If the McKinney North Bulldogs want to roll into district play with momentum on their side, they’ll have to defeat the Denton Broncos on the road this Friday. Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch Denton scrimmage McKinney High and even when the Broncos trailed by three touchdowns, they kept clawing their way back into the game. If North gets a big lead like they did in last year’s game the worst thing they can do is try to coast to victor. Denton is capable of making a comeback so the Bulldogs will need four full quarters of football to finish the non-district schedule with a 2-1 record.
North This Week
Who: McKinney North (1-1) vs. Denton High (1-1)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Bronco Field
About the Opponent: Last week, the Broncos defense held R.L Turner scoreless in a 34-0 win for Denton. The shutout was the schools first since 2005.
Whole New Ballgame
Last season, McKinney North beat Denton 37-14 at Ron Poe Stadium. Offensively, the Dawgs racked up nearly 500 yards total while the defense picked off quarterback Dentton Hudspeth twice and recovered two fumbles. It was a big win for North that lifted the Dawgs to a 2-1 record and gave them the confidence to take on District 10-4A.
This week North has a chance to return to district competition this season with a 2-1 record. Head coach Mike Fecci said his team understands the importance of preparing well in order to beat the Broncos on the road.
“It doesn’t take long once you put on the film to see that Denton is better this year,” he said. “Our guys know they have to go out and play well.”
Fecci has also reminded his players that, unlike McKinney North, the Denton Broncos reached their playoff goal in 2010.
“They’re a playoff team. They were there last year. We weren’t. We want to go out and beat people like that.”
The Broncos quarterback from last season is back for his senior year and the good news for North’s defense is that he’s coming off a two-interception game versus R.L Turner. The not so good news is that Hudspeth also threw three touchdowns in that game and led the team in rushing with 120 yards on 10 carries. Hudspeth also led the Broncos on the ground in a week one loss to Woodrow Wilson (14-13).
“Their quarterback is a good player and [Denton] has a good offensive scheme,” Fecci said.
Battle in the Trenches
Both teams feature dangerous skill players that can turn a simple toss play or punt return into six points but the most important matchup of the night will be North’s offensive line versus Denton’s defensive line.
The Dawgs offensive linemen are a reliable group that has already faced their toughest test in week one versus Boyd. Senior defensive end Jamal Palmer was hardly seen in the backfield throughout the night and quarterback Hunter Walling was protected pretty well. Then, in last week’s game against Bryan Adams, the offensive line paved the way for a three-touchdown night for sophomore running back Trey Smith.
“They were bringing a lot of pressure on us but once we made some adjustments, we started moving them off the ball and getting some good double team blocks,” Fecci said. “In this district, you’ve got to have a really good offensive line to have a chance.”
Denton High’s defensive line features big kids across the board that are aggressive and run to the football. The Broncos run two different defensive fronts and use the same players to execute both formations.
“You really can’t peg when they’ll be in one or the other,” Fecci said. “It’s going to be a big challenge to our offensive line to get their eyes up and communicate so we can go do what we need to do.”
Last Friday’s Rebound
McKinney North rebounded from its opening loss versus Boyd with a 49-14 performance against visiting Bryan Adams. The Dawgs had stellar performances from sophomore Trey Smith on the ground and junior Brylen Williams on kick returns. All in all, it was a great night for Bulldogs fans as their team got back on the right track.
When his team walked in the field house on Monday morning, Fecci saw a noticeable confidence boost in his players’ thanks in part to the cool Labor Day weather and more importantly Friday’s victory.
“Any time you win a ballgame they kids have a bounce in their step and they feel good about themselves,” he said. “Now, we’ve got to go out and play well and hopefully get a win and go into the off week 2-1.”
After Friday’s game in Denton, McKinney North will have a week off to prepare for its district opener versus Wylie East. The extra week will give the Dawgs time to put together a game plan for a Raiders team that will likely be undefeated and also time to focus on grades.
Fecci said he likes having the bye week right after the non-district schedule because it lines up with the fourth week of the grading period.
“It gives you time to catch your breath,” he said. “You can slow down and lock in on grades.”
As for what the Dawgs will do in practice during the bye week, Fecci said he hasn’t decided yet. North could either practice for a full five days or keep its normal three-practice schedule.
“We’ll decide that this weekend,” Fecci said.
Player of the Week
This week’s player of the week for McKinney North is none other than defensive back and explosive kick returner Brylen Williams. The junior gave the Bulldogs a spark they desperately needed versus Bryan Adams with not one but two big kick returns for touchdowns.
In my preview of last week’s game, I predicted that Brylen would find a way to get into the endzone but I had no idea it would happen twice in one night.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com