High School: District 7-5A

Defense powers FM Marcus girls into playoffs

February, 9, 2012
The defending Class 5A state champion Flower Mound Marcus boys are attracting all the attention heading into the playoffs, but the Marcus girls may be poised for a run of their own behind a stellar defense.

Marcus (22-12, 11-3 in 8-5A) finished second in a highly competitive District 8-5A behind Plano West and held numerous area powerhouses to surprisingly low point totals.

Plano West, No. 3 in the ESPNDallas.com Class 5A area rankings, boasts one of the best offenses in the area and averages 64 points per game. It scored just 47 in a win over Marcus.

Plano East, which averages 57 points per game, put up just 29 on Marcus in a loss earlier this year.

Plano isn't too far behind East and West at 56 points per game. In two games against Marcus, Plano scored 29 and 37 points -- both losses.

On the year, Marcus is giving up 42 points per game, and any team with a great defense has a chance to win.

Unfortunately for Marcus, it opens the playoffs against a team that may have an even better defense -- Denton Guyer.

Guyer (25-8, 10-4 in 7-5A) finished dead last in District 7-5A a year ago and had its issues even before it moved up to 5A, but the team has rebounded under second-year coach Harold Colson, who put together strong defensive teams during his tenure at Arlington High.

The Lady Wildcats give up a miniscule 34 points per game.

The two play at 6 p.m. on Monday at Trophy Club Byron Nelson in a game where points will be at a premium.
COPPELL, Texas -- Keller Central has never been mistaken for a school with dominant athletics programs.

The young school's accomplishments have been few and far between, but after the 2011-12 school year, the Chargers may be hanging more than their fair share of banners.

On the heels of the football team's first playoff berth in school history, the boys basketball team has put together not just a good year, but a great year.

The highlight of that year may have occurred Tuesday when the Chargers clinched the District 7-5A title with a 43-41 win over rival Coppell, and they did it on Coppell's home court.

"It's surreal," said Central head coach Kit Pehl of clinching district. "To get it done tonight on their floor is a big deal to us. Coppell to us is a measuring stick. To do it at their place, we're ecstatic."

To clinch its district title, Central (25-7, 11-1 in 7-5A) had to survive a game between two smash-mouth, half-court teams, as Pehl put it.

The Cowboys (22-8, 8-4 in 7-5A) held a lead for much of the second quarter but coughed it up when Central guard Zach Sanchez hit a 3-pointer late in third quarter to put the Chargers ahead, 35-33, going into the fourth.

The two teams stared each other down for the final eight minutes before missed free throws by Central and a bucket by point guard Warren Oishi put Coppell within striking distance.

On the final possession of the game, Coppell dished it to big man Jeff Raines inside, but his shot went wide of the net to give Central the win.

"It was a scramble," said Central forward Joel Bolomboy of the last play of the game. "We had to step up on defense. Everybody was crazy and scrambling, but we ended up getting it done."

In the anticipated matchup between two of the area's 5A leading scorers among forwards, Raines scored eight and Bolomboy had 10.

"They kind of negated each other," Pehl said.

Coppell, always one of the toughest defensive teams in the area under coach Brad Chasteen, also limited Central's other two stars -- point guard Warren Sledge (five points) and Joel Engulu (four points).

Central guard J.R. Rogers ended up filling the void, scoring a team-high 12 points.

"He was huge tonight," Pehl said. "He made tons of big shots. If there was an X-factor tonight, it was J.R. Rogers without question."

Just as it was the entire game, the two teams fought to a standstill in the first half as no team held a lead of more than the six Coppell led by briefly in the second quarter.

With its array of defensive looks, Coppell ran man defense after running nothing but zone in its first meeting with Central -- a 54-49 Chargers win. That allowed Central to employ the motion offense it's most comfortable with, but Coppell's physicality still limited the Chargers.

They finally broke through with a 7-0 run that began in the third quarter and ended in the fourth. It gave Central the lead to set up Coppell's final possession.

