High School: Hebron

As the softball regular season played out, it became a foregone conclusion that someone from District 8-5A would earn an appearance in the state tournament this weekend.

Plano might have been the favorite coming off a state tournament berth last season, but Plano East separated itself as the top dog in 8-5A after beating Plano twice in district play and then knocking another district rival, Hebron, out of the playoffs in the regional finals last weekend.

Now, Plano East will represent what many coaches in North Texas believe is the toughest district in the state in Austin.

East will face Klein Collins in the 5A state semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday at the University of Texas’ McCombs softball field in its second trip to state in three years.

East’s success begins in the circle with ace Holly Kern, who notched 26 wins this season with just under 200 strikeouts and a 2.18 ERA.

East is equally as strong on offense, boasting nine batters with averages over .300, two of which are batting well over .400.

Kern again ranks at the top of her team on offense, hitting just under .400 and leads the team in both doubles and home runs.

Despite how strong Plano East looks on paper, Klein Collins looks even better. All but two Collins batters hit over .300 this season, led by Laura Lopez with a .500 average in just under 100 at-bats.

Collins split pitching time between Taylor Grissom and Tayler Atkinson, with Grissom standing out as the team’s ace, tallying 14 wins with an ERA just above 1.00.

If East can weather Collins’ offensive force, it will make its first trip to the state finals since 1995 when East lost 11-0 to Pasadena Dobie.
Plano East and Hebron softball will finish a three-game series to decide who goes to state.

This isn’t the typical best-of-three series that many coaches elect to play in the playoffs, it’s simply the third time the two will meet this season after facing each other twice in district play.

“Our district is really one of the hardest districts in the state of Texas,” Hebron coach Staci Jackson said. “It proves it because East has already played Flower Mound, and we’ve already played Plano, and now here we are playing Plano East to go to state. If that doesn’t show you that our district is extremely strong, I don’t know what does.”

Instead of deciding the Class 5A regional final in a best-of-three series, the decision went to a coin toss, which was won by Jackson in favor of a one-and-done game.

Jackson said she believes that this late in the season, a one-game regional final does more to prepare the winning team for the single-elimination state tournament in Austin.

Hebron entered the playoffs as the final seed coming out of District 8-5A but has peaked when it mattered and eliminated two district champions and two runners-up in its journey to the region final.

“In our district, it doesn’t really matter what seed you are,” Jackson said. “As long as you make it in the top four, anything can happen in the postseason.”

Hebron must conquer the challenge of a Plano East team that has dominated the Hawks in their two meetings 8-1 and 11-1 this season.

Defense is Jackson’s key to turning the tables on East, which has made a name for itself this season in its ability to generate offense in many different ways.

Jackson said her team’s ability is there to create a different result, so the trip to Austin might come down to the team with the better focus on defense.

“It might be the first team that makes a mistake that loses,” Jackson said.

Forney eyes return bid to state tournament

Forney surprised many last season by not only making the state tournament, but also advancing to the Class 4A state final, only to lose 10-3 to Santa Fe.

Because of that success, it’s no secret anymore that the Jackrabbits can play some ball.

However, Forney again reaches the regional finals as an underdog to its own district 15-4A champion Ennis, who beat Forney twice in district play.

“My girls came out of both games thinking we should have had a good shot at it,” Forney coach Eric Montgomery said. “My girls are not overly confident, but they are confident that they can perform well this weekend.”

Forney graduated threes seniors since last season’s state tournament campaign, including starting pitcher Macie Tillery, but the tandem of Danielle Najera and Allison Brown has stepped in seamlessly, offering two contrasting looks to opposing hitters.

Montgomery wanted a best-of-three series and ended up winning the toss. He said he believes multiple games will allow his hitters time to figure out Ennis’ pitching.

“I’m hoping that over a three-game series that my girls will be able to figure them out,” Montgomery said. “The ability to change up pitchers will be able to keep them off-balance hopefully because they are a pretty good hitting team as well.”
To say the Flower Mound softball team had a rough week would be a terrible understatement.

The team thought it had Saturday's one-game Class 5A regional quarterfinal against Plano East in the bag on a walk-off hit that scored a runner from second base in the bottom of the seventh.

The play appeared to end when the runner slid past a tag from the Plano East catcher, eliciting a safe signal from the home plate umpire.

But the runner was tagged during the Flower Mound celebration and was called out for not touching home plate.

