Opening Statement: Murray, Allen defense lead to 56-0 destruction of East in first district game
MURPHY -- Last year's Allen-Plano East game was up for grabs until the final play.
Friday's contest was essentially decided on the first play as the Panthers (4-1, 0-1) fumbled the ball, giving the Eagles (5-1, 1-0) a short field and setting the stage for the first of eight consecutive Allen touchdowns in a 56-0 rout that soured East's Homecoming.
"The scoreboard says it all," said Cameron Hartsfield, Allen senior defensive back. "We blew them out."
East head coach Johnny Ringo agreed with that assessment.
"Give credit to Allen," he said. "They basically kicked our butt in every phase of the game."
That process began on the first play from scrimmage as a handoff between sophomore quarterback Taylor McGehee, who was filling in for injured senior Mario Smalls (cracked fibula), and senior Ricky Ilodianya went awry. Allen junior Tay Evans recovered and Allen took over at the 9-yard line.
"We felt like that was a good play and; it looked like we had the edge," Ringo said. "I don't think it changed our game plan, but it set the tone for the game. Playing against a really good team like Allen, you can't give them a short field."
East turned the ball over three times Friday.
"Those turnovers were huge," said Tom Westerberg, Allen head coach. "Every time East got a little momentum going, we were able to shut it down."
It took Allen two plays to score off the first East giveaway as sophomore quarterback Kyler Murray took it in from 5 yards for a 7-0 lead 41 seconds into the game.
Murray, making his first start in place of senior Oliver Pierce (who lined up in the slot, as a running back, defensive end and punt returner), ran for two touchdowns and 48 yards on nine carries while also completing 17-of-18 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. Murray spread the ball to six receivers with Pierce and junior Kendall Clinton each catching four passes while junior Cole Carter had six grabs for 49 yards and a touchdown.
"We felt like this was the best move for us offensively," Westerberg said. "Kyler has been playing really well and this allows us to line Oliver up in a lot of different positions."
East was prepared for the possible shift.
"We saw in the Coppell game how Murray had been taking more snaps and we thought that was a possibility," Ringo said. "And what we saw tonight is what he has been doing all year; Murray has a great arm and great speed."
Allen's next series ended with a fumble recovered by East senior Zack Mueller.
That, however, was the highlight of East's first half as Allen scored on its next three possessions while the Panthers punted on their next five, including four three-and-outs.
While Allen got the requisite sack from junior defensive lineman Marcus Davis and a fumble recovery before the end of the half from senior defensive lineman Byron Bonds, it may have been the linebacking corps that was the most impactful with seniors Nick Cobb, Jack Hawkins and junior Zack Bishop unleashing a barrage of sacks and tackles for loss.
"We needed to regroup after that last game because we didn't have enough intensity against Coppell," Westerberg said. "We got that tonight. The linebackers were wreaking havoc; really the whole front seven was."
While the Allen defense did its thing, the offense piled up points.
Starting three of its five first-half possessions in East territory, the Eagles scored consecutive touchdowns on a 1-yard run by senior Marcus Ward, 25-yard burst from Murray that included an incredible cutback and 16-yard run from Ward. Ward ended the evening with 74 yards on 12 carries.
That set the halftime score at 28-0, a trend that continued as Allen scored 14 points in each quarter.
The 14 scored in the third came in the five minutes as Pierce made a 26-yard touchdown run on one of his two carries and the Panthers' first possession ended in a punt block by Hartsfield.
"I looked at coach and he called block, so I knew I had to make something happen," Hartsfield said.
Evans' block was caught and returned 36 for a touchdown by Evans.
That made it 42-0 with 7:02 remaining in the third.
Allen scored 14 seconds into the final frame on a 9-yard pass from Murray to Carter and put the final points up with 8:36 left in the game when junior Jaelen Barlow took his first carry 63 yards up the middle for a touchdown and 56-0 Eagles lead.
East's final drive was ended on an interception by Allen senior defensive back Deion Bandoh to ensure the Eagles' second shutout of the season.
"We didn't play to our potential [against Coppell]," Hartsfield said, "so we knew we had to do that tonight."
East had 13 possessions Friday, resulting in nine punts, three turnovers, one turnover on downs and 151 yards. Panthers junior Lionel Wills ran for 59 yards on 11 carries. McGehee completed 8-of-14 passes for 79 yards and senior Justin Wheeler completed two throws in relief with senior Collin Shaw catching four passes for 50 yards and Ilodianya snagging three receptions for 24 yards in the 56-0 loss.
East is back in action at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against McKinney from Ron Poe Stadium while Allen hosts Plano West at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"You want to come out and win that first district game," Westerberg said. "This is the time to set yourself up for the playoffs, for seeding, hopefully for a district title, but there is still a long way to go."
Ringo echoed that philosophy.
"One win wasn't going to get us into the playoffs and one loss isn't going to keep us out," he said. "We still have four games to go."