Plano Senior High hosted the 2010 Mr. Plano Contest on January 30, and PlanoFootball.com was there in the cheap seats in the back to watch the fun. We captured some highlights of contestant Jared Kirchmeier, who entered the competition as Mr. Football. As always, it was good-natured fun, and Jared was a good sport.
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IRVING – Defense got Plano to the playoffs and Friday night it kept the Wildcats there.
Behind three defensive takeaways in the second half, Plano (5-6) rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to defeat Duncanville, 28-17, at Irving Schools Stadium in a Division I-Region I bi-district playoff game.
“The front seven played outstanding,” said cornerback Austin Birdsall, who hauled in a pair of interceptions. “They just made plays.”
Plano will meet the winner of today’s pairing of Euless Trinity and Flower Mound at 5 p.m. Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Plano advances to the area round of the playoffs for the third straight season.
Duncanville (4-5) collected an interception and recovered four fumbles on the first five Plano drives of the game. Those miscues produced just 17 points and left the opportunity for the second-half comeback.
“I told the kids at halftime it was amazing,” Plano coach Jaydon McCullough said. “We had five turnovers and were only down, 17-0. I was trying to turn a negative into a positive.”
The defense held Duncanville to fewer than 75 yards in each half and momentum swung with the takeaway ratio turning in Plano’s favor in the second half.
Robert Robinson had a career-best 10 receptions for 102 yards, scoring three touchdowns. His 65-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Connor Michelsen broke the shutout and he scored on two of the next three drives.
“That was a big momentum play,” Robinson said, “but I think we got most of our momentum from the defense.”
Birdsall intercepted his second pass of the night on the third Duncanville play from scrimmage in the second half and it led to Robinson’s first touchdown.
Blair Burns collected his first of two interceptions to set up Jared Kirchmeier for an insurance touchdown with 1:57 left and came back 14 seconds later to collect an interception that sealed the victory. Kirchmeier finished with 178 yards rushing on 20 attempts and had more than 200 all-purpose yards.
While Duncanville was building a 17-0 lead in the first half, the Plano defense also made plays. Both touchdowns were made on interception returns for scores and the defense made a stop on a short field to force a field goal.
The third Plano play from scrimmage resulted in an interception Trent Green returned 43 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The next drive ended with a fumble, but Birdsall countered with his first interception. A Plano fumble on its third series resulted in a field goal and it fumbled again before the first quarter was complete. The fifth turnover on as many possessions resulted in a Demarcus Tarpley 31-yard interception return. Tarpley also recovered a fumble.
“As coaches, you expect the kids to be a direct reflection of what we are,” McCullough said. “That’s too many turnovers.”
Duncanville had succeeded in stifling the screen pass, so Plano went deep early in the third quarter. A perfectly-timed deep ball fell from the sky and into Robinson’s hands and the senior did the rest on a 65-yard touchdown reception.
It took Plano just five more plays to score again, this time on a 9-yard reverse to Robinson, and with 4:10 left in the third quarter Plano had narrowed the deficit to 17-14.
Kirchmeier rolled off a 27-yard run two drives later and three plays later Michelsen hit Robinson on a 6-yard corner route in the back of the end zone for the game-winning score.
“They were taking away a lot,” Robinson said. “They jumped on everything and we just had to go to the next play. We had to handle the adversity. We were beating ourselves.”
Robinson’s 10th catch of the game was followed by a 27-yard Kirchmeier run and his 2-yard dive for the insurance score with 1:57 left.
Each of Plano’s starting cornerbacks hauled in a pair of interceptions. Birdsall, who was a starter at Class 4A Lake Dallas last season and whose father was a standout at Plano, got the start for the injured Kelton Reed.
|Plano 28, Duncanville 17|
|D – Trent Green 43 interception return (Nate Warren kick), 6:15|
|D – Warren 33 FG, 0:41|
|D – Demarcus Tarpley 31 interception return (Warren kick), 7:51|
|P – Robert Robinson 65 pass from Connor Michelsen (Grant Pierce kick), 7:39|
|P – Robinson 9 run (Pierce kick), 4:10|
|P – Robinson 6 pass from Michelsen (Pierce kick), 6:26|
|P – Jared Kirchmeier 2 run (Pierce kick), 1:57|
Rushing — P: Jared Kirchmeier 20-178, Robert Robinson 2-15, Connor Michelsen 8-(-12). D: Chris Simpson 15-61, Jeff Lofton 5-12, Darrin Brown 3-10, Victor Winzer 10-5.
Passing — P: Connor Michelsen 16-27-1, 138 yards. D: Jeff Lofton 4-18-4, 32 yards.
Receiving — P: Robert Robinson 10-102, Holt Hoetger 4-24, Jared Kirchmeier 2-12. D: Darrin Brown 1-10, Jalen Parker 1-6, Chris Simpson 1-6.
