After posting the program’s first shutout in more than a decade last week against Wylie, Plano West’s defense picked up where it left off Friday against visiting North Mesquite.
The Wolves held the Stallions off the scoreboard for three quarters before surrendering their first points of the season — having already built a double-digit lead before eventually holding on for a 28-14 victory and the team’s first 2-0 start since 2014.
“I felt like we’d have a chance to be good on defense because we have some depth,” said Tyler Soukup, West head coach. “We’re playing more than 11 kids right now and I think that’s become the strength of our football team — our defensive depth, particularly up front. The kids aren’t having to play 70-80 snaps but 50-60 instead and they’ve been able to sustain that effort and energy.”
West’s second-year head coach was plenty optimistic about his defense’s potential this season, thanks to seven returning starters. A 28-0 season-opening shutout of Wylie offered Soukup a sense of validation for the progress his program made during the offseason.
On Friday, it was more of the same. The Wolves held the Stallions off the scoreboard for the first half, building a 14-0 lead behind a 55-yard touchdown run by sophomore Vance Feuerbacher and a 22-yard strike from senior quarterback Greg Draughn to senior Chris Claybon.
North had a tougher time moving the ball and thanks in large part to an aggressive West defense that staked the Stallions to a number of long-yardage situations. In the first half alone, the Wolves totaled nine tackles for loss — something Soukup credited to the play of his defensive line, led up front by senior Cade Hathaway, senior Cole Fredrick, junior Josiah Shelley and senior James Laprocido.
“Our defensive line was terrific and disruptive early on in that ballgame — no doubt about it,” Soukup said.
That negative yardage added up, with quarterback Liam Thornton and top rusher Kobie Norman respectively held to minus-38 and minus-10 yards in the West win. Overall, the Stallions were held to minus-41 rushing yards as part of a 203-yard night overall.
West, meanwhile, tallied 292 yards with 263 coming on the ground. Senior Tabren Yates was at the forefront, rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. He polished off the double-digit win with a 46-yard touchdown run in the waning moments of the fourth quarter to offset a late North score for the 28-14 final.
Draughn added 25 rushing yards and a score but was held to just 29 yards through the air on 2-of-7 passing.
“Tabren is everything we had hoped he would be. He’s a big, strong, tough kid and came up big for us,” Soukup said.
West seeks a 3-0 start at 7 p.m. Friday when it visits Little Elm.
Lake Highlands pulls away from Panthers
After hanging tight for one half, Plano East fell victim to 21 unanswered points by Lake Highlands on its way to a 42-21 loss on Friday at Wildcat-Ram Stadium.
The Panthers drew even with the Wildcats with 8:53 left in the third quarter following a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Austin Weeks to knot the count at 21-21.
East didn’t find the end zone the rest of the night, giving way to a commanding surge by Lake Highlands’ dynamic backfield of quarterback Mitch Coulson and running back Noelle Whitehead. The two players had a hand in all six Lake Highlands touchdowns on Friday and totaled 274 rushing yards and five scores on the ground. That, coupled with 155 passing yards from Coulson on more than 70% completions, sunk the Panthers to an 0-2 start for the second straight season.
Senior quarterback Dylan Hayden had a 100-plus-yard rushing night of his own, finishing with 104 and a pair of touchdowns on the ground along with 96 yards through the air. He had touchdown runs of 3 and 15 yards in the first half to help East keep pace with Lake Highlands early on.
No other Panther eclipsed 40 yards rushing, although sophomore Rushil Patel hauled in four passes for 38 yards.
East seeks its first win next week in its home opener at Kimbrough Stadium, welcoming former district rival Jesuit at 7 p.m. Friday.