With just one game in the District 9-6A standings separating four teams, Friday’s meeting between Plano Senior and Jesuit, set for 7 p.m. at Postell Stadium, should help declutter that logjam a bit.
The Wildcats and Rangers are among three teams tied for second place at 3-1 in league play, amassing those records behind a pair of three-game winning streaks. Plano’s remains intact, fresh off a 42-20 blowout of rival Plano East to inch closer to a postseason berth — the fourth time this season the Wildcats have eclipsed 40 points scored in a ballgame. For comparison’s sake, Plano did that just three times all of last season.
With the ability to stretch the field in a way few Wildcat teams have over the past decade, Plano reminded onlookers that its run game remains potent after junior Tylan Hines amassed a career-high 261 rushing yards against the Panthers — a performance he credited to his offensive line in the latest showcase of a dynamic Wildcat attack.
“To be confident, you have to focus on what you do and, right now, there are some things we’re doing really well,” said Jaydon McCullough, Plano head coach. “We’ll keep trying to take care of the things we’re not doing well and learn from those mistakes, but I think these kids know what they want. We have kids who have courage and aren’t afraid of taking risks.
“Are we where we need to be or executing at the highest level that we’re capable of? No, but the thing I like about this team is that it feels like we’re getting better every week.”
On Friday, the Wildcats will stare down another versatile, dangerous offense. Jesuit had its own three-game winning streak derailed by Allen last week, 58-33, in a game the Rangers got down big early on after failing to keep pace with the Eagle skill-position players. Trailing 28-3 in the first half, the gaudy deficit zapped any effectiveness of a Jesuit ground game that had fueled a 41-14 rout of then-unbeaten Prosper the week prior.
In that win, Jesuit leaned on the tried-and-true pairing of E.J. Smith and Jake Taylor to the tune of 43 combined carries for 249 yards and mixed in an efficient night behind center for quarterback Rance Holman and the Rangers’ balanced receiving corps.
Smith and Taylor double as weapons in the passing game — despite the lopsided defeat to Allen, Smith still flashed success when lining up at receiver, catching eight balls for 99 yards and two touchdowns — and the Rangers’ defense, which Plano hemorrhaged for 42 points last season, surrendered only 12.0 points per game during its winning streak.
Defensive back Jack Barton and linebacker Tommy Roy anchor that side of the ball with 67 and 46 tackles, respectively, as the Rangers look to make amends from last year’s tough outing against Plano, which produced a 248-rushing-yard night for Hines.
Matt’s Pick: Jesuit by 8
McKinney at Plano East
Friday, 7 p.m. at Kimbrough Stadium
Taylor Raglin: Friday's matchup pitting host Plano East against McKinney will be the last gasp of postseason relevance for the loser, as each team sits at 1-3 with just three conference games left on the 2019 schedule.
The Panthers, still suffering from a bevy of injuries, will likely see the status of many of their defensive stars remain up in the air. Though head coach Joey McCullough said senior K'Von Hamilton has been ramping up for a possible return this week, senior corner Elliott Reed, who suffered a concussion last week after finally returning from a separate injury, and senior defensive linemen Travontae Johnson and Noel Oliva are also banged up.
"We're having trouble getting consistency on the defensive side of the ball, especially last week," McCullough said. "We probably had our worst game defensively last week, and right now we're just looking for every positive that we can find."
The quarterback position, McCullough said, will also be a rotation again this week, as junior Dylan Hayden continues to work through a shoulder injury. Senior Ryan Foust and junior Harrison Record could each see time, and both Record and Hayden lined up in the slot a week ago.
The injuries will likely point to another week where the Panthers' fate will rise and fall with senior Trey Jones-Scott, though a performance that saw the running back collect 198 all-purpose yards a week ago wasn't enough to overcome an efficient and explosive offensive night from rival Plano Senior.
East, McCullough said, also won't be afraid to throw some haymakers.
"We have nothing to lose," he said. "We're throwing everything we've got into it trying to go get a win. It may be fake punts. It may be onside kicks. ... We're kind of dangerous. It's kind of like last year when we (played Jesuit). Jesuit had nothing to lose going into that last game not having a chance at the playoffs, and they were trying everything they could to win, and that's what we're trying to do."
McKinney, meanwhile, will enter Friday's contest off of a win over Plano West last week, though the Lions' offense regressed from a 49-point effort in a loss to Plano the week before.
Still, the Lion attack is multiple when effective behind signal-caller Sampson Nazarko, particularly in the backfield. OJ Reed rushed for 160 yards and three scores against the Wildcats, but Lamarrya Ransem led the way a week ago with 79 yards and has had multiple 150-plus-yard efforts of his own this fall.
Regardless of Friday's result, McCullough said the focus for his young Panther program is not on anything apart from competing.
"To me, it's got to be the culture of our locker room and the culture of our team that we're going to be guys that play hard and fight for four quarters," he said. "That's what it's going to take to be a part of this team."
Taylor's Pick: McKinney by 17
Prosper at Plano West
Friday, 7 p.m. at Clark Stadium
Taylor Raglin: Time is running out for the Wolves to break the ever-lengthening streak of losses, which ballooned to 33 games against McKinney last week.
It isn't for a lack of continued competitive efforts, though similar demons haunted the Wolves against the Lions. The team failed to convert a McKinney turnover following a game-tying West touchdown drive into a go-ahead score, then proceeded to allow back-to-back touchdowns in the second quarter to fall behind, 21-7, a deficit the Wolves would never recover from.
The skid will likely extend to at least 34, as the going gets even tougher with high-flying Prosper coming to town following a 29-3 thumping of McKinney Boyd. Though the final count was lopsided, the Eagles needed the second half to pull away from the Broncos, and they'll likely be out to right the ship and return to their pre-Jesuit-loss form against the winless Wolves.
Senior Andrew Picco and company will need an uncharacteristically explosive offensive performance to hang with the Eagles, as West hasn't eclipsed 22 points this season. The Eagles, by contrast, have scored 40 or more four times in 2019 and have held opponents to a touchdown or less four times, as well.
With Allen looming in the last week of the season, that will likely leave rival Plano East next week as the last chance for West to earn that elusive marker in the win column.
Taylor's Pick: Prosper by 28