It’s not easy for a football program to continue a playoff streak with a different coach who brought an entirely new approach.
It’s even more substantial considering Colleyville Heritage’s Darren Allman didn’t arrive until early May, had to throw a shoestring spring football season schedule together, and convince a roster that running the ball and playing defense was the way to win. After all, former coach Mike Fuller used a turbo spread offense that took Colleyville Heritage to the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons.
But Allman extended the streak to eight when the Panthers (5-5) defeated Richland, 35-22, on Thursday to clinch the last spot in District 7-6A.
The Panthers meet Cedar Hill (8-2) in the Class 5A Division II Region I bi-district round at 2 p.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The winner meets the winner of McKinney Boyd-Keller Fossil Ridge in the area round.
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“It’s a credit to our kids,” Allman said. “Their buy in has been great. We’ll look back and say that as tough as the schedule was, we played pretty well and didn’t get handled by anyone. We’re excited about the future of our program. To get to the playoffs in this district is an accomplishment.”
About Cedar Hill
Colleyville Heritage and Cedar Hill have met before. They played a home-and-home series with each other over 2006-2007. The Longhorns won those meetings, 35-28 and 23-16.
Allman also has a history with Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire’s program. Austin Westlake met Cedar Hill in the 2012 Class 5A Division II state semifinals but fell, 31-28, when the Longhorns kicked a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds.
This year’s Longhorns are explosive, with wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge averaging 18 yards per catch and 16 TDs. Lodge is considered one of the top recruits in the country. Running back Aca’Cedric Ware (committed to USC) has rushed for 1,607 yards.
But the 2013 Class 5A Division II state champions aren’t playing their best. After beating DeSoto, 65-42, on Oct. 23, they then lost to Mansfield 49-34 and needed a touchdown on the game’s final play to turn back South Grand Prairie, 37-35, last Friday.
“They’re talented and tough,” Allman said. “If you match that and be creative in your schemes to limit their talent, then you have a chance. The playoffs can bring surprises.”
Colleyville Heritage’s running game is the best part of this team. Demarco Corbin is having his best year at 874 yards and 15 scores. Junior Jamarie Williams has 423 yards and four scores. And Justin Tobernay and quarterback Trevor Anderson have each rushed for better than 250 yards.
It’s no secret the Panthers are going to have to keep leaning on that in the postseason.
“It’s a luxury to have them and have them healthy,” Allman said. “Our offensive line’s run blocking has been great all year. But we’re also going to have to throw the ball if we’re going to make a run.”
It really hasn’t been a severe playoff drought for Grapevine’s football program. Prior to clinching last Friday against Fort Worth Eastern Hills (24-7), the Mustangs were last in the tournament in 2011.
It just felt that way for a program that had won only three games between 2012 and 2013, and with some players who had won about 15 games from their middle school days. But that’s history.
The Mustangs (3-7) will be underdogs against Wichita Falls Rider (6-4) in a Class 5A Region I Division I bi-district playoff at 7 p.m. Thursday at Justin’s NISD Stadium.
“The playoff appearance means everything to our kids,” coach Randy Jackson said. “This is a program-building kind of deal. And I want our kids to understand that this is the standard that we’re playing to around here.”
Against Rider, the Raiders are coming off a disappointing 28-21 loss to Azle, which gave the Hornets the District 5-5A championship. Still, the Mustangs face a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in Desmond Jackson who has accounted for nearly 2,200 total offensive yards (1,514 passing, 658 rushing) and 21 touchdowns.
The choice Grapevine’s staff has to make is which threat they want to limit. With great athletes like Jackson, you’re not going to shut him down. But a defense has to make him do things he doesn’t want to do. Jackson’s two primary receiving options are 6-5 junior T.J. Vasher and 6-4 senior Cody Taylor.
“We have to know where he is,” Jackson said. “With those two very big receivers to throw to, we have a lot of work to do. We don’t mind being the underdog. The thing about the playoffs is that you get one shot. It’s not a series.”
The winner will face the winner of Fort Worth Arlington Heights-Burleson Centennial in the area round.
Jackson said he felt a little pressure Friday trying to get the team in the playoffs. It mainly came from within. Outside of a little rough patch in the third quarter, the Mustangs controlled the game … The running game is split between juniors RalphLauren McCauley and Jacobi White. They combined for 173 yards against the Highlanders and could have the makings of a pretty solid 1-2 combination in 2015. McCauley has rushed for 447 yards, while White is at 623 yards.