"I figured it would come down to a defensive stand and sure enough that's what happened," Pehl said.

Keller Central opens up two-game lead in 7-5A

January, 26, 2012
Keller Central's rise to the top of the District 7-5A standings may have come as a surprise to some observers, but a quick look at their roster shows that there's no secret to their success.

The Chargers (21-7, 7-1 in 7-5A) have experienced and talented seniors leading their team at key positions, and head coach Kit Pehl is getting the most out of them by taking advantage of their versatility.

"We've played everything and been competitive with everything," Pehl said. " I think we have a chance to beat anyone we play just because we're a flexible group that's capable of playing any type of defense."

Center Joel Bolomboy, small forward Joel Engulu and point guard Warren Sledge have guided the Chargers to their best season since 2008-09, the last time they made the playoffs.

Not only do the Chargers lead the district, but they opened up a two-game lead in 7-5A by virtue of a win over Denton Guyer on Tuesday and losses by Coppell and Justin Northwest.

"I knew we'd be in the race for the playoffs," Pehl said. "It would have been a ridiculous disappointment if we didn't, but to be a game into the second round and be two games up in the district race, you could only hope for that. We're pretty pleased with where things are."

Bolomboy is a 6-foot-8 center who leads the Dallas-Fort Worth area in scoring and rebounding in Class 5A with 18 points and 13 rebounds per game. Not many teams get the best of Central in the paint.

Sledge is among the area's leaders in assists, and Pehl calls him a second coach on the floor who runs Central's motion offense to perfection.

Throw in Engulu, an inside/outside player who can score from anywhere on the court, and the Chargers have a core group that excels individually and compliments each other collectively.

"It's a really nice mix of kids," Pehl said. "They're all selfless and they play their tails off. That combination has just come together really well to this point.

Many of the same players returned from last year's team, but the results weren't the same. The Chargers finished a game out of the playoffs in a district that was heavily senior-laden. Pehl said that team lacked focus and toughness to compete against teams that were more experienced.

This year, focus and toughness hasn't been a problem, to say the least.

"I knew we'd be talented but I didn't know we'd be as tough as we are," Pehl said. "That was the question, but they've been real consistent on that front."

Injury bug bites streaking Southlake Carroll

January, 18, 2012
Southlake Carroll has already fulfilled many of the goals it set for itself heading into the season.

The Lady Dragons lost just two games in nondistrict play, well below their goal of less than five. They've achieved recognition by breaching the top 10 in state rankings and, with eight returning lettermen, they looked well on their way to reaching the regional tournament.

But getting to regionals may be undermined by their inability to reach their final goal -- staying healthy.

Having already lost Janelle Jenkins for the year, Carroll (24-2, 8-0 in District 7-5A) was dealt an even bigger blow when leading scorer and rebounder Kayla Reinhart went down with injury during last week's win over Denton Guyer.

Reinhart is expected to miss four to six weeks. Head coach Teri Morrison hopes to have Reinhart back for the second round of the playoffs.

"We have to put kids in slots, hope they progress and find a way to win," Morrison said of adjusting to the injuries. "Of course it makes the road a lot harder for us. We just have to be smarter with the shot."

The injuries could not have come at a worse time, as Carroll has the look of a legitimate state-title contender when healthy.

The Lady Dragons have lost just two games this year, to DeSoto and Little Rock (Ark.) Hall, and have beaten a number of impressive teams in the process, including Mansfield Timberview Twice and North Crowley.

"We do a lot more perimeter play with this team [than with last year's team], a lot more pushing tempo," Morrison said. "We just push the tempo a lot more and don't hammer inside as much."

That's led to some lopsided scores, especially in district play. The Lady Dragons have yet to give up 40 points in a district game and have given up less than 30 in five of the eight contests, including holding Keller Fossil Ridge to just 18 in December.

But with injuries to Carroll's key players, the focus is now on just winning the next game and getting healthy as soon as possible.