The controversy boiled down to a small difference in rules between softball and baseball as mandated by the National High School Federation.

Rule 2, section 1, article 9 of the NHSF rule book states: “If a runner misses home plate and the catcher misses the tag, the umpire should hesitate slightly. If no tag is made, the umpire should declare the runner safe. If an appeal play is then made by tagging either the runner or home plate, the umpire should then make a decision on this appeal play.”

In baseball, umpires are instructed to hold position and refrain from making any call if no tag is made on a play and the runner misses the plate.

“The intention of the rule was probably meant to be good but in this situation it was not,” Flower Mound coach Mark Larriba said.

Flower Mound failed to plate any more runners in the seventh and could not come from behind in the eighth after Plano East took a 3-2 lead, ending the Lady Jaguars’ season in a crushing fashion.

And it came while the team was already dealing with tragedy.

Earlier in the week, Flower Mound catcher Christy Lisenby's father died in a car accident. The team did not practice Wednesday and had a memorial service to attend after the Saturday's game.

“There was a lot of emotion going around and then to have that happen,” Larriba said. “It was difficult to tell the girls the right thing. We realized softball is like life – it’s not fair. Sometimes things go against you but how you react to adversity is what coaches teach you and we really had to apply that.”

Larriba said he has no hard feelings toward the umpire, whom he said was trying to do his job to the best of his abilities, and wished Plano East the best of luck in their journey deeper in to the playoffs.

He just chalks it up to the human element to the game – which includes those who write the rules.

“The lesson is that people make mistakes. If we never forgave people for making mistakes, the world would be a hateful place,” Larriba said.

At least one area team destined for Austin

All that remain in the Class 4A Region II bracket are four strong teams from the Metroplex, meaning one will earn a bid to the state tournament in Austin.

Defending state finalist Forney returns to the regional semifinal to face a hot Rockwall squad that has yet to face much of a challenge in its playoff run. The first two games will be held at Forney on Thursday and Rockwall on Friday, with a rubber match Saturday at Plano West if necessary.

The winner of that series has either Frisco Wakeland or Ennis to look forward to in the region final.

Wakeland has been impressive, outscoring opponents 53-2 through four games in the first three rounds of play.

In 4A Region I, Birdville is the only area team still alive.

Hebron ousts Plano in regional quarterfinal

Plano will not make a return trip to Austin after falling to Hebron 4-2 in a one-game Class 5A regional quarterfinal Saturday.

That leaves just Plano East and Hebron representing the area in the 5A bracket, both in Region I. Plano East faces Lubbock Coronado and Hebron takes on El Paso Americas in the regional semis this weekend.
Rockwall and McKinney faced off twice this softball season in District 10-4A play, with district champion Rockwall winning both times, 3-1 and 8-2.

Just because district play is over doesn’t mean these two are done battling.

Rockwall and McKinney are slated to square off again in the regional quarterfinals of the 2012 UIL softball state playoffs in a best-of-three series at Allen High School.

Rockwall rides a high into the regional quarterfinal after knocking of Frisco Centennial decisively in the bi-district round. Centennial eliminated the Yellowjackets last year in the regional semifinals, Rockwall’s deepest trip into the playoffs under head coach Shadie Acosta.

Rockwall did not return the veteran experience it had last season but has peaked at the right time, taking a few lumps throughout the regular season to prepare for the challenging grind of the playoffs.

“You’re going to have some rough times in the beginning if you have a young team and you have to build that chemistry,” Acosta said. “I think we decided that we were going to make this work. We’ve had many opportunities this season to touch on those things and how important it is to have that common respect for each other on and off the field and how your work ethic will always pay off.”

Two of the highs in Rockwall’s roller-coaster season were wins over McKinney.

While the second score was lopsided in Rockwall’s favor, McKinney proved it could play with the Yellowjackets in the first matchup, leading 1-0 through the sixth inning before Rockwall mounted a three-run rally.

“They have a great pitcher and a few good players so we know that they’re not going to roll over for us," Acosta said. "They are our district rival and one of the better teams in our district so we’re always excited to face off against them.”

Plano and Plano East destined for playoff duel

Over the past two years, high school football fans have dubbed Allen-Euless Trinity playoff matchups as the biggest must-see games this side of the state championship.

In high school softball, the matchup of that caliber is looming just two rounds away.

Plano and Plano East share a district and placement in the ESPNHS Fab 50, with East coming in highest at No. 11.

