Taking A Chance: Allen DB's big play foils Plano's upset bid
ALLEN -- The Plano Senior football team was playing for keeps Friday night at Allen.
And for a play call that was executed nine-tenths of the way toward perfection, it was that one last tenth that allowed the Eagles to stave off the upset-minded Wildcats for a 35-34 victory and unbeaten run through District 10-5A.
"This means a lot," said Tom Westerberg, Allen head coach. "We won it on the JV and freshman levels and to do it up here on varsity and go undefeated, it really means a lot to these guys."
With the Eagles (9-1, 5-0) enjoying their largest lead of the night at 35-28 with 4:05 left in the fourth, the Wildcats (5-5, 2-3) were dealt a 60-yard field to attempt the tie.
A drive that included a fourth-and-1 conversion by senior Richard Lagow at midfield, the Wildcats bled the clock inside the final minute over seven plays with Lagow finding senior Corben Whitehair over the middle for a 22-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left to make it 35-34.
Waging war in enemy territory, Plano wasn't content to let the final outcome linger and opted for the two-point conversion and lead.
The call saw Lagow feed a pinpoint fade to sophomore Mitchell Hansen, who got both hands on the ball, but upon coming down had it ripped away by Allen junior Chance Melancon to preserve the lead.
"My cornerbacks coach came up to me and said he was going to put me in and that he wanted me to make a play," Melancon said. "My heart was racing at like 60 miles per hour and I thought they were just going to do a point-after. But then I saw [Hansen] come out there, I decided to press him. I let him beat me outside and then once he caught the ball, I stripped it out and did what I was coached to do."
"Give Allen credit; they stuck their hand in there," added Jaydon McCullough, Plano head coach. "... I don't regret going for two. I just felt like we had a good play called and everything went the way we wanted; it just didn't work out."
Allen junior Mayomi Olootu recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
The Eagles' comeback effort came full circle early in the fourth quarter when they snagged their first lead, a 32-28 edge, behind a 4-yard touchdown run by senior Marcus Ward, who totaled 126 rushing yards on 17 carries.
"We battled back and battled back," Westerberg said. "The kids played hard, the coaches did a good job at making adjustments and the kids made plays when they had to."
Extending that advantage one series later behind a 40-yard field goal by junior Carlos Arochi, the Eagles overcame their largest deficit of the season: 21-3.
Junior David Griffith got the ball rolling on the early Plano offensive, picking off Allen sophomore Kyler Murray's first pass of the night. Five plays later, senior Braylan Campbell got the Wildcats on the board first with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 7:34 left in the first. Senior Andre Morman took the reins on the Wildcats' next drive, setting the table for a 15-yard touchdown pass from Lagow to Hansen, who led all targets with 127 yards on six catches.
The wideout terrorized the Eagles' secondary all night, exemplified no better than Plano's following possession when Hansen moved the Wildcats past midfield on a 41-yard completion and then within earshot of the end zone following a 39-yard bomb from Lagow, who finished with 283 yards passing on 16-of-25 attempts plus two touchdowns and an interception.
"I thought Lagow led and played his best game tonight," McCullough said. "I think that'll be a defining moment for him."
Morman, who rushed for a team-high 44 yards, increased the Wildcats' lead to 21-3 with a 3-yard touchdown run with 6:51 left in the first half.
Allen flipped the switch midway through the second quarter behind 14 unanswered points on touchdown runs of 24 and 1 yards by Murray, who tallied 167 yards on the ground, for a 21-17 Plano lead that would last until halftime. Campbell curtailed Allen's comeback bid momentarily after breaking off a 5-yard touchdown run with 4:17 left in the third, only to have Murray answer back with his third rushing touchdown.
Senior Oliver Pierce converted the two-point conversion to draw Allen to 28-25 and set up Ward's go-ahead score.
"It was pivotal," Melancon said. "We really wanted to win this and we really wanted to beat Plano because it's kind of a tradition here, so we wanted to bring home that W."
The Eagles will ride their fifth straight win into bi-district play Friday when they host Richardson at 7:30 p.m. At that same time, Plano meets Skyline at SMU's Ford Stadium.
"I think as a group, not a lot of people believed in us," McCullough said. "And we didn't win, but this was a very exciting game and I think if you ask anybody over with Allen, they'd say we gave them a good game. We're not happy with losing, but if you can play with Allen, you can play with anybody."