Casual high school football fans around town don’t realize just how close the McKinney North Bulldogs came to clinching a spot in the playoffs last season. With all the attention focused on a McKinney High team featuring a new coach and a superstar running back, the Dawgs were able to fly under the radar and take the district competition by surprise.
The Dawgs were an easy team to root for because they were previously thought to be a third wheel in a town run by a Class 5A Boyd program and an MHS program that was placed in the spotlight thanks to the Lee-Lipka era.
In mid-October, the Bulldogs were in the drivers’ seat with a 3-1 record in 10-4A, including a 14-7 win over the rival Lions. McKinney North failed to make the playoffs after dropping its final three games ending with a season finale at Wylie. But when the Bulldogs look back at 2010, it isn’t the loss to the Pirates that stands out as the reason for their failure.
McKinney North lost two district games by three points or less last fall. A win in either one of those contests would have put the Bulldogs back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the same year McKinney Boyd opened its doors. Before the Wylie game, the Dawgs traveled to Rockwall’s Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium to face the Yellowjackets and were defeated on a clutch fourth quarter field goal, 16-14.
Four weeks before that disappointing loss, there was another heartbreaker on the road. In the game that really put the rest of the district on notice, the Dawgs went score-for-score with a dynamic Richardson Pearce offense and lost in a shootout, 52-49. It had been two years since the Bulldogs put up a 40-point game. Also, North’s 49-point total for the night was the school’s highest since its 63-7 victory over McKinney Boyd in the Broncos’ inaugural season.
The Dawgs came close in both of those games but failed to finish in the end. The same can be true for last week’s 35-31 loss at second-year program, Wylie East.
“We just didn’t finish drives,” head coach Mike Fecci said. “We’ve got to be finishers.”
Sophomore running back Trey Smith continued to play well in the absence of his older brother, Devin, and rushed for 100 yards for the second straight game.
“He’s got great vision and great feet,” Fecci said of his young rising star.
All of the momentum was on the side of McKinney North early on as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-7 lead. It was only a matter of time before the ultra-athletic Raiders started to capitalize on scoring opportunities and put points on the board and once they started putting the ball in the end zone the Dawgs had trouble responding.
“They stayed in the fight and they started making some plays and we weren’t making plays. That’s when the tied changed,” Fecci said.
By halftime, the Dawgs’ lead was cut to 28-21.
In the second half, the only points North could muster came on a 20-yard field goal by Eric Nickason, which was sandwiched in between a 1-yard touchdown run from East’s Jabari Anderson and a 5-yard score from Kevon Mack.
On a night where Trey Smith rushed for over 100 yards and three scores and Hunter Walling completed 70 percent of his passes, the Bulldogs failed to finish versus the Raiders and ended up 0-1 in district play.
“We’ve got to make plays the whole night long,” Fecci said. “In this district if you don’t make plays you’re going to have a tough time winning.”
This Thursday, McKinney North plays host to one of the district’s top playmaking teams in the J.J. Pearce Mustangs. Baylor-bound wide receiver Corey Coleman leads the offensive charge for Pearce and is responsible for 50 of the Mustangs total points so far this season.
Fecci admitted that defending Coleman will be a very difficult task for the Dawgs defense. However, after breaking down the tape this weekend, the North coaching staff and players are confident heading into week two of the district season.
“We feel good about the play we came up with to go after them.”
North This Week
Who: Richardson Pearce (2-2, 0-1) vs. McKinney North (2-2, 0-1)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Ron Poe Stadium
About the Opponent: The Mustangs 2010 season ended in a bi-district blowout loss to Frisco Liberty (70-17).
Richardson Pearce Leaders
Passing: Rhett Svetgoff 86-of-146, 960 yards, 9 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Kendron Banks 71 att, 374 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Corey Coleman 38 rec, 480 yards, 5 TD
Richardson Pearce Recap
Week 1: Pearce 36 def. Lake Dallas 32
Week 2: Pearce 21 def. Irving Nimitz 9
Week 3: Richardson 28 def. Pearce 25
Week 4: Rockwall-Heath 19 def. Pearce 14
Fecci’s Take On Pearce
“They’re very explosive on offense. They have a great offensive scheme and they find ways to get kids the ball in open space. Defensively, they run a 3-3 stack, which we don’t see, a whole lot anymore. They do a good job with it and they tackle well.”
The Dawgs Will Win If…
This may seem like I’m stealing from Fecci but the Bulldogs have got to finish drives on Thursday night. The Mustangs’ offense is capable of blowing McKinney North out of the water if the Dawgs aren’t prepared to match them score for score. The margin for error in this game is razor thin.
The Mustangs Will Win If…
the Bulldogs can’t find an answer for Corey Coleman. Richardson Pearce’s superstar receiver will play his college football at Baylor. After watching his 2010 highlights, it’s easy to see why the Bears wanted him (see video below). Coleman is the key to this game. A great performance will lead to a big win for Pearce and a subpar effort will give North a chance to win its first district game.
I always hate picking against our three McKinney ISD teams so this will hurt as much as it hurts you Bulldogs fans. My heart says the Dawgs can run the football, eat some time off the clock, and find a way to eke out a fourth quarter win. But my head says both teams will be neck and neck until the Mustangs eventually pull away for a two-touchdown victory.
Final Score – Richardson Pearce 42, McKinney North 28
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com