PROSPER — The McKinney football team is headed to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in nearly three decades and courtesy of one of the most commanding postseason victories in program history.
The timing was ideal for the Lions, who entered Friday looking to build off just their second playoff win since that aforementioned postseason run in 1993. They did that and then some, submitting a near-flawless first half that paced a 42-7 throttling of Jesuit from Children's Health Stadium.
"It was one of the best football games that we've played all year," said Marcus Shavers, McKinney head coach. "... Our coaches did an amazing job preparing everyone tonight. Coach (Rowdy) Harper and our offensive staff, coach (Corey) Jordan and our defensive staff, those guys do a phenomenal job week in and week out to give our guys the best chance to win."
It was an authoritative march through the area round of the Class 6A Division II playoff bracket, complete with a 35-0 shutout by halftime during which McKinney outgained Jesuit 245-97. The Lions did so on an explosive clip of 8.8 yards per play, peppering the Rangers' defense with an array of runs to open up the vertical game for senior quarterback Keldric Luster.
Junior Bryan Jackson opened the proceedings with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Luster followed with the next four touchdowns to round out the half. The SMU commit passed for three and ran for one, showcasing a potent connection with senior Dylan Rhodes on touchdown strikes of 41 and 26 yards — the lattermost coming with 47 seconds remaining in the half to cement the 35-0 advantage. Luster also found junior Khali Best deep for a 47-yard touchdown strike just 32 seconds into the second quarter.
Luster completed 11-of-13 passes for 211 yards and five total touchdowns in the win. Jackson logged 80 yards and a score on the ground, while Rhodes paced the receiving corps with 77 yards and two touchdowns on three catches.
"We feel like Dylan is a Division I receiver and he had to go prove it," Shavers said. "It's important for us to perform and he really did that tonight. I'm so proud of his effort."
McKinney simply couldn't miss. Even as Jesuit bowed up on its second defensive series and forced a three-and-out, the ensuing punt was muffed by the Rangers and recovered by Lions junior Kam Oliver at the Jesuit 6-yard line. Two plays later, Luster ran in a 5-yard score for a 14-0 lead.
The miscues mounted for the Rangers, who tried to replicate the run-centric approach that fueled last week's 41-14 blowout of Arlington in the bi-district round. Jesuit had success with a myriad of option runs from quarterback Charlie Schmidt, who logged 153 rushing yards, 163 passing yards and five touchdowns in that game, but McKinney's defense was up to the task.
Schmidt managed only 15 rushing yards in the first half and was sacked multiple times by junior D'Kedrion Abrams and senior Eden Parga-Manasse. The Rangers advanced no further than the McKinney 29-yard line in the first half and turned the ball over on downs on five consecutive series for the night.
"I think it starts up front with our defensive line play," Shavers said. "Coach (Nathan) Collins and coach (Adam) Hull do a good job getting those linemen ready to play and we were able to stabilize the line of scrimmage. Once we were able to do that, our linebackers were able to flow and make tackles. Everything came together."
Overall, the Lions surrendered 246 yards in the win, with Jesuit finding the end zone in mop-up duty with 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard pass from Schmidt to Jake Musso. The 35-point margin of victory matched the largest for the Lions since 1986 against Wilmer-Hutchins (48-13) during a year where the Lions advanced to the 4A state title game.
"It's very encouraging. We're still practicing. I told our guys last week that as long as we still have practices, we still have opportunities to improve," Shavers said. "They've been showing up everyday and we've gotten a lot better these last couple weeks. I expect us to get better this week and we'll have to. We'll have to play another complete football game to have a chance to win."
That opportunity comes at a time and place to be determined, with McKinney drawing No. 4-ranked Southlake Carroll in the regional semifinals. The Dragons improved to 12-0 on Friday following a 69-14 win over Frenship.