By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Writer
After the McKinney Lion players broke away from the postgame handshake line, they ran over to their sidelines with enough energy that you’d never know they’d just played a 48-minute football game. As if they were one, the students, parents, alumni, and even the marching band stood up and began giving the players a tremendous ovation, yelling and screaming congratulations as if they were going out of style.
If you ever doubted what kind of happiness a victory in high school football could bring to a community, the atmosphere at Ron Poe Stadium on Thursday night would certainly provide you with the upmost certainty that it could.
The Lions soundly defeated the Frisco Heritage Coyotes 45-21 to improve to 2-0 on the young season. It was the first victory the Lions have experienced at Ron Poe since October 28th, 2010, when they defeated Wylie East 49-27. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, with the Lions allowing more than 400 yards of offense and committing 10 penalties for 95 yards, but MHS was able to make big plays when they needed to and kept the Coyotes from ever establishing rhythm offensively.
Heritage fell to 0-2, having lost its opener last week 53-14 to Lovejoy.
In the second quarter Thursday, the Lions had one big scoring play from each side of the ball. With 4:23 left in the half and the team up 10-7, quarterback Robert Somborn play-action passed to running back Tommy Candela. Just like the play was drawn up, the Coyotes safety bit on the run fake, which left the streaking Jonathan Shannon wide open down the left sideline. Somborn noticed his speedy target and hit him in stride, and despite the bobble, Shannon caught the ball and walked into the end zone for a 56-yard score.
But not to be outdone by the offense, the Lion defense took the field the very next offensive drive for Heritage and was determined to make a big play to keep the momentum on their side. After allowing a 32-yard run by Heritage running back Sean Jones, junior safety Jontrell Rocequemore picked off quarterback Twayne Blackwell’s pass and returned it 70 yards for a score and a 24-7 MHS lead.
On defense, senior linebacker Dalton Harris also had a pick-six, this one returned 21 yards for a score in the third quarter. And while the Lions did allow over 400 yards of total offense for the second consecutive week, they once again should strong improvements in running to the football and being extremely sound at the point of contact when tackling.
Heritage did provide a huge test for the Lion defense, as MHS head coach Jeff Smith says Blackwell is not only a threat with his arm but also on the ground with his feet.
“Blackwell is a tremendous player, and he’s just a sophomore and that’s what’s scary,” said Smith. “He’s just such a great athlete. He’s so explosive and we were really worried about him on his feet more than we were throwing the ball. But I tell you what, he can throw a really good ball and he showed that tonight. Our game plan was obviously just try to contain him and tackle him.”
The left-handed signal caller finished with 143 yards on 21-of-32 passing, throwing one touchdown and two interceptions, while on the ground he added another 35 yards on 15 carries. McKinney’s defense did a great job all night of flushing him out of the pocket and forcing him to throw on the run, and while he seemed comfortable running and throwing to the left side, his accuracy decreased significantly when he was throwing on the run to his right.
Jones rushed for a game high 152 yards on 20 carries, scoring one of the three Coyote touchdowns. Wide receiver Alex Nah led the team with 41 receiving yards, while Tyler Stuhan caught the lone touchdown pass by Blackwell. As a team, Heritage had 24 first downs but was also penalized 12 times for 88 yards. The Coyotes turned the ball over three times and for the most of the night could not get out of their own way to get in any rhythm on either side of the ball.
For the Lions offensive attack, none of the numbers really jump out at you across the board, except when it comes to yards per attempt. Somborn finished with just 124 yards on 4-of-7 passing, tossing two touchdowns and two picks. However, receiver T.V. Williams had one catch for 62 yards, Candela had one catch for 32 yards, and Shannon had two catches for 56 yards.
After being shut down on the ground for most of the first half, Smith said that the proper adjustments were made at halftime to start to stretch the ball down the field vertically to start taking advantage of the defensive coverage that Heritage was presenting.
“They are so athletic on defense,” said Smith. “They are very mature and have some great players, and they did a really good job and had a great plan to stopping our run game. We had to start going vertical a little bit and had some things open up, because they had guys in the box and that helps a little bit.”
“We figured it out,” said Somborn. “We figured out what they were doing because it was a little weird at first with different looks, but after that we got it all figured out.”
During the postgame celebration on the field, the joy and jubilation on the faces of the McKinney players said everything about what this start to the season means to this team. When asked if the team was playing more loose and more carefree than a season ago, Somborn couldn’t agree more.
“No doubt. And not just because of the success but because of that team up there. We just have a bunch of young guys who are so into this and into what we are doing. I love it right now.”
So how does 2-0 feel?
“It feels awesome,” said Somborn. “It’s unreal right now. I’m just soaking it all in.”
The Lions will travel to Irving Nimitz (1-0) next Friday night at Irving Schools Stadium. Nimitz travels to Arlington Lamar Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Photos by D.J. Newman