DALLAS – A bitter start had a sweet ending Friday.
A pair of big first-half plays and a heavy dose of defense in the second half lifted Plano past Jesuit, 21-12, at Haggar Stadium and into the playoffs for the third straight season.
Plano (4-6, 3-3 in District 8-5A) will meet Duncanville in the first round of the playoffs at a date, site and time to be determined, according to Plano coach Jaydon McCullough. The teams will meet at 8 a.m. today to finalize playoff arrangements.
“We’ve been working so long and hard,” Plano safety Collin Brence said. “We didn’t want this opportunity to go to waste. We put everything we had into it.”
A pair of takeaways and a defensive stop in the first half led to a 21-3 halftime advantage. Brence intercepted a pass, broke up a touchdown pass in the end zone and recorded a tackle to prevent a touchdown all in the second half.
Jesuit mustered a scoring drive with its season on the line. A pass interference penalty moved the team inside Plano’s 30. Then Jackson Oliver hit Matt Brooks on a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 2:41 left.
The score left an important conversion kick to narrow the game to a one-score affair and a playoff berth still at stake. Plano got a surge from the interior of the line and blocked the kick. Plano recovered the onside kick and Taylor Meyers’ interception with about a minute left sealed a postseason berth to cap a regular season in which Plano had to recover from a 1-4 start and had never won consecutive games – until Friday.
“I’m very excited to be 4-6,” McCullough said. “I never thought I’d say that, but I am. We’re right where we always wanted to be.”
In consecutive seasons under McCullough, Plano advances to the playoffs. This one required Plano turning away the only other team in the district with the opportunity to claim the final playoff berth entering Friday night.
“We knew what was at stake and what we had to do,” Plano split end Robert Robinson said. “It can be your last game or not. You don’t want it to end. You want to continue having fun.”
Robinson set a career-high with seven receptions and made critical catch after critical catch.
He was targeted on a screen pass on the first play of the second quarter which appeared destined to set up a long third down. He made an athletic move to split a pair of defenders in the open field, shoved off a hand tackle and went 53 yards for the eventual game-winning score.
Connor Michelson capped a first-half drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and then came back to deliver the screen pass to Robinson. Three drives later, he hit Holt Hoetger on a short post and the senior did the rest on a 62-yard touchdown reception to put Plano up, 21-3, with 5:31 left in the first half.
“We wanted to stretch the defense horizontally and vertically,” McCullough said. “Those are what we call explosive plays. If you get one a game, you are usually going to win.”
But it was all set up by the defense.
Jesuit settled for a field goal to go up, 3-0, and crossed midfield on the next drive before the defense got a fourth down stop. Jesuit was facing fourth-and-8 from the Plano 48 and opted not to punt, which likely would have pinned Plano deep in its own territory. Seven plays later Michelsen gave Plano the lead for good.
Josh Benson intercepted Jesuit on the next drive and two plays later it led to Robinson’s touchdown. Later in the half, Ben Laures recovered a fumble that resulted in Hoetger’s touchdown reception.
Brence then made key plays in the second half as Plano’s offense was unable to score. Jesuit, aiming to slice into the lead, went to the end zone on third-and-6 and Brence jumped a post route to break up a touchdown pass that resulted in a field goal.
“He had run that post a couple of times,” Brence said. “I ran in when I saw him cut. Then I just jumped his route and got it.”
Plano had an opportunity to add to its lead on the successive drive. It methodically moved down the field, converting three third down opportunities, and Grant Pierce appeared to have connected on a 42-yard field goal. A holding penalty forced Pierce to back up and attempt a 52-yarder that he appeared to have the leg for but missed.
Penalties kept Jesuit in the game, as Plano had 13 infractions for 117 yards.
But Brence came back on the next series to record an interception on a pass that floated into the secondary with the safety playing a two-deep zone.
“I don’t know about it being easy,” Brence said. “This was my first one. I felt I could have had more, but I’m glad I got that one for us.”
He was the last man a Jesuit player had to beat on the next series. Brence came across and made the tackle to stop Patrick O’Neal at the Plano 12 and Taylor Meyers’ sack ended the series. And it was Meyers’ interception – the fourth Plano takeaway of the game – that sealed the win.
Jared Kirchmeier led all Plano rushers with 146 yards on 19 carries. Plano nearly had two 100-yard receivers as Robinson had 97 yards on 7 receptions and Hoetger had 88 on 5 receptions.
