Plano West didn’t wait long to find its way into the win column in year No. 2 under head coach Tyler Soukup — shutting out Wylie 28-0 on Friday to improve to 1-0 and post a winning record at any point in the season since August 2015.
For Soukup and Co., it was a feeling of validation on the heels of an atypical offseason as he and his ball club look to build off last year’s 1-9 campaign.
“It was very encouraging. Every coach wants to give their kids gratification that, with what they’ve been doing and how they’ve been preparing, they’ll get to see the fruits of their labor,” Soukup said. “To go out and play well is one thing and to do so defensively is just icing on the cake. I think the kids are excited about what could be and seeing what they’re capable when they play hard and play with good discipline.”
In what doubled as the program’s first shutout win since 2008, the Wolves held Wylie under 160 yards of offense and forced a pair of turnovers on downs on the Pirates’ two trips into the red zone. Senior Jacob Stephens found the end zone late with a fourth-quarter fumble return for a touchdown.
“We’ve made a commitment to putting 11 kids on the field that can run on defense and pursue the ball. It’s been a point of contention since we got here,” Soukup said. “When you pause the video and you see 11 jerseys that are your colors around the football, it’s a really good feeling and we saw a lot of that Friday night.”
Soukup also lauded the play of senior quarterback Greg Draughn, who made his first start after winning a deep quarterback battle, as well as the play of an offensive line that has been in flux in recent weeks following a leg injury to senior Carter Young. Soukup said West slid junior Hassan Rubio to center and senior Hunter Slocum to tackle.
He expects that unit to continue to grow with more continuity and they’ll have a big test on Friday when they try and slow North Mesquite nose tackle Davion Carter. He’s one of the top defensive tackles in the state and top of mind for the Wolves as they welcome the Stallions to Clark Stadium for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff.
North is coming off a 20-6 victory over Fort Worth Trimble Tech in its opener, spurred by a strong defensive showing to complement big games on offense from running back Kobie Norman, who ran for 108 yards on more than 7 yards per carry, and receiver Jonathan Armstrong, who made his share of big plays with five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
“They’ve got some skill players who look really dangerous and they look like they’ll try and spread us out a bit. We’ll have to tackle really well and rally to the ball,” Soukup said.
Plano-Rowlett cancelled, East preps for Lake Highlands
A dramatic, second-half comeback by Plano was ultimately outdone by McKinney’s special teams during Friday’s 36-35 thriller between the former district rivals. The Wildcats will have to wait until next week, however, for a chance to bounce back.
On Tuesday, Garland ISD issued a press release stating that due to a positive COVID-19 test at Rowlett, the Eagles have cancelled all football games through Oct. 9, including Thursday’s meeting at Homer B. Johnson Stadium against Plano.
“(Rowlett head coach) Doug Stephens and I are very, very good friends. We’ve worked together a long time and been through a lot of good battles together. He felt horrible, but it’s out of our control,” said Todd Ford, Plano head coach. “The kids are only under our control for a few hours a day and we’re not in a bubble. They’ve had a small outbreak over there and it just happened. All you can do is control what you can control and the safety of the kids comes first and foremost.”
That afternoon, Plano principal Sarah Watkins said in an email to Wildcat families that Thursday’s ballgame will not be rescheduled and that they “look forward to supporting our Wildcats next week against Lake Highlands.”
“Yesterday really put us in a bind because it’s really in the middle of our week,” Ford said. “We’re not actively pursuing a game for this week. It’s just too quick of a turnaround for us in Year One of a program and all the logistic and moving parts would make it very, very difficult.”
That same Lake Highlands team will line up across from Plano East on Friday at Wildcat-Ram Stadium. The Panthers enter the contest looking to shake off a 49-26 setback against state-ranked Allen — a game where East led late in the first quarter, 3-0, before giving way to 21 unanswered points by the Eagles.
Despite the defeat, East senior Dylan Hayden compiled more than 300 yards of offense and scored a pair of touchdowns, while junior Ismail Mahdi turned in a strong debut with the team after rushing for 74 yards and catching 10 balls for 123 yards.
The Panthers will be tasked with slowing another dynamic offense on Friday with Lake Highlands surging after a 49-20 blowout of Mesquite Poteet. The Wildcats tallied 427 yards in victory, including 248 on the ground, and turned in big nights from quarterback Mitch Coulson (113 passing yards, 91 rushing yards, 62 receiving yards, five total touchdowns) and running back Noelle Whitehead (115 rushing yards, 48 receiving yards, one touchdown).
Lake Highlands is a bit young on defense, however, returning only one starter (linebacker Jeremiah Richards) from last season’s area playoff team — a group that won the program’s first postseason game since 2009.