The McKinney Lions survived a Friday the 13th scare Friday night at Ron Poe Stadium, holding off a strong Irving Nimitz squad 20-10.
MHS football coach Jeff Smith said he knew his squad was “in for a battle,” saying the Vikings brought great size and athleticism, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The game was ultimately decided in the trenches, with McKinney’s defensive line able to fix some positioning errors it had in the first half to play strong up the middle against the run, surrendering only 65 yards on the ground. As a result, the Lions improved to 2-1 on the young season.
Smith said the team discussed some errors and mistakes that were made in the first half, and noted his Lions responded well when challenged.
“That game could have gone a lot of different ways,” Smith said. However, MHS made the adjustments that sent Irving Nimitz to a 1-2 record. Nimitz started the season with a 36-6 win over North Garland but was coming off a 20-3 loss to Arlington Lamar.
A key change for McKinney on Friday was how the offensive line played and was able to clear running lanes for senior running back Tommy Candela.
Candela, who missed the first two games of the season for a self-proclaimed “stupid act” that he did during class last year, rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Candela said Nimitz had strong outside linebackers who were aggressive in sealing the edge, so he focused on following his blocks and running lanes made by his lineman.
He noted it “felt really good” to be back on the field contributing after missing the first two games.
Smith said having Candela in the backfield, along with senior receiver Dalon Willis (who has three catches for 69 yards and a score) gives the Lions an added dimension on offense and more weapons for quarterback Bryan Sutter to utilize.
Sutter completed six passes for 44 yards and an interception. The offense compiled 286 total yards.
Despite coming out ahead, the game did not have a pretty start, as the ball was snapped outside the end zone for a safety, giving Nimitz and early 2-0 lead.
McKinney would answer, as Candela gave the Lions a 7-2 lead with a 37-yard score.
Heading into the third quarter trailing 10-7, McKinney’s Willis scampered 64 yards on a sweep-play to the left side to give McKinney a 13-10 lead.
Sophomore quarterback Tyree Johnson sealed the win with a three-yard touchdown run to give McKinney the 20-10 victory.
Now four weeks away from its District opener against Plano on Oct. 10 at Ron Poe, Smith said a lot needs to be improved upon in the two games prior to that, specifically noting mental breakdowns.
“We’ve got to continue to improve,” he said.
Candela said the ceiling is high for McKinney, but they need to worry about being “selfish” at times and play more as a team.
And if they do that, he said the Lions can compete in district play.
“We could be more than what we could be,” Candela said.
McKinney will host North Garland next Friday at Ron Poe for its annual Homecoming game at 7:30 p.m.
Photos by TSB’s Sawyer Erickson