This fall, the McKinney Boyd football team will look to return to the UIL playoffs after making falling in the area round. Meanwhile, McKinney High will look to get back in the postseason after a one-year absence following back-to-back appearances. The McKinney North Bulldogs, however, haven’t seen the playoffs in five years. Back in 2006, Shawn Pratt’s Bulldogs featured arguably their most talented group ever as the Dawgs made the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Since that time, North’s best season was a 5-5 year in 2007.
Many counted the Bulldogs out in 2010 and they were even picked to finish second-to-last in District 10-4A. But after wins over rival McKinney High and Rockwall-Heath, and even a 52-49 loss at Richardson Pearce, it was clear that these Dawgs were on a mission. The Bulldogs ultimate goal of reaching the playoffs was not accomplished in 2010 but that group of seniors did an outstanding job of setting up this fall’s team with an opportunity to end the five-year playoff drought. Here are 5 Things The Bulldogs Must Do To Make Playoffs.
5. Beat McKinney High again
Here’s a statistic for you. No football team that has lost the Crosstown Showdown has ever made the playoffs. Only twice has a team won the annual rivalry game and not gone onto the postseason – McKinney North in 2007 and again in 2010. So, while a win doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the winner will earn a spot in the playoffs, it all but guarantees that the loser will hang it up after 10 games.
4. Start out hot in non-district play
Personally, I don’t see McKinney North winning its season opener against Boyd. But that doesn’t mean the players should enter that game feeling like they can’t win. Regardless of the outcome, a non-district game doesn’t help with playoff positioning but starting off the season with momentum is always key to a successful year. If the Bulldogs drop game one, they need to come back out the next two weeks and absolutely pummel Dallas Bryan Adams and Denton High. They need to not just win those games but dominate for four quarters and send a message to the rest of 10-4A.
3. Finish Strong
This may seem like an obvious statement to make but it’s very important for this particular team. After it’s best overall performance of the year against McKinney High, North dropped its last three games and fell short of the playoffs. The Bulldogs closed out the year with Highland Park (49-0), Rockwall (16-14), and Wylie (40-14). Guess which District 10-4A teams had the best overall records at the end of the year? That’s right – Highland Park, Rockwall, and Wylie. The unfortunate thing about the Bulldogs schedule is that it does get harder as the season progresses so they have no choice but to get better week-to-week to matchup with the demands of their schedule. The Dawgs will also need to stay injury free for the most part as they will need their key players to be healthy for that late playoff push.
2. Devin Smith needs to have a breakout senior year
The Bulldogs only scored two touchdowns in their final game of 2010. One was a nine-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter with the game way out of reach. The other was an explosive 69-yard touchdown run from junior Devin Smith that narrowed the Wylie lead to 21-7. Smith’s run is #3 on the Top 10 Plays Countdown video (bottom of the page) and for good reason. Smith was an absolute beast on that play and that’s the type of player he needs to be every down. I’m not taking anything away from what he did during his junior year. After all, he finished the season with 900 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry. But it’s time to take it to the next level. Smith is entering his third and final year on the varsity and he needs to leave his mark as one of the best running backs to ever come through McKinney North. If Devin is able to put the team on his back and get solid blocking upfront, the Dawgs running game will be very dangerous.
1. Stay United
Team chemistry is perhaps the most underrated element in all of high school sports – not just football. Although they were one game away from reaching their ultimate goal, the Bulldogs failed in the eyes of their high school peers. That’s the way it goes. There’s no doubt these players have heard every negative thing there is to hear about their program. But they cannot let it faze them. The way I see it, these players can respond to the 2010 season in one of two ways. Either they can buy into the negativity and count themselves out before the season gets underway or they can stay focused on one common goal and finish what last year’s group started. McKinney North’s 2011 roster won’t feature any of the DFW elite players or top college prospects so this team can’t depend on just a few players giving it their all. It’s going to take every player on the field, on the sidelines, and in practice to end this five-year playoff drought.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com