Plano East took the season series and in turn claimed the district title over second-place Plano.

Before that matchup can happen, the two Plano schools will have to face their most challenging opponents to date in the regional quarterfinals.

Plano East will face the third-place finisher from its district, Flower Mound, in the regional quarterfinals this weekend.

In an interesting twist, Flower Mound handed Plano East its only two district losses of the season.

Plano faces Hebron, which finished fourth in District 8-5A but knocked off District 7-5A champion Keller and 6-5A runner-up Hurst L.D. Bell in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Plano went the distance in its three-game area-round series before dispatching Mansfield Legacy, making nothing certain against a hot Hebron squad.
Coming off a softball state tournament appearance in 2010 and 2011’s regional quarterfinal team, Hebron senior pitcher Heather Stearns surprisingly had to step her game up.

She is one of the few remaining leaders from 2010’s state semifinal team and one of the few returning from last season as Hebron (19-9, 5-6) graduated seven seniors in 2011. Since the offseason, Stearns has felt the pressure to carry 2012’s young team on her shoulders from inside the circle.

“She’s really had to hold her own this year.” Hebron coach Staci Jackson said. “She’s really had to show a lot of leadership and she most definitely has. She worked extremely hard over the offseason to really try and get stronger and hold her stamina up because she knows over the past two years during our playoff and state runs – it takes a toll on her.”

In turn, her diligence in the weight room has not only helped her longevity in the circle, separating herself again as one of the area’s leaders in strikeouts with 188, but it’s put her at the top of the home run charts in the Metroplex with 12.

“I think her time is still coming,” Jackson said. “We’ve got three games left in district which are huge and I think her time is coming offensively.”

Hebron heads into potentially its most important game of the season Friday against Plano West, which sits just behind Hebron in fifth place with a 4-7 District 8-5A record with three games to play.

District 8-5A continues to dominate area softball

The distance between No. 3 and No. 30 in the ESPN Fab 50 national polls is approximately 7 miles.

Last year’s state semifinalist Plano continues its domination in 2012 with a 23-3 season record and a 10-1 district record, but the Wildcats are in No. 3 Plano East’s rearview mirror in both the district standings and the Fab 50.

Plano East pitcher Holly Kern has held her own in the circle, putting up a 1.77 ERA, but has had plenty of offensive support from nine players hitting above .300.

The Panthers (26-2, 10-1) took the first game against Plano 8-1, but the Wildcats still have a chance for revenge April 17 in the second-to-last game of the season for both teams.

Also in the Week 6 Fab 50 poll from the area is Mansfield Legacy at No. 42.

SGP blows by Hebron to reach region tourney

February, 28, 2012
COLLEYVILLE, Texas -- At a hulking 6-8, Chris Washburn is the prototypical inside player who can battle in the paint for easy buckets and tough rebounds.

But the senior's passing ability has become one of the most important aspects of his game for South Grand Prairie.

Boys brackets: 5A »   4A »
Girls brackets: 5A »   4A »
State tournament: Girls » Boys »
That was the case against Hebron on Tuesday. With the Hawks collapsing on the UTEP signee every time he touched the ball, Washburn dished it outside to his guards, whose sharpshooting guided the Warriors to a convincing 67-49 win in front of a ruckus crowd at Colleyville Heritage High School.

South Grand Prairie (34-2) advances to play El Paso Hanks in the Class 5A Region I semifinals.

"Every team we play, they triple-team him and quadruple-team him," said South Grand Prairie head coach Brandon Bennett of Washburn. "Whenever he gets that, he passes the ball. He's not a selfish kid. It opens things up for our guards. It's happened all year."

Hebron (23-11) came into the game giving up just 51 points per game but did little to slow down a potent Warriors offense.

After struggling in a man defense in the first quarter, the Hawks switched to a box 1 defense that didn't give Washburn much room to work, but it created plenty of space for his teammates.

Guards Jayrn Johnson and Jovan Austin scored 13 and 11 points, respectively, while forward Tyler Jacobs added 13. And Washburn was still able to get in on the action at the end. He threw down three consecutive emphatic dunks in the final two minutes to ice the game and finish with eight points.

"That's been happening all year," Austin said of Washburn. "He just looks for other people. He knows that's going to happen every game. He does what he can. We have other guys that step up."

The Warriors jumped out to an 8-2 lead behind a hot start by Jacobs and led by 10 by the end of the first quarter.

