Although the machinations of the two programs change year to year, there’s no escaping the reality that, until proven otherwise, the McKinney football team has Plano Senior’s number.
The Wildcats renew their rivalry with the Lions at 7 p.m. Thursday from McKinney ISD Stadium — Plano’s first-ever trip to McKinney’s $70 million domicile — in hopes of snapping a three-game losing streak to McKinney’s elder statesman — the Wildcats’ longest active district slump against anyone not named Allen.
Where Plano has prepared for McKinney teams largely reliant on a workhorse-driven run game, the Lions offer a much more balanced repertoire this season under second-year head coach Marcus Shavers. Behind a cast of upstart skill-position players — names like quarterback Sampson Nazarko, running back Lamarrya Ransem and receiver Isaiah Rojas, all of whom lead the district in yardage gained at their respective positions — McKinney’s offense offers an explosive element the Wildcats haven’t seen in some time during this rivalry.
“I still think they’re a very physical team. They’re throwing the ball well and they’ve definitely got some talented guys. It’s a very good football team,” said Jaydon McCullough, Plano head coach. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we feel like we’ve got a good game plan and we’re ready to roll.”
Averaging 436.8 yards and 36.4 points per game, McKinney will collide with a Plano attack that shares a similar uptick in big-play execution this season thanks to a rejuvenated passing game behind junior Oliver Towns and senior receivers Jayden Chambers and Nolan Williams.
While McKinney figures to offer one of the more dynamic tests of the year for the Wildcats’ defense, McCullough anticipates that side of the ball being much healthier on Thursday with the bye week giving senior defensive backs Isaiah Calhoun, Jaylan Bunch and Damion Phillips a chance to heal up.
Their returns are timely, with Thursday marking the first of a pivotal four-game stretch that figures to ultimately determine the Wildcats’ playoff fate.
Matt’s Pick: McKinney by 8
Allen at Plano East
Friday, 7 p.m. at Kimbrough Stadium
Entering the bye week off a 42-0 shutout loss to Prosper, things don’t get any easier for the Panthers this Friday in Murphy.
East looks to right the ship against an undefeated Allen team that spent its bye week ironing out some its own kinks — from continued struggles limiting big plays in the secondary to protecting the football after winding up on the positive end of the turnover battle just once.
Those issues, coupled with East’s penchant for playing the Eagles tough in Kimbrough Stadium, has Allen head coach Terry Gambill stressing the importance of Friday’s matchup.
“Plano East is a very dangerous football team. They have an excellent quarterback and their running back is as good as I’ve seen,” Gambill said. “Defensively, they do a really good job of creating confusion out of the 3-4. I don’t think you can go off of their record of who they are.”
Both teams were afforded the bye week to heal up some nagging injuries to certain key players, although the Panthers could still be without senior defensive anchor K’Von Hamilton on Friday — forcing a trickle-down effect of personnel for head coach Joey McCullough in his staff to keep his defensive line afloat.
They’ll be tasked with slowing a dynamic Allen offense spearheaded by senior quarterback Raylen Sharpe behind center and a high-efficiency run game between senior Celdon Manning and junior Jordan Johnson that’s averaging more than 8.0 yards per carry this season.
The Panthers will try and keep pace with their own brutish backfield tandem, with both junior quarterback Dylan Hayden (72 carries, 308 rushing yards, five touchdowns) and senior running back Trey Jones-Scott (74 carries, 306 yards, two touchdowns) in lockstep in their production on the ground.
With East logging just two passing touchdowns on the season, testing Allen’s secondary vertically could prove easier said than done — likely meaning the lower the Panthers can keep the score and tempo in this one, the better.
Matt’s Pick: Allen by 35
McKinney Boyd at Plano West
Friday, 7 p.m. at Clark Stadium
Although ultimately falling short in a 26-21 loss to Plano Senior, the latest notch on the Wolves’ now-31-game losing streak provided the type of performance that showed tangible progress being made by first-year head coach Tyler Soukup’s bunch.
Plagued by a myriad of turnovers, penalties and other late-game maladies, West looks to parlay its near-miss into a more consistent effort Friday against a Boyd squad looking to snap its own drought. After kicking off the Joe McBride era in resounding fashion with a 45-7 win over Naaman Forest, the Broncos have lost four consecutive games.
Boyd isn’t lacking in talent on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the secondary where Jake Fex, Plae Wyatt and Jaylen Shaw reside, but it’s on offense where the Broncos have battled some inconsistencies of their own.
Behind quarterback Carter Whitefield and top receiver Kareem Coleman, Boyd has a penchant for stretching the field — practically every scoring drive by its offense has featured a play of at least 40 yards gained — but it’s the task of sustaining drives that has given the Broncos trouble this season. Boyd’s backfield could also be compromised on Friday with lead running back Ja’Tyler Shaw banged up in the team’s loss to Jesuit on Sept. 27.
The Wolves’ run game, meanwhile, produced its best effort of the season against Plano, totaling 284 yards and averaging 8.6 yards per carry behind the senior duo of quarterback Andrew Picco and running back Kamryn Settles.
Conjuring that same efficiency while limiting the turnovers and penalties that doomed the Wolves against Plano will be paramount, should West look to spring an upset.
Matt’s Pick: Boyd by 10