"We have to take care of the next game Friday night, because it's going to be a tough one," Morrison said. "The way things go, anybody on any night can step up and play well and have a chance to win."

The Lady Dragons host Keller at 6 p.m. on Friday.
SOUTHLAKE, Texas -- With just a win separating Keller Central from the playoffs, head coach Bart Helsley told his team to enjoy every moment of its regular-season finale Friday.

After the victory, the Chargers had a historic moment to enjoy.

Helsley didn't try to round up his ecstatic players for the traditional postgame speech.

"We got plenty of time to talk later," he said.

Well after the lights went off at Dragon Stadium, the Chargers were still on the field celebrating the 28-7 victory over Coppell that vaulted them into the playoffs for the first time in school history.

Central (8-2, 5-2 in 7-5A) will play top-ranked Allen (10-0, 7-0 in 8-5A) at 8 p.m. next Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in the first round of the Division I playoffs.

"Seeing the kids excited about the way we played in the second half, it's really gratifying to see that," said Helsley, who's coached Central for all eight of its varsity seasons. "Looking at all the kids and all these fans on the field and the happiness and joy on the field ... you want to see those kids be successful."

A huge second-half performance by running back Martin Alvarez sealed the win for Central. Alvarez ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries -- all in the second half -- breaking what had been a 7-7 tie at halftime.

"Alvarez is a great football player," said Central running back Jammari Morris, who rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown. "I don't even know how to explain how good he is at football."

Meanwhile, Coppell (6-4, 3-4) couldn't get out of its own way. Still reeling from the loss of quarterback Jake Larson, the Cowboys mustered just 250 yards and left points on the field throughout the game.

In the second quarter, Coppell missed a field goal after a bad snap. At the end of the half, the Cowboys couldn't get their field-goal unit on the field in time to attempt a buzzer-beating three-pointer. And on its opening drive of the second half, Coppell kicker Nick Jordan pushed a 44-yard attempt just wide.

From there it was all Central, led by Alvarez. The Chargers needed just five plays to score after the missed field goal and they followed consecutive Coppell three-and-outs with touchdowns by Alvarez.

"Our defense has been good all year," Helsley said. "Several games we've shut people out for a half. Our defensive front was a little undersized to go up against their offensive line, but just like all year, they fought hard and were able to make plays when we needed to."

Neither team got much going in the first half. Coppell opened the scoring with a 1-yard run by quarterback Connor Wilson, who set up the touchdown with an amazing 28-yard pass to Emmanuel Mulumba that occurred after the snap went over Wilson's head.

Central wasn't able to answer until late in the second quarter. Quarterback Tanner Tausch connected with receiver Khari Burns for a 35-yard gain to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Morris.

In the locker room at halftime, Central didn't have much momentum, but Helsley had a message for his team.

"We just weren't in sync," Helsley said of his team's first-half play. "I made it a point [at halftime] to let them know that we'd come way too far to let this thing slip away."

Keller Central, Coppell battle for playoff spot

November, 2, 2011
COPPELL (6-3, 3-3 7-5A) vs. KELLER CENTRAL (7-2, 4-2)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Southlake’s Dragon Stadium

When we saw them last: Coppell kept its playoff hopes alive with a 35-17 win over Keller in which the Cowboys outscored the Indians 21-0 in the second half. Coppell threw the ball just six times. Keller Central’s defense smothered Justin Northwest in a 36-6 win. Northwest gained less than 200 yards in the game.

2010 result: Coppell thumped Central, 41-7, en route to finishing with an undefeated season.

What’s at stake: The winner of this game makes the playoffs. Both Coppell and Central can still get in with a loss if Keller Fossil Ridge loses to Keller on Thursday. If Fossil Ridge wins, it clinches a playoff spot and the winner between Coppell and Central gets the last spot.

