ARLINGTON, Texas -- Plano East (6-5) gained a reputation for being heart attack kids by unexpectedly hanging with some of the area’s top teams until the final buzzer this season.
Plano East took Allen, arguably the best team in the state, to the wire earlier in the year on national TV and gave Southlake Carroll (11-0) a scare of epic proportions in Saturday’s 5A Division I bi-district match at Cowboys Stadium.
The Dragons held on to win, 23-16, but they needed every second to down the scrappy Plano East squad.
Southlake Carroll had the game all but wrapped up with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter, when a pass play came in to quarterback Kenny Hill on third-and-7. The objective, Hill said, was to go ahead and end this one quickly by putting seven more points on the board.
Thanks to a tip by the Plano East line, the plan backfired and the heart attack kids had another shot to down state title contender Carroll.
“We thought we had a good play called,” Southlake coach Hal Wasson said. "Obviously it wasn’t. We weren’t counting on them tipping the ball at the line of scrimmage. In hind sight, if I could see the future, we’d probably have to run it down there.”
But is Plano East is also the heartbreak kids for fans. Just a few plays later, quarterback Corey Wesley threw an interception to Jeremy McClellan. Two victory formation kneels later, and the game was over.
“I trust our team. I trusted our defense to go out and respond and that’s what they did," Wasson said.
The Dragons are always lucky to have Hill on their side to extend drives, running valuable time off the clock. Hill carried the ball 33 times for 199 yards and opened up those running lanes by passing for 205 yards.
Hill scored Carroll’s first touchdown in the second quarter to pull within a point of Plano East’s eight-point lead, but failed to convert on the 2-point try.
A 46-yard field goal by Carroll kicker Drew Brown gave the Dragons the lead going into the locker room.
Plano East stuck with its well-prepared game plan after the break, taking back the lead on a 41-yard touchdown pass to Dante Taylor early in the third.
Carroll tied it up with just under four minutes left in the third on a 9-yard pass to Peyton Williams, streaking across the back of the end zone.
Both defenses stood tall in the fourth, turning the game into a back-and-forth punting contest until Hill led the Dragons down the field and A.J. Ezzard broke through the line for a 1-yard touchdown run with four minutes to play in the game.
Wasson said that East’s late game scare gave his team much needed playoff pressure experience.
“I don’t care what you put in, they have to get this playoff game experience and fortunately we have a lot of great leadership here that they can follow,” Wasson said. “We’ve won a lot of games like this, but I think it speaks volumes about the integrity and character of this team.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Carroll next week with Cedar Hill (8-3) coming to Cowboys Stadium to challenge the Dragons in the area round at 11 a.m. Saturday.