The message from Allen coach Terry Gambill to his Eagles as to how to handle the “hype” leading up to Friday’s battle of the unbeaten between his squad and Plano East was simple: tune out the outside noise and stay off social media.
Senior quarterback Grant Tisdale accounted for 6 touchdowns and 373 yards of total offense and Allen’s defense forced four turnovers in a 74-36 rout at Eagle Stadium on Friday night.
“Coach Gambill, he just kept us level-headed,” Tisdale said. “Don’t focus on the outside noise with them talking all of the time. Just make sure our practice is good and make sure how we perform is the biggest key.”
The game featured 1,004 yards of offense. Allen (6-0 overall, 3-0 District 9-6A) had balance with 311 passing yards and 284 more on the ground to finish with 595. Plano East (5-1, 2-1) got 290 passing yards and 5 touchdowns from quarterback Brandon Mallory but was held to just 119 rushing yards as the Panthers suffered their first defeat of the season.
Both teams showed in the early-going of why they were undefeated heading into Friday’s tilt, at least on offense, as there were three touchdowns scored on the first three offensive series.
Allen scored on its first two possessions as Celdon Manning and Tisdale sandwiched runs of 35 yards and 1 yard around a 75-yard pass play from East’s Mallory to Jaelen Anderson as the Eagles took a 14-7 lead just over four minutes into the game.
“At the beginning of the game, we did have problems,” Allen junior defensive back Zayteak McGhee said. “We had some busted coverages. Our coaches just talked to us and we’ve got to come together as a team and brothers.”
McGhee and his Eagle defenders changed the momentum for Allen in the second quarter. The Eagles generated three takeaways in a stanza in which they outscored the Panthers 27-7 for a commanding 41-21 halftime lead.
McGhee stepped in front of an East pass intended for a receiver on an out route and returned it 25 yards for pay-dirt to put Allen ahead 28-14 with 7:16 left in the first half. Junior Will Drogosch recovered a muffed punt that fell on top of an East player’s helmet later in the quarter. Then, with 14 seconds left in the second quarter, Senior Keith Johnson scooped up a mishandled snap by East’s punter and returned the fumble 4 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a game-changer,” McGhee said. “I gave up seven points and had to get them back.”
Allen also received 118 rushing yards and touchdown runs of 35 yards and 20 from junior Celdon Manning who returned Friday night after missing the previous two games.
Gambill attributed at least part of the win to great special teams play by his kickers and punters as well as to his defense which forced four turnovers.
“I felt like for two weeks our kids just practiced,” he said. “I never thought our kids really focused in on the outside noise.”
Play of the game: McGee’s return of an interception 25 yards for a touchdown that put Allen ahead by two touchdowns in the second quarter. That drive for East started at its own 12-yard line after Allen pinned the Panthers deep inside their own territory. After two straight incomplete passes to start the drive, McGhee got his hands on the following play on a pick-six for a 28-14 Eagles lead.
Offensive player of the game: Tisdale. He had complete control of the offense Friday night.
Defensive player of the game: The nod will be split between McGhee, Johnson, Drogosch and Luke Jaksick, each of whom came up with a takeaway for Allen.
Unsung hero of the game: Manning set the tone for Allen’s 22nd consecutive victory with a 32-yard touchdown run on just his second carry, a game in which the Eagles never trailed.
It was over when: Johnson scooped up a mishandled punt by East’s punter and ran it back 4 yards for a touchdown and a 41-21 Allen lead with 14 seconds remaining in the first half.
What’s next? Plano East continues district play at McKinney, Friday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m. Allen hosts Dallas Jesuit.