McKinney North’s regular season finale football game versus Wylie was memorable, but it sure wasn’t pretty.
There were no long touchdown runs, no highlight reel catches, and the two teams combined for 14 punts in four quarters. Friday night’s game was a fierce defensive battle from start to finish and by game’s end, it was McKinney North, the team of destiny, that came out on top 11-7 at Ron Poe Stadium.
“It’s the most awesome feeling,” senior receiver Sam Lucania said. “We finally brought the pride back to McKinney North.”
North head coach Mike Fecci delivered a short and sweet message to his players after Friday’s big win over Wylie.
“Welcome to the Promised Land,” he said.
McKinney North hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 and the past four seasons have been filled with far more lows than highs. In a town with three varsity football programs, the North Bulldogs were once considered to be somewhat of a third wheel in a town dominated by the Lions and Broncos.
On Friday night, the Dawgs proved those days are long over by wrapping up the regular season with a 6-4 overall record (best since 2006) and a 4-3 mark in district play.
“We’ve just got a bunch of scrappy kids that play hard. They deserve this,” Fecci said.
The Wylie defense started off hot by picking off Hunter Walling on the opening drive of the game. The Pirates took over in North territory and quickly capitalized on great field position with a 22-yard touchdown run from Terrell Burt less than four minute into the game.
It looked like the North defense would be in for a long night. But in fact, it was the Pirates offense that was in store for a tough ballgame. Despite several scoring opportunities, including two trips to the redzone, the Pirates were shutout for the remaining 44 minutes of the game.
“You win in the playoffs by playing great defense and we’ll try to do that next week,” Fecci said.
The Bulldogs struggled to move the ball down the field early on so when the offense wasn’t able to put points on the board, the defense stepped up with a safety from junior defensive end Jacob Maclea with 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
“Jacob Maclea has had a huge season for us,” Fecci said.
Midway through the second quarter, the Dawgs offense finally got on the scoreboard on a one-yard dive from Walling on fourth-and-goal.
Senior running back Devin Smith hasn’t seen much on-field action this season and as a result his body is still not well adjusted to playing four full speed quarters of football. Fecci decided to pull a tired Smith out of the game and replace him with junior Anthony Lozoya.
[Devin] got pretty fatigued,” Fecci said. “[Lozoya] is a downhill runner and that’s what we needed him to do. I’m real proud of him and the offensive line.”
On 11 carries, Lozoya was able to carry the ball 56 yards and it was on his final rush of the game that he picked up the game-clinching first down that kicked off the Bulldogs sideline celebration. In the second quarter, Lozoya booted a 26-yard field goal for the final points of the game.
Walling’s night ended with a less than stellar 11 completed passes for 149 yards and two interceptions. North’s senior quarterback may not have a reputation for putting up big passing statistics but fellow senior, Lucania, believes Walling’s win-loss record as a starter speaks louder than his completion percentages.
“He’s a winner,” Lucania said. “He might not have the most impressive statistics – he’s like a Colt McCoy. He knows how to win and he’s going to get us there no matter what.”
Next Friday, McKinney North will begin bi-district play versus former district foe, Frisco Centennial. The Titans, once known for their explosive offense and inability to stop teams on defense, have transformed into an all-around powerhouse football team. Frisco Centennial claimed the District 9-4A title this season and finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record. In their final game before the playoffs, the Titans knocked off Frisco Heritage, 56-27.
“We have a little bit of a rivalry with [Centennial] so it’s going to be fun,” Lucania said.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com