Key matchup: With quarterback Jake Larson out for the year, Coppell has staked its season on its running game. Since their loss to Denton Guyer, the Cowboys average 37.3 carries and 208.5 rushing yards per game and have thrown the ball more than 10 times just twice in four games.

Players to watch: Running back Luke Jenner has become the focal point of Coppell’s offense. He’s rushed for 994 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Keller Central WR/DB Zach Sanchez almost single-handedly beat Denton Guyer earlier this year by scoring all three Central touchdowns in a 21-14 win. That included two as a receiver and one as defensive back.

Prediction: Keller Central 28, Coppell 24.

Injury to Southlake Carroll QB Hill not serious

October, 31, 2011
Southlake Carroll fans can rest easy. Quarterback Kenny Hill is not seriously injured.

The junior signal-caller didn’t play in Carroll’s 45-14 win over Saginaw last week, but head coach Hal Wasson said Hill’s absence was merely a precaution and that he’d play in Carroll’s regular-season finale at Denton Guyer on Friday.

“We held him out with a little tweak he had and he’ll be fine,” Wasson said. “He could have played if he had to but we didn’t use him.”

[+] EnlargeKenny Hill
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comKenny Hill will be back for Southlake Carroll's regular-season finale after he missed the Dragons' win over Saginaw.
Drew Ahmuty, who started at quarterback to open the 2010 season after Daxx Garman was ruled ineligible, filled in for Hill against Saginaw and played well, going 16-for-20 for 161 yards and two touchdowns.

Ahmuty provides Carroll (9-0, 6-0 in 7-5A) with a luxury that not many teams have: a backup quarterback who’s won at the varsity level.

“Drew did a really good job,” Wasson said. “We have a lot of confidence in Drew.”

Despite having clinched a playoff berth, Carroll’s postseason path has yet to be decided. The Dragons, No. 6 in the ESPNDallas.com 5A area rankings, don’t even know if they’re going Division I or Division II.

That’s made it hard on Carroll’s coaching staff to plan for the playoffs. Usually at this point a team can narrow down its first-round opponent to a couple of teams and some even know who it’s going to be.

But Carroll’s playoff opener could be against Hebron, Flower Mound Marcus, Plano West or Plano East, and who the Dragons would play after that gets even messier given that they don’t even know which bracket their going to be in.

Coppell (6-3, 3-3) will decide which bracket Carroll gets in. If Coppell misses the playoffs, Carroll will go Division I. If Carroll goes Division I, it will play either Plano West or Plano East.

If Coppell misses the playoffs, Carroll will go Division II. The winner of Carroll’s game with Denton Guyer will be the top seed, but even knowing its seeding won't automatically determine Carroll's first-round opponent because Marcus and Hebron are playing on Friday in a game that will decide Division II seeding in 8-5A.

“It’s going to come down to the last week,” Wasson said. “That keeps your players on point, it keeps your fans on point and it makes for an exciting finish, that’s for sure.”
KELLER, Texas -- Winning has been Southlake Carroll’s MO throughout this season.

[+] EnlargeKenny Hill
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comKenny Hill and unbeaten Southlake Carroll again coasted in the second half but came away with the win.
But so has coasting through the second half and allowing opponents to rally, forcing the Dragons (8-0, 5-0) to make big plays to win games.

Thursday, it took a fourth-and-1 scamper from quarterback Kenny Hill to put a nail in Keller Central’s coffin and give Carroll's the 24-21 victory.

“We kind of get comfortable, kind of complacent. We just kind of lose focus,” Hill said. “When it matters we pick it up again, but we need to be doing that the whole 48 minutes.”

As is the typical Dragons way, Carroll jumped out to an early 17-0 lead. Hill hit Sabian Holmes on a 58-yard touchdown pass and Peyton Williams for a 21-yard score sandwiched around a 25-yard field goal, all in the first quarter.

Central answered in the second on a 5-yard touchdown catch by Zack Sanchez, bringing the score to 17-7, which is where it would stay for much of the remainder of the game.

