It took a throwback, razzle dazzle play call to create a spark and then five defensive takeaways Friday led Plano to a methodical blowout win over Plano East, 38-0, at John Clark Stadium in front of about 10,000 fans for the 29th meeting between the teams.
The victory tied the series, 14-14-1, but more importantly kept Plano (6-3, 3-3 in District 8-5A) in contention for a playoff berth. Plano East (4-5, 2-4) was eliminated with the loss.
Plano meets Plano West in the final game of the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at John Clark Stadium. It needs a win and a Flower Mound Marcus victory at Hebron to clinch a playoff berth. If either doesn’t happen, the Plano ISD will be locked out of the playoffs.
Believed to be one of the best defenses in the area, Plano showed it Friday. The offense scored 21 points on Plano East turnovers, as the defense compiled five takeaways in a game for the second time this season. Plano East had a late fourth-quarter drive move to the Plano 1 before the fifth turnover helped seal the first shutout victory under coach Jaydon McCullough, the first shutout in 52 games – dating to a 2006 meeting against Richardson Berkner – and Plano’s first shutout of Plano East since the second game of the series in 1983.
But, it all started when offensive coordinator Linn Dickey dug deep into his bag of tricks and came up with a dandy early in the second quarter. Murat Kuzu took a handoff into the right flat and tossed it to Brandon Hamilton on an apparent reverse, but Hamilton turned it into an old school flea-flicker when he flipped the ball back to Connor Michelsen who launched a 49-yard touchdown pass to Steele Hoetger for a 7-0 lead with 11:17 left in the first half.
The offense had averaged 3 yards per play prior to the flea-flicker and on one play gained more than double the yards it had in the first quarter.
It seemed to be just the spark Plano needed. Four plays later Matt Johnson intercepted Corey Wesley when pressured by Steven Murray and a pair of Kuzu runs set up a 2-yard Michelsen touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. When East got the ball back, Plano’s defense demonstrated why it should be considered among the best. Taylor May dropped Nathan Meadors for a two-yard loss on first down and on second down Ben Laures and Arthur Skinner pounced on a ball rolling on the turf.
A mixture of ball-control offense and takeaway defense led to the second-half blowout. Plano East opened the second half with an onside pooch kickoff that failed. It was intended to just get past the hands team, but Plano handled it and took advantage of the short field. It drove 54 yards in 13 plays and Chris Moore – who controlled Plano East’s offense all night by pinning them deep on kickoffs and punts – converted a 20-yard field goal into a 17-0 lead, capping a drive that took the first 6:53 off the second quarter clock.
The second Plano East offensive play of the second half turned into a nightmare. Collin Brence, on a rare blitz from his safety position, sprinted into the pocket and drilled Wesley just as he was about to throw. He fumbled and Xavier Harbert made a recovery that one play later resulted in a 5-yard Murat Kuzu touchdown run for a 24-0 lead.
The blowout was on. But the defense wasn’t done. Blair Burns intercepted a pass that resulted in a Michelsen 1-yard score for a 31-0 lead with 57 seconds left in the third quarter. It was a disastrous quarter for Plano East, including two turnovers that led to 14 points.
When Michelsen found Brandon Hamilton on a 55-yard touchdown completion – the fourth time this season the pair has hooked up on a completion of at least 50 yards – with 10:05 left in the fourth quarter, the game was out of reach.
But there was one last thing to accomplish. The defense had allowed one score in three previous games this season, coming so close to its first shutout since 2006. This time it had 10 minutes to go. Plano East marched to the Plano 1 and it seemed the bid would soon be over again. Then Johnson had his second takeaway of the game when a high snap got past Aaron Stelly and after the quarterback’s second attempt to field the ball Johnson grabbed it to seal the shutout.
Plano 38, Plano East 0