FLOWER MOUND, Texas – Getting pushed to the brink of defeat has become a habit for Allen this season.
So has finding a way to pull out a win.
Against Flower Mound Marcus on Friday, the Eagles found themselves in their most dire situation yet: trailing by four points with 1:40 left in the game and possession of the ball at the 20-yard line.
But in typical fashion, Allen rallied behind quarterback Alec Morris, who hit Oliver Pierce for a 16-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left on the clock to give the Eagles a 35-31 win at Marauder Stadium.
The win puts Allen (8-0, 5-0), No. 1 in the ESPNDallas.com Class 5A area rankings, in sole possession of first place in District 8-5A for the first time this season.
"I pulled my offensive line aside and said 'We're going to go win this football game,'" Morris said of the game-winning drive. "'We're doing it for our team, our coaches, our town -- everybody. This is our ballgame. We're going to go win it."
Morris guided Allen to five touchdowns despite a standout performance from Marcus' defense, which held Allen's running game in check for most of the night.
The senior signal-caller threw for 340 yards and threw for four touchdowns. He added 84 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
"They run the football real well," said Allen head coach Tom Westerberg. "They're a good football team. Smiley is doing a great job for them."
In the first half, No. 6 (7-1, 4-1) Marcus seemingly had the answer for everything Allen did, but receiver Andrew Rodriguez almost single-handedly kept the Eagles in the game.
With Allen trailing 14-7, Rodriguez hauled in a 49-yard pass on a go route to start a drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown reception by Jonathan Williams to tie the game.
Late in the second quarter after Smiley gave Marcus the lead again with a 31-yard touchdown run, Rodriguez caught a 79-yard touchdown pass on the same play to tie it again.
And in the third quarter with the Eagles trailing by a touchdown again, Rodriguez split the safeties in zone coverage for a 60-yard touchdown reception.
He finished with 203 yards and two touchdowns on just four receptions.
"He's a playmaker," Morris said of Rodriguez. "It's a joy having him on our team, being able to look outside and know there's a receiver that's going to run by every corner. You can throw it up and he'll make plays happen."
Defensive adjustments helped Allen catch up in the second half. After giving up 289 yards on the ground in the first half alone, the Eagles simplified things in the second half and slowed Marcus down.
"We were not trying to move people around like we did in the first half," Westerberg said of his defense. "We just lined up and played base defense and got after it. We challenged the kids to play a little bit better and they did."
But it couldn't stop the Marauders entirely. Smiley, who finished with a game-high 150 yards, scored his third touchdown on a 26-yard run to give Marcus a 35-31 lead with 1:40 left in the game.
Allen responded by going 80 yards on nine plays in just 1:27 to win the game.
"We started putting some stuff together," Westerberg said of the final drive. "They had a hard time covering our receivers once in a while. Once they try to cover A-Rod [Rodriguez] on a play, then you have the other guy up the seam and we hit Oliver for the touchdown."