Carroll attempted to cruise through the second half, and it came back to bite them in the fourth after a bad bounce on a punt gave the ball to Central on the Dragons' 30. Three plays later, the Chargers were within three when Sanchez scored on a 3-yard run to the pylon.

Keller Central had a chance to tie it with six minutes to go but missed a 32-yard field goal after recovering a Southlake fumble on the Dragons' 36.

The next drive was all downhill for the Dragons. Hill picked up the key first down on fourth-and-1 and followed with 37-yard run to extend the lead to 10 with 2:26 left.

The junior quarterback said he loves that he is entrusted with the ball at the end of games over the team’s running backs.

“I’m glad they’re putting it in my hands. I want the ball at the end of the games. I’m fine giving it to [the running backs] because they’re solid runners, but I like having the ball.”

Central mounted a last-minute rally and scored on a 19-yard catch by Sanchez but failed to recover the onside kick, allowing Carroll to run out the clock.

While many of Carroll's wins have been fairly ugly, not unlike Thursday’s, Dragons coach Hal Wasson said he will take the victories however they come.

“That’s the way we’ve chosen to win this year,” Wasson said. “At the end of the day, we get that 17-point lead -- Central responded and made a game of it -- and fortunately we were able to get out of it with a win.”

The win allows Carroll to control its own destiny in winning the District 7-5A title, with games against Saginaw and Denton Guyer left in the regular season. But it’s a challenge that has to be met with greater mental fortitude, Wasson said.

When it came down to it, Wasson said it was his players' lack of focus that has kept the Dragons from finishing games early but pointed the finger back toward himself for not preparing his players to have that kind of mental edge.

“We are a team that has to be on edge,” Wasson said. “I probably didn’t do a good enough job getting them ready to play this week. I’ve got to do a better job in that as far as the consistency part -- that mental edge. We have to play with that mental tenacity, that focus level we talk about and I’ve got to do a better job with that.”

SL Carroll puts its perfect record on the line

October, 19, 2011
SOUTHLAKE CARROLL (7-0, 4-0 7-5A) at KELLER CENTRAL (6-1, 3-1)
7 p.m. Thursday at Keller ISD Athletic Complex

When we saw them last: Since struggling late in wins over Keller Fossil Ridge and Keller, Southlake Carroll has tallied two decisive wins, the most recent a 27-10 victory over Coppell. Right when the spotlight finally fell on Keller Central, it wilted. Fossil Ridge tallied 15 points in the fourth quarter to take a 24-16 win over Central to spoil the Chargers’ undefeated record.

2010 result: Central held Fossil Ridge to 13 rushing yards and capitalized on two Panther interceptions in a dominating 45-14 win. CJ Kirk scored four touchdowns for Central.

What’s at stake: Central finally got some recognition for its great season when it beat Denton Guyer, but that all went bust after it lost to Fossil Ridge. A win over undefeated Carroll would put the Chargers right back into the conversation again, not to mention in first place in 7-5A.

Key matchup: Central WR/DB Zach Sanchez vs. Carroll WR/DB Sabian Holmes. It’s conceivable that these two two-way players will be lined up against each other for the entire game. Given that they’re two of the best in the district at their respective positions, it could turn into great theater in addition to a key matchup.

Players to watch: Receiver Peyton Williams had a game-high 14 receptions in Carroll’s win over Coppell last week, giving him 53 receptions on the year. With so much star power in the district at quarterback, Central’s Tanner Tausch often gets overlooked. He shouldn’t. He’s thrown for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

Prediction: Southlake Carroll 31, Keller Central 21.
All of Keller Fossil Ridge’s success this season has come with a caveat.

Its nondistrict wins were against weak competition. Its near upset of Southlake Carroll was because the Dragons fell asleep after halftime. The Panthers pushed Coppell only because the Cowboys didn’t have their quarterback.

But critics may have to put the caution signs away after Fossil Ridge’s win over previously unbeaten Keller Central last week. The Panthers scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take a 24-16 win that puts them in the hunt for a playoff spot in District 7-5A.

