In 2019, Tyler Soukup inherited a Plano West team mired in the longest losing streak in Plano ISD football history. In just his second season at the helm, he has a chance to lead the Wolves back to the playoffs.
West can put a bow on its improbable turnaround campaign at 3 p.m. Friday at Clark Stadium when it takes on Hebron. The meeting between postseason contenders pits the Wolves, 3-2 and fresh off a 20-10 victory over Flower Mound, against a Hebron team that’s 2-1 and playing its first game since Nov. 6.
The Hawks were last seen coming up short against Plano, 42-38, before deciding to shut down their program for two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Games against Coppell and Marcus were ruled “no contests,” denying the Hawks a chance at elevating their standing in a district where the total number of conference wins will determine the four playoff teams.
Currently, Marcus leads the pack with four wins, with West and Lewisville right behind at three. Hebron is tied with Coppell at two victories.
The Wolves upped their postseason odds behind a comeback win last week against Flower Mound, scoring 20 unanswered points after falling into a 10-0 hole. West did so behind a productive return to action for senior running back Tabren Yates, who has battled a quad injury throughout district play.
Yates turned in his most productive effort in 6-6A action against a stout Jaguar defensive front, rushing for 178 yards and three touchdowns to propel the Wolves to their first winning season since 2014.
With Flower Mound fresh off a 600-plus-yard effort in its last showing against East, West limited the Jaguars to just three points in the second half and clamped down on any big plays — surrendering just 258 total yards on 5.4 yards per play.
Hebron’s offense has been methodical at times earlier in the season but had just begun to hit its stride before the program’s recent hiatus. Even in defeat, the Hawks scored a season-high 38 points on 462 yards against Plano.
Quarterback Weston Conaway, who missed all of the team’s preseason, completed more than 70% of his passes and tallied 356 yards and four touchdowns. Takoda Bridges and Mason Williamson, who primarily plays in the secondary, both eclipsed 100 receiving yards as part of a deep receiving corps, and running back Brandon Love logged 110 yards on the ground.
The Hawks’ defense struggled to slow Plano’s run game, surrendering 100-plus-yard nights to both senior quarterback Oliver Towns and senior running back Tylan Hines — a departure from the team’s work earlier in the season.
After being hit for 56 points in its opener against state-ranked Denton Guyer, Hebron surrendered 47 total points over its next three games — all wins.
Plano at Flower Mound
Friday, 2 p.m. at Neal Wilson Stadium
Much like Hebron, Friday marks the Plano’s first taste of action since Nov. 6 — the Wildcats’ first win under head coach Todd Ford.
Important as that victory was in Ford’s inaugural year with the program, Plano’s playoff chances took the biggest hit of any team involved in the district’s recent COVID episode. The combination of missing out on two games, coupled with only having one district win, has the Wildcats in must-win territory on Friday against a Flower Mound team anxious for a bounce-back performance after letting a winnable game against West slip away in the second half.
The Jaguars are just 1-4 in district play, hanging 63 points on Plano East but averaging just 16.7 points in their other seven ballgames. Flower Mound has a Division I prospect at quarterback in Nick Evers, who operates a quick, up-tempo attack with a deep receiving core led by Parker Clark.
Flower Mound’s defense, despite holding West to just 20 points last week, had a tough time slowing Yates and allowed more than 6 yards per carry to the Wolves’ bruising back. Expect Plano to employ a similar approach behind the combo of Towns and Hines, who combined for 281 rushing yards and four touchdowns against Hebron.
A loss on Friday, coupled with a win by either Hebron or Coppell, would eliminate the Wildcats from playoff contention.
Coppell at Plano East
Friday, 7 p.m. at Kimbrough Stadium
The Panthers are coming off an impromptu bye week, a consequence of Plano’s COVID episode, and are staring down a challenging close to the season.
Although the playoffs are out of reach, East has a chance at rocking the district’s postseason picture with games against Coppell and Marcus remaining. Up first is a Cowboys team looking to make amends after failing to keep pace with Lewisville last week in a 39-14 loss.
The setback was Coppell’s second in a row, having already found the win column against the other two Plano ISD schools. The Panthers have seen their share of explosive offenses, allowing 47 points per game in district play, and head coach Joey McCullough was hopeful the week off would give his defense a chance to heal up.
East will have its work cut out Friday against a dynamic Coppell offense that included one of the top pass-catching units in the area, led by KJ Liggins and Anthony Black. Liggins is sixth in the area in receiving yardage with 737 and 11 touchdowns.
The Panthers made a move toward their future in a 63-21 loss to Flower Mound, turning to sophomore quarterback Harris Boyd in his first-ever varsity start. Boyd threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns in the setback, while senior Dylan Hayden totaled 110 yards on eight snaps behind center.