That lead only increased in the second quarter, and Austin's scoring barrage at the end of the frame gave South Grand Prairie a 33-19 halftime lead.

Hebron trailed by as many as 22 in the fourth quarter but made a late push to cut South Grand Prairie's lead to 14, but Washburn's trio of easy dunks in the waning minutes ignited the crowd and sealed the victory.

South Grand Prairie has looked every bit like a team ready to contend for a state title. In their three playoff games, the Warriors have won by an average of 24 points.

"I think we're playing really good, but we can get better," Bennett said. "We can protect the ball better. We can close out games better. We're going to keep working on it but we're playing pretty dang good right now."

Hebron boys shock 7-5A champ Keller Central

February, 22, 2012
Hebron's boys have a chance to advance past the area round for the first time as a 5A team with a win over Cedar Hill this weekend.

The Hawks (22-10) won't be favored, but they've already pulled one big upset in the playoffs.

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Girls brackets: 5A »   4A »
State tournament: Girls » Boys »
As the No. 4 seed out of District 8-5A, Hebron blasted 7-5A champion Keller Central 58-43 in bi-district play.

Central had been enjoying a dream season as the trio of Joel Bolomboy, Joel Engulu and Warren Sledge had the Chargers thinking of a potential playoff run.

Point guard Ridge Shipley (21 points) and forward Drew Nelson (13) paced Hebron against Central as they've done all season. Nelson leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game while Shipley averages 13 points and five assists.

Cedar Hill comes out of a brutal District 5-5A where it battled No. 2-ranked South Grand Prairie, traditional power Duncanville and a Mansfield Timberview team that pulled the biggest upset of the playoffs so far against Richland.

Hebron's upset highlighted a great Tuesday night for 8-5A, which went 3-1 against 7-5A. Flower Mound Marcus beat Justin Northwest and Plano West beat Keller.

District 7-5A's only win was Coppell's victory over Allen. The Cowboys needed overtime but eventually won, 43-41.

Wylie duo among locals headed down to Baylor

February, 1, 2012
Local recruits are flocking to Baylor on national signing day.

As of 9:30 Wednesday morning, the Bears had announced the signing of 20 recruits, eight of them from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Bears have received signed letters of intent from two Wylie players, DB Terrell Burt and OL Kyle Fuller.

Also headed down I-35 to Waco are Denton Ryan DL Dominique Banks, Richardson Pearce WR Corey Coleman, Hebron WR Kiante' Griffin, Euless Trinity LB Brian Nance, McKinney Boyd DE Jamal Palmer and Garland QB Seth Russell.

8-5A falls short of expectations in postseason

November, 21, 2011
Since District 8-5A’s conception two years ago, many considered it one of the strongest and deepest football districts in the state.

With realignment looming in February, Flower Mound Marcus and Allen losing this weekend marked the end of the perceived super-district.

Bi-district »   Area round »
Region semis »   Region finals »
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Class 5A: Div. I | Div. II
Class 4A: Div. I | Div. II

5A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
5A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2

While the 8-5A performed well in nondistrict play during the regular season, its playoff record didn’t live up to the hype.

Consider these numbers:

-- 8-5A went an incredible 38-10 in nondistrict regular-season play;

-- 8-5A went just 3-8 in the playoffs;

-- 8-5A went 3-5 against District 7-5A, its bi-district rival;

-- No 8-5A team went beyond the area round, and only three teams made it to area – both Allen teams and 2011 Marcus.

Like with any statistic, these numbers come with caveats.

It’s hard to say how good the two Allen teams were because they got very unfortunate area-round draws against Euless Trinity. With a better draw, Allen might have improved 8-5A’s overall playoff record.

The same can be said of playing 7-5A in bi-district. If 8-5A had been number 9 or 10 instead of 8 and played a weaker district in the first round, it might have been a very different story.

However, the final results don’t refute two facets of 8-5A – parity and depth. Only two teams didn’t make the playoffs in the district’s two-year history (Plano West and Lewisville), and playoff-worthy teams got left out of the postseason both years because of tiebreakers (Hebron in 2010, Plano West in 2011).

And for evidence of parity within the district, one only had to watch a game. District 8-5A play produced some of the year’s best regular-season games of the season, and the average margin of victory for 8-5A playoff teams against other 8-5A playoff teams was less than a touchdown.

