With a week of practice in the books for many of the area’s Class 5A and 6A high school football teams, the next hurdle to clear requires lining up against an actual opponent. Most teams will get that chance this week when participating in a scrimmage.
It’ll give teams a chance to further evaluate their players in the closest thing resembling a game-time setting since the end of last season, and all three high schools in Plano ISD, plus Allen, will participate in a scrimmage on Thursday.
Hebron, 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Hawk Stadium
Less than a week after an intrasquad scrimmage held on Saturday, the Eagles will line up against a different opponent for the first time under new head coach Chad Morris.
Allen will be under its usual microscope following the program’s biggest coaching overhaul in two decades, with fans getting a chance to see any strides the Eagles have made under their new regime — be it cursory schematic differences or how some of the program’s newer faces, like defensive end DJ Hicks or wide receiver Jordyn Tyson, look as they approach their first season at Allen.
The Eagles will scrimmage what figures to be an improved Hebron team after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014 last season. The Hawks’ 2020 campaign was riddled by COVID-19, but there’s still plenty of talent in store. Hebron’s skill players shined plenty in the summer during a 7-on-7 state championship run, and Allen gets an early test in an exhibition setting against the dynamic receiving corps of Takoda Bridges and Cobye Baldwin.
Highland Park, 7 p.m. Thursday at Highlander Stadium
For two programs without much of a head-to-head history on the gridiron, East and Highland Park have scrimmaged each other regularly in recent years.
The Scots remain entrenched among the elite in Class 5A Division I, entering the season ranked No. 4 in their classification. Highland Park posted an 11-1 record last year on its way to the regional finals but will be breaking in a litany of first-time starters this season after graduating a sizable senior class.
The Scots have developed quite the assembly line of talent at quarterback over the years, and all eyes will be on junior Brennan Storer as the projected starter under center. Storer attempted just four passes last season in mop-up duty but has already received scholarship offers from multiple Division I college programs, including Kansas and Texas State.
But no matter how much turnover, the Scots tend to reload as seamlessly as any program in the state.
An otherwise young Highland Park team should make for a worthy test for an East team that’s already tuning up for a challenging season opener against state-ranked Allen and is anxious for some forward momentum after amassing just one win over the past two seasons. Head coach Joey McCullough put an emphasis on improving his team’s defense during the offseason, bringing in Charlie Camp as the program’s new defensive coordinator, and the Panthers get to put their work into practice against a Highland Park offense that has averaged at least 40 points per game each of the past four seasons.
Garland, 7 p.m. Thursday at Williams Stadium
This scrimmage features two programs that had been on a bit of a downswing in recent years but managed to scratch out playoff berths in 2020 thanks to a pair of turnaround seasons.
The Wolves are hoping to fortify their standing as a playoff contender in what figures to be a hyper-competitive 6-6A and they’ll scrimmage a Garland team that has received some early buzz as a district title favorite in 9-6A. The Owls have plenty of continuity working in their favor with nine starters back on each side of the ball, including several three-year starters.
There’s no shortage of chemistry between Garland’s trio of quarterback Cergio Perez, running back Jayshon Powers and receiver Jordan Hudson. Those three will offer some quality evaluation for a West defense zapped by graduation and projected to return just three starters from last season.
The Wolves have the opportunity to develop that kind of continuity within their own backfield, as juniors Vance Feuerbacher and Dermot White both logged numerous starts at quarterback and running back, respectively, over the course of last season. Last season’s 6-6A offensive newcomer of the year, Feuerbacher logged four times as many rushes (61) as pass attempts (15) last season and will get to showcase his progress against a Garland defense that returns up to eight all-district performers.
Rockwall-Heath, 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium
The Wildcats are hoping a full offseason leads to an improved year in Todd Ford’s second campaign in Plano, and they’re not bashful about challenging themselves in exhibition play.
Heath staked its claim as one of the better programs in the area last season after a 10-win season and an appearance in the regional finals. Several of the key pieces from that run are back, including quarterback Josh Hoover, an Indiana commit, and receiver Jordan Nabors, who’s pledged to Baylor.
Those two should rank on the high end of skill players the Plano defense will face all season — the Wildcats have just four starters back on defense but that includes a pair of veteran cornerbacks in Jermaine Jamabo and Humphrey Amaechi.
On offense, junior Kameron Jones has big shoes to fill amid the Wildcats’ torrid run of productivity at the running back over the past decade-plus and he’ll be one of two new faces in the Plano backfield this season. Junior Austin Gonzalez is expected to rise one spot up the depth chart and take over as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback.
There should be some entertaining matchups out wide as well between the Plano receiving corps and Heath secondary, both of which are their team’s most experienced units on that particular side of the ball.