. We’ve got to cut that out, but I saw a lot of positives in that second half. We looked like a different football team in the second half. … He adds some wheels to the quarterback position and makes some plays with his feet, and that’s important in our offense.”

Jones-Scott tallied 49 yards on eight carries.

In all, Lake Highlands outgained the Panthers, 223-196, and had 13 first downs to the Panthers’ 11. Nearly 200 of the Wildcats’ yards came on the ground, with Coulson leading the charge. Coulson finished the night with 81 yards on 18 carries and his score, and Tyson Washington rumbled for 66 yards and the Wildcats’ other touchdown.

The winless Panthers will now draw a 1-1 Sachse team in Week No. 3, and the Mustangs will also be coming off of a loss – Sachse dropped Friday’s opener at the Cotton Bowl to Euless Trinity, 21-19.

Kickoff between the Mustangs and Panthers is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Kimbrough Stadium.

For continued coverage of the local sports scene, follow @TaylorRaglin on Twitter.

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