Guyer's Conner Crane talks about bi-district win

November, 14, 2011

ESPNDallas.com's Travis L. Brown interviews Denton Guyer receiver Conner Crane after his two-touchdown performance in the Wildcats' 41-35 double-overtime win over Hebron in a Class 5A Division II bi-district game.

Guyer defense clutch in 2OT win over Hebron

November, 12, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -– Denton Guyer did everything that usually costs a team a game.

The Wildcats committed an atrocious 19 penalties for 130 yards, many of which single-handedly killed offensive possessions.

They missed a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation that would have won the game. They had an extra point blocked in the second overtime that gave Hebron an opening to win it with a walk-off extra point.

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Region semis »   Region finals »
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Class 5A: Div. I | Div. II
Class 4A: Div. I | Div. II

5A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
5A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2

But Guyer came up with several clutch defensive stops, including on Hebron's last possession, that helped it overcome its mistakes in a 41-35 double-overtime win Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in the Class 5A Division II bi-district round.

Guyer (8-3) advances to play Mansfield (10-1) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Cowboys Stadium.

"I was in a good mood until the camera guy told me we had 19 penalties," said Guyer head coach John Walsh. "That's a tough stat to swallow whether you win or lose, but this program has seen it all and almost done it all in a short period of time. We don't panic. We expect to win at critical times."

Hebron (6-5) had two chances to win the game at the end of the fourth quarter. The Hawks went for it on fourth-and-3 at the Guyer 12-yard line with less than six minutes left and failed to convert.

Following a Guyer three-and-out, the Hawks went for it on fourth-and-3 again at the Guyer 38 with less than two minutes remaining.

Running back Dezmond Wortham, who rushed for 100 yards and three touchdowns, appeared to get the first down by reaching for the marker, but he was ruled down well short of it.

"If you're going to win trophies and be a championship ballclub, your defense has to make big time stops and they did tonight," Walsh said.

The stop left an opening for Guyer, which marched down to the 9-yard line with one second left in regulation, but the ensuing 26-yard field goal attempt clanged off the left upright, sending it to overtime.

"When our kicker missed that field goal, we knew we were going to come back and be able to finish it out," said Guyer receiver Conner Crane, who had five receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. "We stayed positive the whole time."

Wortham and Dominic Romacher scored in the first overtime for Herbon and Guyer, respectively. Sebastain Williams, who rushed for 123 yards, scored his third touchdown in the second overtime, but Hebron's Deatrich Wise blocked the extra point.

But Guyer's defense came through again, forcing a three-and-out to win the game.

"This is the best game I've played in," Crane said. "When we had to make big plays, we made them."

Guyer didn't have any trouble moving the ball against a Hebron defense that played well all year. The Wildcats racked up 554 total yards of offense and may have handily won the game in regulation had it not be for countless untimely penalties.

"The penalties got to go or we're going to be at Thanksgiving at everybody's homes," Walsh said.

Guyer scored on each of its first three posessions of the game to take a 21-7 lead in the second quarter, but it gave Hebron 30 yards in penalties on the next drive to set up a Hebron touchdown. The Hawks executed a masterful final drive of the second quarter to tie it at 21 at halftime.

Hebron took the lead on a 64-yard pass play from Joseph Farley to Tavion Pearson in the third quarter, and Crane set up the last-second dramatics with a 34-yard touchdown reception to open the fourth quarter.

Hebron faces Denton Guyer in return to playoffs

November, 9, 2011
DENTON GUYER (7-3) vs. HEBRON (6-4)
2 p.m. Saturday at Cowboys Stadium

What: Class 5A Division II Region 1 bi-district game

When we saw them last: Denton Guyer let a lead -- and a share of the 7-5A title -- slip away as Southlake Carroll rallied for a 42-29 win. In typical fashion, the Dragons scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to take control of the game. Hebron couldn’t do anything to slow down Flower Mound Marcus’ running game in a 42-28 loss to the Marauders. Marcus RBs Jeff Smiley and Harvey Giddens both went over 100 yards rushing and combined for five touchdowns in the game.

Bi-district »   Area round »
Region semis »   Region finals »
State semis »   Finals »   Totals »

Class 5A: Div. I | Div. II
Class 4A: Div. I | Div. II

5A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
5A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2

Last in the playoffs: Guyer rode its talented class of 2011 all the way to the 5A Division II state title game last year, but a turnover in the final minute gave Cibolo Steele a 24-21 win and a championship. Hebron is making its first playoff appearance since 2008, when it bowed out in the area around to a Wylie team that lost in the state title game.

