For the second straight week, the Plano West football team’s playoff hopes rest on a win Friday night.
The Wolves fell short under similar circumstances last week, unable to keep pace with Hebron in a 27-13 loss. The setback slotted West in a logjam for District 6-6A’s last three playoff spots, with five schools in total still alive to join conference champion Marcus in the postseason.
The Wolves are back in win-and-in mode at 7 p.m. Friday at Clark Stadium, needing a victory over rival Plano to secure a playoff spot.
“Anytime you lose there’s obviously a level of disappointment, especially when you know you control your own destiny,” said Tyler Soukup, West head coach. “We were able to move on because we’re still in the same place — if we win, we’re in — and it’s a big rivalry game, so there hasn’t been much motivation to get up for this week.”
As Friday’s game draws near, Soukup is plenty thankful for his program to simply be in position to control its own destiny relative to the postseason — particularly amid a trying year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and given the Wolves’ doldrums when Soukup took over in 2019. The former Hebron offensive coordinator inherited a team coming off consecutive 0-10 seasons and mired in its longest losing streak ever.
In just his second season at the helm, Soukup can lead West to its first postseason berth since 2014.
“There’s a delicate balance of being satisfied if things don’t go our way and being satisfied with where we are,” Soukup said. “We’re in a position to win one game and get into the playoffs and that needs to be the focus. We don’t want to reflect and say it was a mighty fine season when there’s a goal like this right in front of us.
“I don’t want the focus to be on exceeding expectations outside of our own building. I was to be on locking down this playoff spot.”
Getting there will require a steadier showing than the one against Hebron. Senior quarterback Greg Draughn helped West strike early with a 60-yard touchdown run, but the Hawks’ defense clamped down from there — surrendering only a second-quarter 6-yard touchdown run to senior Tabren Yates the rest of the way.
Held off the scoreboard over the final two quarters, Friday’s setback against Hebron was the third time in West’s four losses that the team has been held scoreless in the second half.
“It started with some drops on key downs. You don’t know what happens after that if you pick up the first down … and we were disappointed we weren’t able to finish a few drives out,” Soukup said. “Defensively, we struggled to execute some open-ended run defense and they had some success running in the second half. It was uncharacteristic of us to not clamp down there, but kudos to them for finding something and sticking to it.”
Just as West has plenty riding on the outcome of Friday’s ballgame, Plano is looking to close out the first year of the Todd Ford era on a winning note. The Wildcats struggled in their first game after a three-week hiatus due to COVID-19 circumstances, surrendering a season-high in points allowed in a 63-22 loss to Flower Mound — a setback that eliminated the team from playoff contention.
The Wildcats got three total touchdowns from senior running back Tylan Hines, who accounted for 156 yards in the loss. The Plano passing game totaled 349 yards, including 273 from senior quarterback Oliver Towns, while three receivers logged at least 80 yards.
“Both Towns and Hines are terrific players with a lot of varsity experience. They make it go offensively,” Soukup said. “We’ve got to tackle well. They’re going to throw wide and do a lot of [run-pass options] and quick game. We have to tackle well in space and if we can do that, I think it’ll go well for us.”
The Wolves are among four teams in the district who need a win Friday to clinch a playoff berth. Hebron and Lewisville square off at 7 p.m. from Hawk Stadium with the winner assured a postseason spot, and Coppell can book its return to the playoffs by defeating a resurgent Flower Mound bunch.
Even in defeat, there are pathways to postseason for West. A loss to Plano, coupled with wins by Hebron and Coppell, would send the Wolves to the playoffs by virtue of their head-to-head win over Lewisville.
There’s also a pathway to the postseason with a West loss, plus wins by Lewisville and Flower Mound, which would create a four-way tie for third place between the Wolves, Coppell, Flower Mound and Hebron. That tiebreaker would ultimately require weighing records against common district opponents and point differentials from those games — a plight West hopes to avoid by simply taking care of business on Friday.
“It gets so exhausting. I’ve got a tablet with chicken scratch all over trying to figure some of the tiebreakers out, but it gets so complicated with all the variables,” Soukup said.