After sporting a collective 2-7 record through the first three weeks of the season, Plano ISD looks to get on track during the first week of District 9-6A action.
Both of those non-district victories came from Plano Senior, which carries that momentum into Friday’s 7 p.m. district opener at Clark Stadium against perennial juggernaut Allen. The Eagles, ranked No. 3 in Class 6A in the latest state AP poll, sport a 3-0 record and their usual laundry list of gaudy accolades — having not lost a regular-season ballgame since September 2012 and a district contest since October 2010.
The former of those two streaks was in jeopardy last week, however, managing only a 28-21 victory over Coppell. Allen eked out the win with a late touchdown run by top rusher Celdon Manning to overcome an outing where the Eagles were without quarterback Raylen Sharpe, held out of the contest due to an ankle injury.
Although Allen head coach Terry Gambill has listed Sharpe as day-to-day heading into Friday’s ballgame against Plano — adding that the dual-threat passer is practicing with the Eagles this week — the Wildcats are preparing as if they’ll see Allen’s dynamic signal-caller behind center on Friday.
Having passed for 520 yards and run for 116 in two games played, Sharpe’s presence would be a significant boost to an Allen passing game that was picked off three times in the win over Coppell. Turnovers, in general, have plagued the Eagles early into the season — having already matched their 2018 season total with nine through just three games.
Allen has also shown to be vulnerable through the air, surrendering at least 100 yards to an opposing receiver in each game played. Although the Wildcats managed to stretch the field with seniors Jayden Chambers, Christian Sabatini and Nolan Williams in wins over El Paso Eastwood and Rowlett — all three pass-catchers are averaging more 15.0 yards per catch — buying enough time to develop any sort of downfield passing game will mean fending off a talented, deep Allen defensive line led by seniors Elijah Fisher, Cole Latos and Lane Lewis.
“They’re big, fast and strong up front and there’s eight of them that they rotate in there,” said Jaydon McCullough, Plano head coach. “Those big linemen are really good at keeping guys from getting to the next level as well.”
It’ll make for the stiffest test to date for the Wildcats’ young offensive line — an area where McCullough, like other parts in the Plano arsenal, has seen game-to-game growth leading up to Friday’s contest. Whether it’ll be enough to slow an Allen program that hasn’t lost to a Plano ISD school since 2005 remains to be seen.
“I feel like we’ve gotten better each week and that’s been our mantra this week. Allen’s Allen, and we can say whatever, but the bottom line is we can’t be concerned with Allen,” McCullough said. “We know they’re a great team that’s well-coached and they’ve got it going on. We just have to be worried about the Plano Wildcats and finding a way to play better than we did last week.”
Matt’s Pick: Allen by 31
McKinney Boyd at Plano East
Friday, 7 p.m. at Kimbrough Stadium
Taylor Raglin: Sitting at 0-3 heading into 9-6A play, Plano East found some inspiration in the form of the Panthers' Week Three opponent. Sachse, which began the 2018 season 0-3, rallied to make the postseason and defeat the high-flying Panthers of a season ago in the bi-district round.
Now, behind junior quarterback Dylan Hayden and prolific senior runner Trey Jones-Scott, who head coach Joey McCullough reaffirmed as the cog that drives the entire East machine, the young Panthers are looking for a similar turnaround.
That quest will begin with McKinney Boyd, which has dropped consecutive games against Flower Mound Marcus and Lewisville since beating up on a down Naaman Forest program to open the season. The Broncos seem to be predicated on the big play, offensively, and that was taken to the extreme in the team's 41-16 loss to the Farmers last week. The Broncos' two touchdowns came on a pair of passes of more than 50 yards, and McCullough expects to see a similar commitment to airing it out to senior Kareem Coleman and company this week.
To slow that passing game, McCullough will turn to both a defensive front that he said needs to control the line of scrimmage and get after Boyd sophomore signal-caller Carter Whitefield and to a secondary that engineered two interceptions in the setback against the Mustangs. McCullough and the Panthers have a heavy rotation in that secondary, though they may be without the services of senior corner Elliott Reed, who is working back from getting banged up against Sachse.
In short, the Panthers will look to make the Broncos one-dimensional on the attack and take away the explosive play, forcing the program to lean on sending senior runner JaTyler Shaw into the strength of the East defense up front.
Offensively, McCullough said Jones-Scott was clearly East's best player in Week Three, adding that video review helped illuminate the senior's role in blocking and helping Hayden rush for more than 140 yards. That two-headed threat on the ground will be critical in the face of a talented Boyd secondary, which includes a returned Plae Wyatt, though McCullough also said the Panthers will look to get Hayden in a better rhythm throwing the football early with quick hits, simplified reads and play action.
Overall, the competitiveness of the matchup will likely boil down to the Panthers' ability to get out of their own way, as special teams errors buried them against the Mustangs nearly as soon as the contest began. If East can put together four quarters of football that mirror its recent second-half efforts, this one could be a much better game than many anticipate.
Taylor's Pick: Boyd by 7
Plano West at Jesuit
Friday, 7 p.m. at Postell Stadium
Taylor Raglin: The Wolves will get a Jesuit program that appears to be trending upward, as the Rangers have reacquired the services of senior running back EJ Smith following an injury and picked up their first win a week ago, handling Wylie to the tune of a 21-point victory that was made to look closer by a garbage-time score.
Smith had just seven carries against the Pirates, but picked up 52 yards to average more than seven per carry, and he figures to draw a heavier workload this week as 9-6A play begins.
West's Week-Three performance was marked by yet another "what might have been," as the Wolves narrowed their contest with Mesquite to a one-score game late in the first half, only to have a kickoff return touchdown with mere seconds left in the second quarter help Mesquite pull away in what would be an eventual 27-point win.
The West aerial attack took a step backward in the loss, as senior Andrew Picco threw for just 27 yards and one score on 6-of-16 passing. Still, with touchdowns from Kamryn Settles and Picco on the turf and more time-of-possession promise on the attack, West could look to engineer a slower, run-based, ball-control game against the Rangers to keep the contest close. Jesuit allowed 171 yards on the ground against Wylie, including 93 to Tre Sheffield.
Still, Smith's presence, which was added to a Jesuit team that proved it could compete even in his absence, will make it an uphill battle for the Wolves.
Taylor's Pick: Jesuit by 17