What’s at stake: The winner will face the winner of the bi-district game between Mansfield (9-1) and Grapevine (6-4) in a 5A DII area playoff.

Key matchup: Guyer always seems to have an advantage in the trenches and it won’t be any different against Hebron. For Hebron to win, it will need to match Guyer’s physicality on both sides of the line.

Players to watch: Guyer WR Connor Crane is a threat to score at all times. He averages more than 20 yards per catch and has 14 touchdowns. He may be lined up against Hebron DB Kiante’ Griffin, a Baylor commit who has done a great job shutting down some of District 8-5A’s top-flight receivers.

Prediction: Hebron 20, Denton Guyer 17.

5A-II preview: Region 1 notable for balance

November, 7, 2011

Overview: Of the four regions in the two 5A brackets that include Dallas-Fort Worth area teams, Division II Region I is the only one without a state-ranked team. But what the region may lack in top-end talent, it makes up for with depth. Because of that, there should be very few blowouts, even in the early rounds.

Bi-district »   Area round »
Region semis »   Region finals »
State semis »   Finals »   Totals »

Class 5A: Div. I | Div. II
Class 4A: Div. I | Div. II

5A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
5A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2

The top half of the bracket features an Abilene team that always seems primed for a run at a state title, but the winner between Denton Guyer and Hebron in the first round might be headed for the region finals instead. Arlington and Mansfield also have the potential to make noise. The bottom half of the bracket seems to come down to two teams – Flower Mound Marcus and Colleyville Heritage, which might be the two best teams in the area not ranked in state. Mansfield Timberview and Abilene Cooper could be factors as well.

Favorite: Flower Mound Marcus. With most of the heavy hitters in Region I going in to the Division I bracket, the Marauders (9-1) have the potential to make a serious run at a state title. Their running game – led by bruiser Harvey Giddens and speedster Jeff Smiley – is as good as it’s ever been. Marcus hasn’t relied on its passing game much this year but it has the potential to blossom in the playoffs behind sophomore quarterback Cole Erwin.

Watch out for: Arlington. In a bracket full of dark horses, the Colts (6-4) might be the most dangerous if they can get by Abilene in the first round. The area round would pit Arlington against a west Texas team before facing a comparable team from the Metroplex (Denton Guyer, Hebron, Mansfield). Running back Tavarreon Dickerson has rushed for 1,686 yards and 22 touchdowns in averaging about 10 yards per carry.

Can’t wait to see: Hebron-Denton Guyer (2 p.m. Saturday, Cowboys Stadium). Colleyville Heritage vs. Mansfield Timberview might be just as good, but we’ll let the venue break the tie. If the young Wildcats (7-3) can come of age quickly, they have the raw talent to make another run through the 5A Division II bracket. Hebron (6-4) is back in the playoffs after missing out last year, and its defense and experience in close games could have the Hawks playing after Thanksgiving if it can pass this tough opening test.

We hope to see: Flower Mound Marcus-Colleyville Heritage. The region may be won in the area round with this presumed matchup. Both teams have forgivable blemishes on their records in the form of close losses to Allen and Euless Trinity, respectively. And the matchup would pit one of the area’s best running games (Marcus) against one of the area’s best passing games (Heritage).

Talent pool (FBS recruits): El Paso Americas: RB Jack Fields (Boise State). Arlington: RB Tavarreon Dickerson (uncommitted). Mansfield: DE Hassan Ridgeway (Texas). Denton Guyer: DL Dominic Ramacher (Oklahoma State); WR Conner Crane (Stanford); DT Cody Henessee (Rice); OL John Ferguson (uncommitted); DT Daniel Kottman (San Diego State). Hebron: WR/DB Kiante’ Griffin (Baylor); DE Deatrich Wise (Arkansas). Abilene Cooper: QB Clayton Nicholas (Texas Tech). Colleyville Heritage: DE Rex Montes (uncommitted).

Flower Mound Marcus, Hebron vie for top seed

November, 2, 2011
HEBRON (6-3, 4-2 8-5A) at FLOWER MOUND MARCUS (8-1, 5-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Marauder Stadium

When we saw them last: Hebron became the latest victim of an Allen comeback when its 14-point lead slipped away in the second half en route to a 28-21 loss. Flower Mound Marcus rebounded from its own loss to Allen by handily defeating Lewisville, 42-14. Jeff Smiley and Harvey Giddens scored two touchdowns a piece in the win.

