Let's get digital: Preparing for RRISD school a simpler proposition for Allen in 2012
During its last two lengthy playoff runs (state semifinals in 2006 and Class 5A State Championship in 2008), Allen played a team from Round Rock.
Beating Round Rock High in the 2006 regional semifinals, 42-35, and Round Rock Stony Point in the 2008 state semis, 23-21, Allen's third trip to at least the third round of the playoffs in the past seven years features another RRISD opponent as the Eagles (11-1) will face Round Rock Westwood (9-3) in the regional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday from Waco ISD Stadium.
The process of trading game film was much easier this year than in prior meetings.
"I contacted the Westwood coach as soon as we found out they won, which was mid-afternoon Saturday," said Tom Westerberg, Allen head coach. "I got to talk to him that night, maybe 7 or 8 p.m., and we had the video soon thereafter."
In previous matchups, the Allen and RRISD coaches had to find a neutral spot to physically exchange tapes or DVDs.
"I think last time we met in Hillsboro," Westerberg said. "This was a whole lot easier. Everyone has the same video editing software program and it's all done over the internet, so yeah ... a whole lot easier."
What the Allen coaching staff saw when examining film is a team as tough as a third-round game would dictate.
"This is definitely a solid team we are facing," Westerberg said.
Running the show for Westwood is Bear Fenimore. The Warriors quarterback missed multiple weeks in October and November, but was back on the field for both of his team's playoff games (a 31-10 win over Del Valle and last weekend's 34-26 triumph over The Woodlands).
"They have a big quarterback," Westerberg said. "He's been banged up a little and isn't quite as mobile as he had been because of that, but he is still playing very well."
Fenimore's lack of mobility no doubt has the Allen front seven salivating as the Eagles sacked Mesquite quarterback Alex Cooper eight times in Friday's 42-28 victory.
When Fenimore does get the ball off, his most frequent target is Ty Marshal. Marshall has caught 117 passes for 982 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Marshall is also one of Westwood's running backs with the Warriors handing the ball off between he, Mason Bartek and Tanner Osborn.
"They have a pretty balanced offense," Westerberg said. "You'll see them use some four-wide sets and go to the inside receiver, but also use some two-back sets."
Similar balance can be found in the Allen offense.
Sophomore quarterback Kyler Murray completed passes to four different receivers against Mesquite (seniors Oliver Pierce, Cameron Calcote, Troy Knudsen and junior Cole Carter) while also rushing for two touchdowns. Matching those two scores on the ground was senior running back Marcus Ward.
Stopping Ward and Murray will fall to Westwood linebacker Blake Thomas and defensive end Parker Hanusa, who lead the Warriors in respective tackle and sack totals. Westwood's defense, which runs a four-man front, hasn't allowed more than 28 points in a game this season.
"Their defense isn't flashy," Westerberg said, "but they are solid across the board and have been playing very well this season."
The key for Allen, however, may not necessarily be exploiting the Westwood defense as much as it is taking care of the ball. The Eagles, who have surpassed 28 points 10 times this season, fumbled the ball three times against Mesquite and had multiple issues on special teams.
Those problems led to a 21-21 halftime score.
"Whenever you put the ball on the ground, especially on that first possession, it is important for the defense to get a stop," Westerberg said. "We didn't do that and it cost us early. But we got better as the game went along and the guys know we've got to do a better job taking care of the ball."
Playing much crisper in the second half against the Skeeters, the Eagles picked up a win and advanced past the second round for the first time since winning state.
"Of course that was a big win and our team was excited about getting past the second round because it had been awhile," Westerberg said. "But any playoff win is a big one because it means you get to keep playing, and we want to keep playing."