MURPHY – Murat Kuzu got the offense kick started on a game-breaking play late in the first half and Blair Burns made a pair of plays to open and close the third quarter that allowed Plano to pull away from Hebron, 33-6, Friday at Tom Kimbrough Stadium in a District 8-5A matchup.
Plano (4-1, 1-1) used its stifling defense to shut down one of the top offenses in the area as it recorded win No. 715, pushing it to second place on the all-time wins list and to the top spot among Class 5A programs. Hebron (3-2, 1-1) was limited to half its season average in yards and the district’s second-leading scoring offense was held out of the end zone.
It was the defense that turned what could have been a shutout into a game of possession and momentum. Plano rolled a 10-6 halftime lead into a two-score advantage just 15 seconds into the second half on one piece of momentum. Blair Burns bobbled the opening kickoff of the second half. He gained possession of the ball at the Plano 4 and found a seam in the kick coverage, then picked up a few blocks in a sprint up the right sideline for a 96-yard kickoff return for a 17-6 lead.
“I think he is one of the most exceptional athletes I have coached,” defensive coordinator Clint Stewart said. “He’s one of the best cover corners out there.”
He proves it time and again. Like on a play near the close of the third quarter. He intercepted a Kyle Aubuchon pass and three plays later Kuzu hit a gaping hole and made a couple of nifty moves on his way to a 56-yard touchdown run to put Plano up, 24-6.
Kuzu, who has played running back, receiver and quarterback in two seasons at Plano, finished with 191 offensive yards on 15 touches. But it was a play he made midway through the second quarter that seemed to loosen up Hebron’s defense. The Plano offense had been limited to 17 yards on its first four series. Then Kuzu broke off a 44-yard highlight reel run when he broke a few tackles, showed some game-breaking speed and turned in a spin move that got him to the Hebron 1 to set up a Connor Michelsen 1-yard touchdown run that put Plano on top for good, 7-3, with 4:10 left in the first half.
Plano went up, 10-3, on a Chris Moore field goal with 29 seconds left in the first half. Then Hebron had a drive that made the Plano defense appear human. Brett Weir caught a pass for 36 yards. Kiante Griffin added an 11-yard reception and 28 seconds after Moore’s field goal Hebron got the equalizer.
Then Burns exited the locker room and 15 seconds later had Plano back on the board with his kickoff return for a touchdown. In three games in the past three seasons against Hebron, Plano has scored on a kickoff return and each time it has been extremely meaningful. It turned the game in 2008 when Rex Burkhead scored on a kickoff. Then, last year, Kevin Merrill officially arrived when he returned a kickoff 104 yards.
As potent as Hebron’s offense can be, the game could have been considered to be in doubt even after Kuzu scored to put Plano up, 24-6. But the defense again got a stop. Two incompletions, a short run and a big penalty had Hebron backed up at its own 14 when a high snap resulted in a safety to put Plano up, 26-6, with 10:06 left. The Plano offense responded against a short field on the successive drive when a 22-yard Kuzu run helped set up a 1-yard Merrill touchdown carry for a 33-6 lead with 7:28 left.
The defense turned in yet another three-takeaway performance as Matt Johnson and Brad Tipton also had interceptions. One of the key early moments in the game was delivered by Zach Laures. Hebron was driving on its second series and had moved to the Plano 3. Laures perfectly defended a run to the edge for a 5-yard loss and two plays later teamed with Kent Bateman on a tackle that forced Hebron into a field goal when it appeared they were destined for a touchdown. When Johnson intercepted Aubuchon and Kuzu had the big run to set up Michelsen’s touchdown run, Hebron was down and the play of Burns would later put them out of the game.
Plano 33, Hebron 6
Rushing — H: Dezmond Wortham 14-59, Kyle Aubuchon 13-38, Damien Delaney 1-6, J.T. Teague 1-(-2), Devin Flynn 1-(-5), Team 1-(-14). P: Murat Kuzu 11-137, Kevin Merrill 4-22, Connor Michelsen 8-7, Rakeem Crawford 2-2, Clayton Parlin 1-0, Richard Lagow 1-(-1).
Passing — H: Kyle Aubuchon 17-43-3, 176 yards. P: Connor Michelsen 12-21-0, 146 yards; Richard Lagow 0-1-0, 0 yards.
Receiving — H: Brett Weir 2-44, J.T. Teague 5-40, Josh Alfaro 2-23, Joseph Farley 2-20, Kiante Griffin 2-19, Damien Delaney 2-14, Blake Roark 1-9, Dezmond Wortham 1-7. P: Kevin Merrill 3-55, Murat Kuzu 4-54, Steele Hoetger 3-20, Clayton Parlin 2-17.