Plano defense mauled, offense out-clawed in bi-divisional playoff matchup

When the opposing offense scores a touchdown eight times in the game, the odds usually aren’t in your favor to win the game. The prolific Denton Guyer offense did just that on Saturday afternoon and came out with a convincing 59-28 victory over Plano as a result in the teams’ Class 6A Division II first round matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Trailing 7-0 after just 48 seconds of game action, Plano never took the lead at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, marking the third straight year their season has come to an end in the first round.

Entering the game on a two-game winning streak following the return of starting quarterback senior Brooks Panhans from injury, the Wildcats – of the Plano variety – were sucker punched on Denton Guyer’s second play as quarterback sophomore Shawn Robinson broke through several levels of the defense to scamper home from 71 yards out.

Plano responded well and quickly to going behind early as they worked their way down the field in just under two minutes with Panhans pitching to junior RB Brandon Stephens who took it 20 yards to the end zone. Sophomore K Blake Mazza then added the extra point to tie the game and establish what was thought to be a shootout between the dueling Wildcat schools.

Photo by Marilyn Trexler
Photo by Marilyn Trexler

That thought quickly disappeared from the mind though as Denton Guyer exploded on offense thereafter through a pair of touchdown runs by senior RB Anthony Taylor while also clamping down on defense, forcing multiple punts from Plano Senior’s Jordan Christian. Taylor then added his third touchdown of the game, and second on a 1 yard run, early in the second quarter to make the score 28-7 in favor of Denton Guyer, marking the handwriting on the wall with regard to the game’s outcome.

Unable to pick up first downs on offense and prevent large chunk plays on defense, Plano was swarmed on both sides of the ball by the versatile athletes on Denton Guyer. This was evident in clear form midway through the second quarter as the often evasive Robinson hooked up with Taylor for a 25 yard catch and run touchdown to truly blow the game wide open at 35-7. Further hindering the Plano defensive effort was the ejection of sophomore LB Jacoree Sanders on the final Denton Guyer drive of the first half after a confrontation with an opposing team’s player.

Plano’s unlikely comeback chance was thwarted for good with calamitous clock management at the end of the second quarter, as Panhans and head coach Jaydon McCullough were unable to get on the same page with Plano having the ball inside the Denton Guyer 5 yard line for several plays. Consecutive failed runs followed by a hurried spike with one second left gave Panhans and the offense a final shot to gain momentum entering halftime with a score, with McCullough electing to run junior RB Lopaka Yoro out of the shotgun on the half’s final play. The play worked to no avail as Yoro was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, denying Plano precious points before the break.

Receiving the kickoff out of the break, the Plano offense seemed to shake off the disheartening end to the first half with a quick drive capped by a 23 yard touchdown strike from Panhans to senior WR Matt Kirchner, the lone touchdown of the day for both players. However, despite the uptick in offense, it was the same old defense who showed up for the second 24 minutes as Denton Guyer answered within 90 seconds via an 8 yard touchdown pass from Robinson to senior WR David Haynes.

The Plano offense competes in their final regular season against Lewisville on Nov. 7. Photo by Terry Quinn.
The Plano offense competes in their final regular season against Lewisville on Nov. 7. Photo by Terry Quinn.

Robinson, who finished the day 10-for-18 through the air for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns, was equally lethal against the Plano defense on the ground, chalking up a whopping 189 yards on just 7 carries with another touchdown as well. His final meaningful act of the day came in the form of a 76 yard touchdown hookup with senior WR Alex Honey, although Honey did most of the work with some fleet of foot along the sideline to evade several of Plano’s cornerbacks. This punctuation mark to the game came with 3:15 still remaining in the third quarter, although it made the score 56-14 to Denton Guyer as it followed another touchdown run by Taylor, who logged four of them alongside 87 yards on the ground.

This, in a nutshell, was the main downfall for Plano on Saturday — being outplayed at their own game. What was considered an advantage for Plano coming into the game, the ability to run the ball, was turned almost immediately into a disadvantage as the speed of Denton Guyer came to dominate this facet of the game and ultimately turn it into an Achilles heel of Plano.

Plano finished the game fighting though, with the score becoming a bit more respectable as Plano ended the game on a 14-0 scoring run. Yoro punched in a touchdown from 11 yards out with 5:49 to go before Plano scored a moot special teams victory with senior DB Daejon Howard returning a blocked Denton Guyer punt 3 yards for a touchdown with just over three minutes remaining. The loss is a bitter pill to swallow for the team’s 44 seniors, including Panhans, who was only able to play three complete games in an injury-shortened senior season.

Denton Guyer advances to play Southlake Carroll in the second round of the 6A Division II state playoffs, while Plano’s season is now over with a final record of 7-4.