“We felt like we wouldn’t really define ourselves as a team until we beat somebody we weren’t suppose to beat,” said Fossil Ridge head coach Tony Baccarini. “We got close with Southlake and Coppell and had our chances at the end of those games.”

A closer look at the Panthers (4-3, 2-2 in 7-5A) shows that there are more than a few reasons to think they can make the postseason.

Quarterback Sheldon Neuse has proved to be one of the better junior signal-callers in the area. He’s thrown for 1,414 yards with 12 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

He’s a legitimate dual threat as well, tallying 421 yards on the ground.

“He’s a great competitor and leader,” Baccarini said of Neuse. “You have to account for him for run and pass, which puts a lot more pressure on defensive coordinators. He makes good decisions and stays within the offense. We don’t’ take a lot of chances as far as turnovers go.”

Fossil Ridge hasn’t had a lot of success in recent years. One reason is the program's numbers dropped after the opening of Keller Timber Creek, leaving the team with fewer bodies to fill holes.

“We’re barely in 5A and have been for the last four years,” Baccarini said. “Numbers always help. When you get people injured, there’s more depth when you have bigger numbers.”

With the effect of that fading away, Fossil Ridge’s numbers are stabilizing, making it a young team that has a chance to compete not only this year, but next year as well.

Neuse is a junior, leading rusher Chaylon Bowman (461 yards, seven touchdowns) is a sophomore and the team starts nine sophomores and a freshman.

“We have some great young kids,” Baccarini said. “They need to continue to work to get better.”

Fossil Ridge currently sits fifth in 7-5A, but with the toughest part of its schedule behind them, it’s conceivable that the Panthers can make up ground and get into the postseason.

And other teams fighting for playoff spots appear vulnerable. Coppell (5-2, 2-2), which owns the tiebreaker over Fossil Ridge, lost its quarterback for the year. Denton Guyer (5-2, 3-1) lost to a Central team that Fossil Ridge beat, and Central (6-1, 3-1) still has games against Carroll (7-0, 4-0) and Coppell.

Southlake Carroll methodically tops Coppell

October, 14, 2011
SOUTHLAKE, Texas -- Southlake Carroll head coach Hal Wasson can empathize with his counterpart at Coppell, Joe McBride.

He knows what it's like to lose your quarterback during a season that began with high hopes.

Wasson and the Dragons were able to take advantage of a Coppell offense that didn't have much pop without starting quarterback Jake Larson, who's out for the year with a torn ACL.

Carroll bottled up Coppell's running game and controlled the clock on offense to register a 27-10 victory over the Cowboys on Friday at Dragon Stadium.

"They've had to go through some adversity with the quarterback," Wasson said. "We've experienced that same thing. We're a good football team. They're a good football team. We just came out on top today."

Without much of a passing game, Coppell (5-2, 2-2 in 7-5A) had one card to play -- running back Luke Jenner. He rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, but it wasn't enough to make up for a passing game that tallied just 97 yards, much of which came on Coppell's final drive.

Meanwhile, Carroll (7-0, 4-0) executed a methodical offensive game plan featuring quick passes to the outside receivers that moved the chains and kept the clock moving.

Peyton Williams and Sabian Holmes were the primary benefactors of the strategy with the former catching 14 passes for 94 yards. Holmes added seven receptions for 69 yards.

"If they're going to give us five yards, we're going to take it," Holmes said of the quick passes.

Still, Coppell's defense is a formidable unit, and it kept the Cowboys in the game, as did Coppell's stellar play on third down, which prolonged a number seemingly doomed drives to keep the Cowboys alive.

The Cowboys stuck with junior Tyler Zabojnik at quarterback for all but a few plays. His numbers aren't pretty -- 10 for 18 for 97 yards -- but he didn't turn the ball over, and he converted three third downs with pass completions.

