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Playoff Preview: Allen vs. Mesquite
November 23, 2012By Tim Polzer of VYPE MAGAZINE - DFW
Allen vs. Mesquite
7:30 pm, Friday at Plano’s Clark Field
Talented quarterbacks will be on display -- one a seasoned, proven senior, the other an impressive sophomore – but one of the area’s underrated defenses could be the difference in this Class 5A Division I, Region II area round playoff game.
After opening the season with a shutout of defending 5A Division I state champion Southlake Carroll and dominating win over Cedar Hill, Allen jumped into the VYPE National Top 25 High School Football Rankings. The reportedly rebuilding Eagles maintained that perch until a Week 5 27-24 loss to Coppell.
Allen (10-1) began the season with receiver Oliver Pierce shifting over to replace Alabama signee Alec Morris at quarterback. Coach Tom Westerberg utilized Pierce’s versatile talents, but also gave Allen fans a taste of a younger quarterback, sophomore Kyler Murray. Murray, a Lewisville transfer and son of former Texas A&M quarterback hero Kevin Murray, eventually earned enough reps to become the Eagles’ starting quarterback in Week 8. Murray passed for 247 yards and three touchdowns in just three quarters against a Plano West team that’s still playing in the postseason.
Since then, Murray has completed 69 percent of his passing attempts while accumulating almost 1,400 passing yards. He’s thrown 11 touchdown passes compared to just four interceptions. Murray has also proven to be a rushing threat, averaging almost nine yards per carry while gaining 839 yards on the ground and running for 15 touchdowns.
Murray’s effectiveness has helped open the Eagles’ running game, averaging 296.4 yards per game, second-highest among area 5A teams. Allen’s featured running backs are Marcus Ward (854 yards, 11 TDs) and Jeff Harris (480 yards, 6 TDs). Murray has spread the ball around in the passing game to three receivers with almost identical stats: Kenall Clinton (27 rec., 376 yards, 3 TDs), Cole Carter (26 rec., 308 yards, 5 TDs) and Pierce (28 rec., 306 yards, 1 TD).
Mesquite (11-0) features one of the state’s most prolific quarterbacks in Alex Cooper. Cooper, a senior, has completed 77 percent of his attempts for 3,098 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 507 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Cooper leads the area’s third-ranked 5A passing offense, averaging 287 yards per game. Adding to that equation is a receiving corps that includes Rashard Higgins (69 rec., 1,137 yards and 11 TDs), Dameon Gamblin (43 rec., 644 yards, 6 TDs) and Jordan Bracy (42 rec., 493 yards, 4 TDs). The Skeeters features two running backs with more than 500 yards: Junior Session (625 yards, 9 TDs), Tyson Reed (560 yards, 7 TDs).
The Skeeters rank seventh among area 5A offenses in scoring, averaging 43.9 points per game, just .2 points ahead of eighth ranked Allen.
Which team moves on to play the winner of The Woodlands (8-3) vs. Round Rock Westwood (8-3) game next week could boil down to which defense steps up Friday.
Allen, coming off a 63-14 bi-district playoff win over Richardson, has averaged scoring 48 points in five District 10-5A opponents in what is widely considered to be one of the state’s toughest districts. Mesquite’s defense ranks 10th among area 5A teams in allowing 19.2 points per game.
Allen’s defense has allowed 16 points in 10-5A play and the entire season, including two shutouts. Allen’s ranks 13th in total defense allowing an average of 306.2 yards per game, with Mesquite ranked 15th allowing 316.5 yards per game.