Spring fling: Wildcats take to gridiron for latest Maroon-White clash
As is the case in the cyclical nature of high school sports, there will be years when a team is tasked with introducing an overwhelming number of players to varsity.
The Plano Senior football team did what it could to replicate the environment the newcomers will be tasked with this fall in Thursday's Maroon-White Game -- a 17-8 decision claimed by White.
"It felt good getting to put the kids in a competitive environment," said Jaydon McCullough, Plano head coach. "Some of them responded well and some didn't, but this team is still young, so I think that was a good environment to put the kids in.
"It kind of gives them that Friday night feel and some of them got the big eyes, but for the most part, this was a productive night."
As has been the case in previous installments of the spring showdown, the Wildcats were split up into even squads and put into as close to a game-time simulation as you'll find at this stage of the offseason. And after waging battle over a quartet of 15-minute quarters, a furious fourth allowed White to pull away. With White riding a 3-0 edge in the final frame, the two teams combined for 22 points over the final 15 minutes.
"I wish we could have moved the ball a bit better," McCullough said, "but usually at this time of year the defense is a bit ahead."
While roughly three-quarters of the matchup was devoted to the first units, it was actually a junior varsity series that broke the scoring lull. Set up by a 44-yard run down the sideline from Yannick Bongo to get White near the goal-line, the rusher was rewarded for his efforts with a 7-yard touchdown to extend White's lead to 10-0 with 11:08 left in the quarter.
The score also jump-started the varsity offense, which commandeered a six-play, 51-yard drive on its next series. Richard Lagow capped things with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Devon Richardson for a 17-0 lead with 5:34 remaining as the signal caller enjoyed his second go-around at the forefront of the spring game.
"It's just a lot more fun," Lagow said. "Last year, it was pretty stressful because I knew I had a lot to prove as a first-year starter coming in. I had high expectations for myself and so did everyone around me, but it's more fun now.
"It's easier and slower; it's just a better experience."
This offseason means adjusting to a new batch of skill-position targets -- the most familiar of which is Anthony Antwine, who donned Maroon for the spring game. Lagow and Richardson became a trustworthy combo as the evening progressed, hooking up five times for 105 yards.
The Maroon offense was more run-heavy and countered White's scoring drive with one of its own.
Riding the legs of running back Braylan Campbell in both the run and short-passing game, a pair of screens to the rusher for 36 yards set Maroon up from 2 yards out. That total that was promptly amassed for a touchdown on a toss to Campbell, who also accounted for a two-point conversion to cut White's lead to 17-8.
It marked a stark change of pace after both defenses dictated the tempo early on.
Both defensive lines had their say, with Kevin Holland dealing Maroon quarterback Christian Hutzler a loss of 12 yards in the first quarter and Maroon's Evan Brunner scuttling a White third-and-long late in the first half.
There were also the growing pains of spring, with a myriad of low snaps, fumbles and even a trick play that saw Richardson launch a 46-yard bomb that was promptly dropped.
"I felt good that we had nobody injured out there," McCullough said. "Overall, it was your typical spring game and we've got a long ways to go."
The offenses excelled late though, winning the battle for pride and setting the stage for what the program hopes is a productive summer.
"It's all about bragging rights when we put on pads next time out," Lagow said. "You don't want to bet on your own game or anything; it's bad luck."
"I like their work ethic and how team-oriented they are," McCullough added. "It's going to be our job to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers, play good defense and be the more disciplined team.
"I don't think we did that last year."