2010 result: Marcus converted a two-point conversion in the final minute of the game to escape with a 22-21 win that ended Hebron’s playoff hopes. The Marauders outscored Hebron 15-7 in the fourth quarter.

What’s at stake: The winner will get District 8-5A’s top seed in the Division II bracket. The loser gets the bottom seed. Seeding may not matter though, at least for the first round, because virtually nothing has been decided in District 7-5A. Win or lose, both teams could face Denton Guyer in the first round.

Key matchup: There’s no secret to what Marcus wants to do on offense -- run the ball. Smiley, Giddens and Deion Sanders give the Marauders three excellent running options. Hebron did a decent job of limiting Allen’s running game last week, but it will need to another strong performance to get past the Marauders.

Players to watch: There are certainly more technically refined quarterbacks in the area than Herbon’s Joseph Farley, but no one can argue with the results. He does a great job of spreading the ball around and can make plays with his feet, as well. When Marcus throws the ball, receiver Cody Apfel is more than likely the target. He had just two receptions last year but has tallied 38 catches for 416 yards and four touchdowns as a senior.

Prediction: Flower Mound Marcus 31, Hebron 21.

Allen rallies past Hebron in another comeback

October, 28, 2011
CARROLLTON, Texas -- Ho hum, another comeback win for Allen.

The script sounds familiar: Hebron's fast start gave it a chance to pull off an improbable upset over Allen for the second straight year.

Allen wasn't having any of that.

After falling behind by two touchdowns in the third quarter, Allen scored 21 unanswered points capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Williams in the final two minutes to give Allen a 28-21 win Friday at Hawk Stadium.

The win gives Allen (9-0, 6-0) its sixth straight District 8-5A title and the top seed in Division I in the district.

"It's great that we can win them [close games], but I'd rather not be in them, I can tell you that," Allen head coach Tom Westerberg said. "I like them when we're separated a little bit. At this point we're taking them the way we can get them."

Trailing 21-7 in the third quarter, Allen's offense recovered from a slow start by going on a long drive that quarterback Alec Morris ended with a 2-yard touchdown run.

Following a Hebron (6-3, 4-2) fumble, Morris completed passes of 7 and 38 yards to receiver Cortland Tolbert, who had a breakout game with 83 yards, to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Williams to tie the score early in the fourth quarter.

Allen got the ball again at the 50-yard line with a little more than four minutes remaining in the game, and Morris needed only two minutes to get his team in the end zone. Williams scored on a 5-yard plunge.

"I think they relax in those situations a little bit more than they do early on," Westerberg said. "I don't know if it's because we've been in them so many weeks in a row. I don't know what it is. Once we get into a rhythm we get going pretty good."

Slow starts are becoming a habit for Allen's offense. Morris, who had two interceptions coming into the game, threw three against Hebron and finished with only 214 yards and no touchdown passes.

Part of that was great defense by Hebron. Cornerback Kiante' Griffin, who came down with two of Morris' interceptions, helped shut down Allen receiver Andrew Rodriguez with a double team. Rodriguez finished with just two receptions for 21 yards.

But double-teaming Rodriguez opened up other players. Tolbert, who'd made the most of few opportunities prior to Friday, showed that he can play in big situations. Williams ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns despite getting just one carry in the first half.

"Every game it seems like we come out slow but once we hit that switch, it's a different story," Williams said. "I'm not really sure what it is. I guess we have to have our backs against the wall."

Hebron built its lead with its defense. Aside from giving up a 64-yard touchdown run by Jeff Harris, the Hawks completely shut down Allen in the first half.

Hebron broke a 7-7 tie in the third with two quick touchdowns. Dezmond Wortham scored the second of his two touchdowns with a 46-yard burst up the middle en route to rushing for 99 yards on the day.

Allen looked like it would quickly even the score with a drive that reached deep into Hebron territory, but Hebron defensive back Jamal Adams stepped in front of a Morris pass and took it 92 yards for a touchdown, giving the Hawks a 21-7 lead.

"We don't feel any pressure [when we get down]," Williams said. "We know once we start clicking everything will be alright. It really makes us play harder."

After the game, Westerberg declined to address rumors of Allen suspending players for the season, including linebacker Thaddeus LaGrone, a Baylor commit.

LaGrone did not play against Hebron on Friday, but Westerberg would not comment on whether it was injury related or related to a suspension.