The game was a standoff until late in the second quarter when Carroll recovered a Coppell fumble late that quarterback Kenny Hill converted into a touchdown with a 1-yard run to put the Dragons up 13-3 at halftime.

Coppell held the ball for the majority of the third quarter but couldn't cash in despite breaching Dragon territory twice.

"I thought our defense did an outstanding job," Wasson said. "Coppell has a tremendous running game. I thought we improved with tackling. We played real hungry, passionate football."

Persistence with the running game finally paid off in the fourth quarter for Coppell when Jenner popped off a 49-yard run that set up a 5-yard touchdown run to cut Carroll's lead to 13-10.

But Carroll answered with its best drive of the night.

The Dragons went 80 yards on 11 plays, capped by a 27-yard touchdown run by Steven Bergmark The sophomore was met at the line by a number of Cowboys but bulled his way through for the score to seal the win.

"We controlled the clock," Holmes said. "We ran plays that would control the clock. Kenny did a great job spotting the ball."

Southlake Carroll hosts new-look rival Coppell

October, 13, 2011
COPPELL (5-1, 2-1 7-5A) at No. 5 SOUTHLAKE CARROLL (6-0, 3-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Dragon Stadium

When we saw them last: In its first game since losing QB Jake Larson to a season-ending ACL tear, Coppell rallied from an 11-point deficit to register a 22-19 win over Keller Fossil Ridge. The win kept the Cowboys from dropping two straight and going into a potential free fall. After two subpar second-half performances, Southlake Carroll delivered a resounding 48-13 win over Justin Northwest where QB Kenny Hill threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns while completing more than 80 percent of his passes.

2010 result: In Hill’s third career start, Carroll struggled to keep pace with a well-oiled Coppell team and lost 35-17. Coppell stuffed the Carroll running game, holding it to just over two yards per carry while Cam McDaniel ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns.

What’s at stake: Southlake Carroll hasn’t gone undefeated in the regular season since Hal Wasson became head coach in 2007. A win over Coppell would move the Dragons one step closer with Keller Central (6-0, 3-0) and Denton Guyer (4-2, 2-1) remaining on their schedule. Coppell is doing everything it can to survive after losing its starting quarterback for the year. A win over a powerhouse such as Carroll would suggest the Cowboys will do more than survive.

Key matchup: Without Larson under center, Coppell threw just seven total passes in its win over Keller Fossil Ridge, relying almost entirely on its running game. That may be what Coppell would have done even with Larson against Carroll, which was gashed on the ground by Copperas Cove (379 yards), L.D. Bell (335 yards) and Fossil Ridge (245 yards).

Players to watch: Who will become Coppell’s QB for the rest of the year -- junior varsity starter Tyler Zabojnik or converted receivers Connor Wilson and Matt Gillen? Head coach Joe McBride suggested all three may get a look against the Dragons. Carroll’s margin of victory seems to be higher when Sabian Holmes is involved in the passing game. He’s caught 30 balls for 536 yards and six touchdowns so far this season.

Prediction: Southlake Carroll 35, Coppell 20.

Coppell evaluating new quarterbacks after win

October, 10, 2011
Coppell’s win over Keller Fossil Ridge on Friday was more impressive than the 22-19 score indicates.

The Cowboys had to rally from a 19-5 deficit to pull off the win, which came against an underrated Fossil Ridge team that pushed Southlake Carroll to the brink of defeat.

And they did it despite the ugly aftermath of their loss to Denton Guyer two weeks ago. Quarterback Jake Larson tore the ACL in his right knee against Guyer and is out for the year. Offensive coordinator Mike Dormady was fired after the game and replaced by assistant head coach Jay Jones.

Had Coppell (5-1, 2-1 in District 7-5A) fallen to Fossil Ridge, it could have turned what was a state-ranked team into one in danger of missing the playoffs in just two weeks.