Plano figured to have a playoff rematch from Week 1 with Irving MacArthur, but a strange twist of fate finds the team meeting Duncanville. Grand Prairie picked up just its second win of the season in its annual crosstown game with South Grand Prairie and the result of that game put Plano in a playoff with Duncanville.
|Plano 21, Jesuit Prep 12|
|J – James Hairston 28 FG, 6:36|
|P – Connor Michelsen 1 run (Grant Pierce kick), 1:29|
|P – Robert Robinson 53 pass from Michelsen (Pierce kick), 11:49|
|P – Holt Hoetger 62 pass from Michelsen (Pierce kick), 5:31|
|J – Hairston 33 FG, 5:04|
|J – Matt Brooks 25 pass from Jackson Oliver (kick blocked), 2:41|
Rushing — P: Jared Kirchmeier 19-146, Connor Michelsen 12-29, Robert Robinson 2-18, Clayton Parlin 2-4, Kevin Merrill 1-1. J: Jackson Oliver 17-62, David Kaplan 8-55, Brian Wetzel 4-9, Mark Mentesana 2-3, Mike Savage 1-2.
Passing — P: Connor Michelsen 15-29-1, 210 yards. J: Jackson Oliver 15-38-2, 169 yards; Brian Wetzel 0-1-0, 0 yards; Mike Savage 0-1-1, 0 yards.
Receiving — P: Robert Robinson 7-97, Holt Hoetger 5-88, Jared Kirchmeier 2-14, Brandon Hamilton 1-11. J: Matt Brooks 3-72, Brian Wetzel 7-58, Patrick O’Neal 4-28, David Kaplan 1-11.
Two of the winningest programs in the history of Texas football stumbled out of the gate this season.
Plano (1-2) got off to an 0-2 start before last week’s win over Hebron. Temple (0-2) enters the third week on its schedule still seeking a win.
The teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at John Clark Stadium with each seeking momentum entering district play.
“It will be fun. There will be two great traditions,” Plano coach Jaydon McCullough said. “You can’t look at this game and help but think about Bob McQueen and Tom Kimbrough.”
McQueen, a 6-time Cen-Tex Coach of the Year with 276 career wins, led Temple to its first state championship. Kimbrough coached Plano to three state titles and a national championship. He is Plano’s all-time winningest coach with 171 victories.
And there will be some ties to the past, like two-way starter Derrick Davis. He’s the nephew of Kenneth Davis, who helped Temple to its only win in 1979 over Plano and to its first state championship.
The case could even be made not much has changed. In addition to Davis, Temple also has the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit in Lache Seastrunk.
“He may be one of the quickest guys I have ever seen,” McCullough said. “In the Wing-T, you’re trying to stop the power sweep and with the misdirection the next thing you know he’s running around end.”
Plano felt last week as if it were better than 0-2 and this week realizes Temple is much better than its 0-2 record indicates.
“They are 0-2, but believe me they are better than 0-2,” McCullough said. “I’m worried about playing Temple because they are so good. But, I’m excited our kids get to play in a game like this.”
Davis and Seastrunk anchor the running game in the Wing-T and will be of utmost importance to the defense.
“We’ve got to stop them. That’s easier said than done,” McCullough said. “If you’re not careful, they’ll big play you. Then, offensively, we have to sustain drives.”
That could be the biggest concern for Plano.
The Wing-T offense has the capability to roll time off the clock in chunks and then strike with the big play. While scoring 46 points across the past two weeks, Plano has also punted 13 times. After scoring on its opening series last week, Plano punted on six straight series and had just one first down during the stretch.
“You’ve got to take what the defense gives you. It doesn’t always work out,” McCullough said. “I think our kids have battled. We need to be a little better on third down and not give up the big play.”
And, on offense, Plano has converted just 9 of 35 third down opportunities.
“We’re not where we need to be,” McCullough said.
With the emergence of Kevin Merrill and the performance of Jared Kirchmeier, Plano has its own set of tandem running backs.
“We’ve had a lot of dropped balls,” McCullough said, noting dropped passes have led to some stalled drives.
That, though, is where Grant Pierce has been a steadying force. He’s averaging 37.2 yards per punt and has landed three inside the opponent’s 20. Then, last week, he converted the game-winning field goal, recorded touchbacks on four of his six kickoffs and Hebron’s average starting field possession on those drives was its own 19.
“I think Grant did a great job,” McCullough said. “That field goal forced them to score a touchdown and they needed the point-after. That was a big kick.”
But a couple of plays made by Ben Laures last week are still being talked about. He made a hit on the final Hebron drive of the game to knock the kicker out of the game and after Hebron scored he blocked the conversion kick for the win.
“When I think of some of the big hits, I think of (C.M.) Pier against Permian in the playoffs. Then there was C.J. Martin’s hit against Euless Trinity. That one was up there with those,” McCullough said. “He’s one of those guys that plays all out. Now, that doesn’t mean he does everything technically correct, but you know you’re going to get his best effort.”
Find a running game at the next level and even in the professional ranks that is successful and generally you’ll find at least a tandem of backs.
