For the first time six years, the McKinney North Bulldogs will open the season 1-0.
Riding the powerful legs of junior running back Ronald Jones, North defeated Carrolton Newman Smith 34-17 Thursday night at Ron Poe Stadium to kick off the 2013 campaign.
Jones was the offensive catalyst for North, rushing for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.
“He ran like a man possessed, like he wanted to,” North head coach Mike Fecci said of Jones’ performance.
Fecci said Jones, along with sophomore K.J. Hart and senior Trey Smith, will have to run well throughout the season for North to be successful. Hart and Smith combined for 20 rushing yards Thursday.
Jones was able to elude tackles with not only his finesse game, but also with his power and size — especially in short-yardage situations.
Jones credited a lot of his success to the offensive line, saying the group did a great job “mashing” and opening up running lanes, especially on the right side.
Jones, however, said when he was in those short-yardage situations, his focus was to keep his legs moving and break as many tackles as he could.
He did note more time needs to be spent in the weight room so he can break more tackles and be stronger on third-down, citing NFL running back Marshawn Lynch and the way he performs in tight areas.
Along with Jones, the opener hinged on North’s strong defensive performance, with the squad allowing just 226 yards of total offense.
The key play, however, Fecci said, was the pick-six by junior defensive end JoMarr Davis in the second quarter.
Leading Newman Smith 3-0, Davis disengaged from his blocker, snaring the pass and scampering 32 yards for the score.
Fecci said Davis’ play “turned the tide for us” and gave his squad a great deal of momentum.
“Anytime you can score points on defense, that’s a huge momentum swing,” Fecci said.
A point of concern for Fecci was the penalties, as his team was hit with numerous false start and illegal procedure calls on the night. Fecci said while his team was hit with effort penalties, some of calls were due to lack of focus, and those penalties, Fecci said, “you can’t live with.”
“We need to fix that in a hurry,” he said.
The quarterback play for North was sporadic, with Ben Dutze and Gabe Constantine combining for 96 passing yards. Dutze shouldered most of the work, compiling 12 attempts on the night.
Fecci said the play from his quarterbacks was “OK,” but said he was pleased with the effort and except for an early fumble by Dutze in the second quarter, their ability to protect the ball.
North, who Fecci said “grew up a lot” Thursday night, came out strong, jumping out to an early 3-0 lead. North would cross the goal line for the first time this season when Davis ran back an interception to give North a 10-0 lead.
Newman Smith, however, would fight back, answering with 10 points of their own, tying the game at 10-10 early in the third quarter.
And that is when Jones took over the game, scoring the next three touchdowns for North to expand the lead to 34-10. Newman Smith would add a late touchdown to bring the game to 34-17.
Fecci said Thursday’s win gives his Bulldog squad a lot of confidence heading into their next two games against Prosper and Frisco Centennial. And while noting his team has a long way to go, he is excited to see the potential.
“The first win of the year is always the big one,” he said.
And for Jones, he made it known North is ready to make some noise in 4A in 2013.
“Watch out for McKinney North. We’re going to be doing something this year,” Jones said.
North will be back in action next Friday, Sept. 6 when it visits Prosper.
MISD’s other two varsity squads kick off Friday. For TSB’s previews of those games click here.
Photos by TSB’s Sawyer Erickson