“That’s a good win just to get some confidence under those backup quarterbacks’ belts,” said Coppell head coach Joe McBride. “When you got a starter that’s really hurt and changes have to be made, it’s just a deal where everybody around has to raise their play.”

The Cowboys certainly looked different against Fossil Ridge. They threw the ball just six times in the win and rotated former junior varsity quarterback Tyler Zabojnik and converted receiver Connor Wilson under center.

Wilson threw just one pass, which was incomplete, while Zabojnik went 2-for-5 for 20 yards.

“We got to spoon feed them a little bit,” McBride said. “You got to eat this pig one bite at a time to make it easy for them. It’ll get more balanced [in the future].”

McBride said his team will continue to rotate players at quarterback and may add Matt Gillen to the rotation if he’s ready. Gillen is also a converted receiver.

“We’re trying to build on their strengths,” McBride said of his three quarterbacks. “We’re going to see who’s cream is going to rise to the top.”

The sooner the cream rises the better. Coppell plays at archrival Southlake Carroll (6-0, 3-0) on Friday.

Keller Central can prove it belongs with win

October, 5, 2011
No. 8 DENTON GUYER (4-1, 2-0 7-5A) at KELLER CENTRAL (5-0, 2-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Keller ISD Athletic Complex

When we saw them last: Denton Guyer made a huge statement last week with a 31-7 walloping of Coppell. After losing a stellar senior class last season, many questioned whether Guyer could reload. The win over Coppell is the clearest evidence yet that the Wildcats are here to stay. Central made short work of a Saginaw team still trying to find its footing at the 5A level. A fumble returned for a touchdown by Trevor Demerson late in the fourth quarter sealed the 41-20 win.

2010 result: Guyer had run up a 22-point lead by halftime and coasted to a 47-20 win. Treavon Walton helped overcome an uncharacteristically inefficient performance from quarterback J.W. Walsh with 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

What’s at stake: Win for Keller Central would prove that it belongs among the other undefeated 5A teams in the area, but a loss would only prove that Central is a solid team that’s played a weak schedule. The game serves as nothing but a trap game for Guyer, which doesn’t want to lose the momentum it gained from beating Coppell.

Key matchup: Central’s offensive line, led by Zach Britton and Simon Goines, has allowed the Charger offense to be remarkably balanced, but it’s facing what’s likely the best defensive front it’s seen this season. Since their rise to power, the Wildcats have always been strong up front on defense and this year is no different with Cody Henessee, Dan Kottman and Diontre Thomas.

Players to watch: Guyer sophomore quarterback Jerrod Heard had a breakout performance against Coppell last week and should continue progressing throughout the year. More than a third of Central receiver Zach Sanchez’s receptions have gone for touchdowns as he has eight scores on 21 catches. He averages more than 25 yards per catch and has developed into one of the best big-play threats in the area.

Prediction: Denton Guyer 27, Keller Central 17.

2nd-half swoons a trend for Southlake Carroll

October, 3, 2011
Play in the second half has been an issue lately for Southlake Carroll.

The Dragons (5-0, 2-0 in District 7-5A) have been outscored 27-3 after the break in their last three games, including two games where they nearly coughed up huge halftime leads.

Against Keller Fossil Ridge two weeks ago, Carroll led 28-13 going into the third quarter but escaped with the win only by virtue of a failed two-point conversion attempt by the Panthers late in the fourth quarter. Carroll won, 28-26.

It happened again last week against Keller. The Dragons held a 26-7 halftime lead but let the Indians back in the game before surviving with a 26-21 win.

Even with the eye-raising almost-collapses, Carroll is in good position to challenge for the 7-5A title. The Dragons are tied for first place with Denton Guyer and Keller Central and control their own destiny with games against their co-leaders and Coppell ahead of them.

But Guyer may have assumed front-runner status with its 31-7 mauling of Coppell last week, a brutal game for the Cowboys that left starting quarterback Jake Larson on crutches. Carroll closes the regular season at Guyer.

The Dragons play at Justin Northwest on Friday.