Plano now seems to have found its tandem.
Jared Kirchmeier has been the bellcow of the offense this season and Friday the introduction of Kevin Merrill was complete.
“Merrill ripped off a long run or two and gave us some momentum,” Plano coach Jaydon McCullough said. “Merrill just brought some electricity with him.”
Kirchmeier was injured early in the third quarter and the call went to Merrill. He compiled 103 yards rushing on five carries in the third quarter alone and added a 105-yard touchdown run.
It was a well-kept secret let out of the bag. Merrill suffered a foot injury in the scrimmage against Mesquite and the plan to feature both backs in the offense was suspended. Kirchmeier became the feature back, while Merrill worked his way back.
“I don’t think he doubted he could do it,” McCullough said, of Merrill. “I think he’s special.”
There will be a place for both Merrill and Kirchmeier in the offense, according to McCullough.
“We’re lucky to have both of them,” McCullough said. “If you were talking to Jared, he’d probably tell you how happy he was for Kevin.”
That’s because there could be an opportunity for both players to do what they do best. Kirchmeier has proven to be a bruising back Plano can pound between tackles and utilize in the passing game, much the way the team used Rex Burkhead. Merrill showed his blazing speed and McCullough says he has the ability to make plays in the passing game, as well.
“We’d be crazy not to use both of them,” McCullough said. “We have got to get both of them on the field.”
And if it plays out right, the passing game might have just received a kick. That’s not because both players can catch, but because they can run. And behind every good passing game is a running game which must be respected by the defense.
A little confidence can lead to execution. And execution makes a difference.
That was the story Friday as Plano (1-2) picked up its first win of the season in a 31-30 victory over Hebron (2-1) at John Clark Stadium.
“Once we started executing, it just seemed like we went crazy,” linebacker Ben Laures said. “We had all the alumni, parents and fans here. It was raining and they were still here to help the team out.”
Plano ended the first half with four consecutive punts and two on the opening two drives of the second half. Trailing, 17-7, and with starting halfback Jared Kirchmeier knocked out of the game, the night could have quickly turned for the worse.
On his second carry of the season, Kevin Merrill rolled off a 37-yard run and then a 33-yard run. A penalty was only a momentary setback before Merrill closed the drive with a 24-yard touchdown run.
“Our kids fought through adversity,” Plano coach Jaydon McCullough said. “We started to have a little confidence. Every time something good had happened for us, something bad had happened. All this team lacked was confidence.”
Merrill’s touchdown closed the margin to 17-14 and Connor Michelsen connected with Holt Hoetger on a 63-yard strike to give Plano a 21-17 advantage. Even when Hebron countered on a big passing play to take the lead back, Plano had the answer. The lead lasted for just 16 seconds as Merrill fielded the ball three steps deep in the end zone, stepped back five yards deep and then sprinted 105 yards for a touchdown.
“We got tired of losing,” defensive end Alex LaButis said. “We wanted this ‘W’ more than anything. We wanted to get a ‘W’ for everyone.”
For consecutive seasons Plano defeated Hebron and in both games a kickoff return for a touchdown was a turning point.
But there was also the case of Grant Pierce converting a 32-yard field goal for a 31-24 lead with 7:23 left, after having two prior misses from that distance this season.
But the first piece of momentum came in the first quarter. Plano had allowed scores on opponents’ first two drives in the first two games this season and had not scored to open the game. That changed Friday as Matt Johnson caught a touchdown pass from Connor Michelsen to cap Plano’s first drive, sandwiched between defensive stops and a Xavier Harbert interception on the first three Hebron drives.
“We tried to focus on the little things,” LaButis said.
“It feels good because we practiced hard all week long,” Merrill said.
And, perhaps, the experience at DeSoto helped. The defense came into the game off an experience against quarterback Ryan Polite, a dual-threat quarterback similar to Hebron’s Kyle Aubuchon.
“Polite did help us a lot,” LaButis said. “We learned we have to respect the run, and at the same time the pass.”
- Pre-season Scrimmage: Mesquite @ Plano August 17, 2011
- Video – Wildcat Linemen Pull Sled, Flip Tractor Tire July 27, 2011
- Video – Wildcat Linemen Bench Press July 26, 2011
- Video – Wildcat Linemen Farmer’s Walk, Truck Push July 25, 2011
- Wildcat Alum C.J. Martin Recognized Going Into Holycross Sr. Season July 24, 2011
- Maroon/White game 2013 May 17, 2013
- Wildcat’s Carpenter invited to Super Combine May 13, 2013
- Blake McJunkin to Packers Mini Camp May 1, 2013
- Former Wildcat drafted by Cincinnati Bengals May 1, 2013
- Spring football Wildcat style is now underway April 30, 2013