Three different players combined to score touchdowns and three more collected interceptions Friday as Plano defeated Irving MacArthur, 24-8, at John Clark Stadium.
The first Plano (2-0) shutout since 2006 was denied when MacArthur scored with 6:14 left. Plano will attempt to start the season with a 3-0 record for the third time since 2007 when it travels to Mansfield Legacy at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The combination of Murat Kuzu and Kevin Merrill kept Plano’s offensive engine stirred Friday. Kuzu had 92 yards rushing and another 42 receiving as the workhorse of the offense. Merrill had 87 total yards after turning in a 100-yard rushing performance in the season opener.
But, the defense keyed the victory. Matt Johnson’s interception in the first half led to the game-winning field goal and Collin Brence’s fumble recovery in the second half resulted in a touchdown. Blair Burns also had an interception, along with Brence’s second of the season and Dwayne Hicks’ fumble recovery.
The first two series of the second half were used to help push the game out of reach. Brence’s fumble recovery came on the fifth play of the second half. Facing a short field, Plano scored seven plays later when Kevin Merrill got the call in a Wildcat formation.
Bobby Geibler’s tipped pass on the successive drive helped to force a punt and a mixture of Kuzu and Merrill got Plano into MacArthur territory. Then it was time to showcase Hunter Gore. He caught a 24-yard pass from quarterback Connor Michelsen to move Plano inside the 20. He was targeted on the next play, but the pass fell incomplete. After a Merrill run, Michelsen came back to Gore on a 10-yard circus catch for a touchdown. The diving Gore twice attempted to grab the ball before it fell into his hands in the end zone for his first varsity touchdown and a 24-0 lead with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
Brence’s interception on the next drive gave the defense a stop, but MacArthur responded on the following drive to end the shutout when Shay Smith caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Shahzeb Khan with 6:14 left to play.
Kuzu finished the game with the final three carries, adding 15 yards to his tally and falling just eight yards short of giving Plano consecutive 100-yard rushers to open the season.
The defense had two interceptions and a fumble recovery on three straight drives in the first half, but it all only resulted in a field goal. But the moment drew notice. Chris Moore, who had previously been most noted for his junior varsity punt that went more than 70 yards last year, converted easily on a 49-yard field goal with 9:46 left in the first half for a 10-0 lead. He also missed wide on a 55-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half.
Perfect execution on a razzle dazzle play led Plano to a 7-0 lead with 5:58 left in the first quarter. Connor Michelsen made a direct handoff to Kevin Merrill, who flipped a reverse toss to Clayton Parlin streaking across the backfield. The basketball point guard quickly got around end and picked up a downfield block from Michelsen and scooted into the end zone.
Plano had tried the reverse with Merrill getting the carry on the fifth play of the game, but a block was missed and it only went five yards. This one was executed perfectly.
Of note to fans who may remember the days of the Gerald Brence Power-I and the Veer offenses of Tom Kimbrough and John Clark would be the way the game started. Plano’s first four plays were passes – something which may have never happened in school history. Then came four straight rushing attempts on the first drive and the next passing attempt was intercepted at the MacArthur 4.
Also of note is the performance of Brandon Hamilton in the first two games. He has 11 receptions for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He was held out of the end zone Friday, but hauled in six receptions.Plano 24, Irving MacArthur 8 MacArthur 0 0 0 8 – 8 Plano 7 3 14 0 – 24 Scoring Summary First Quarter P – Clayton Parlin 7 run (Chris Moore kick), 5:58 Second Quarter P – Moore 49 FG, 9:46 Third Quarter P – Kevin Merrill 11 run (Moore kick), 7:27 P – Hunter Gore 10 pass from Connor Michelsen (Moore kick), 1:29 Fourth Quarter M – Shay Smith 15 pass from Shahzeb Khan (Johnny Haynes pass from Khan), 6:14