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Cowboy up: Plano intent on knocking Coppell down
Emotions ran high from Clark Stadium last Friday night.
It meant the culmination of another late-season surge that edged the Plano Senior football team into the playoffs yet again, albeit with a little help from Flower Mound Marcus.
The Wildcats held up their end of the bargain, but with an additional week tacked onto their 2010 campaign, the time for celebration has passed as no easy hand has been dealt to Plano in its postseason opener.
Enter Coppell, who will play host to the Wildcats in bi-district competition on Saturday at 1 p.m. from Coppell’s Cowboy Stadium.
“We know what we’re up against and we know how good [Coppell] is,” said Jaydon McCullough, Plano head coach. “But the thing is in football, you’ve got to go in there and you’ve got to believe you can win, and you’ve got to prepare to win.”
Regarding the Cowboys, winners of District 7-5A, the numbers speak for themselves.
Emerging unscathed at 10-0 this season, Coppell has made relatively short work of practically every team to oppose it thus far. The only other Metroplex team in Class 5A to match Euless Trinity’s unbeaten mark, Coppell has put away its opposition early and often in averaging 42.6 points on offense and surrendering just 9.8 points defensively.
Tack on the fact that the Cowboys will play Saturday’s contest from their home stadium and no doubt, the deck is stacked against Plano from the onset.
But in emerging from the gauntlet of District 8-5A this season, McCullough sees that as a benefit moving forward.
“I think if we have anything going for us,” he said, “it’s that psychologically, we’ve played in a lot of big games this year.”
On the road, no less.
Having already traveled to meet fellow playoff bunkmates Allen, Flower Mound and Flower Mound Marcus, Plano is no stranger to a hostile environment against a quality football team. The Wildcats will get just that opposite Coppell, but it’s building from the road shortcomings in district play that McCullough sees as a possible culmination on Saturday.
“We’re road-tested,” he said. “We went up to Flower Mound and didn’t win, but I think that’s to our advantage. We went up to Marcus, but didn’t win. I believe you go through things to prepare you for something greater. Sometimes failure can be failure, but other times it can be your success.”
Making good on its upset bid will mean 48 minutes of mistake-free football from the Wildcats; an attribute Coppell has excelled in thus far. Losing just five fumbles this season and tossing four interceptions, the Cowboys’ offense won’t beat itself.
A unit that shows multiple formations, with a preference towards a trips set, Coppell is headlined by running back Cam McDaniel, who has found the end zone 27 times on the ground while amassing 1,584 rushing yards and hauling in 331 yards receiving.
“[McDaniel] is physical and slashy,” McCullough said. “He kind of reminds me of [Flower Mound running back Hunter Lee]. He’s deceptively strong, but he’s very athletic and is very versatile.”
Sealing snaps for Coppell is quarterback Joe Minden.
The Cowboys are heavy on the screen game with McDaniel playing a prominent role, as well as receivers Tyler Landis and Kyle Echerd.
Defensively, the brickwall-esque Cowboys operate out of a 50 front and rely on their prowess up front to open up opportunities for a linebacker corps that excels in pass coverage. On the whole, it’s a familiar vibe to McCullough.
“They remind me a lot of Trinity and Allen,” he said, “in that they play a lot of that top-down type of defense where they’ll keep things in front and if you throw something deep, they’ll be all over you unless there’s a way where you can get an edge over them schematically.”
No strangers to the underdog role in postseason play, Plano hopes to take Coppell into unchartered waters Saturday; namely, dealing the Cowboys their first taste of adversity in quite some time.
Coppell has trailed exactly one time this season, a 14-10 deficit in the third quarter of its eventual 31-14 win over Denton Guyer. Applying pressure early to see how the Cowboys fare in the face of adversity will be right in the Wildcats’ playbook on Saturday.
And the Wildcats have shown they can go toe-to-toe with a state powerhouse before. Plenty of the same players that will take the field Saturday did so one year prior as Plano went blow for blow with eventual state champion Trinity. While ultimately falling shy, Plano has the chance to replicate last season’s playoff magic.
And coupled with the Trinity game and its battle-tested district schedule, intimidation will be the furthest thing from Plano’s mind this weekend.
“[Coppell] is a great football team,” McCullough said. “We respect them; we respect their coaching staff, their players, their community and their football program.
“We respect them, but we don’t fear them.”