By Greg Ford
The non-district season was an uneasy one for 13-4A members, as just one school, Lovejoy, finished the three-game schedule with a winning record (2-1).
All the others either finished 1-2 (Wylie, Wylie East, McKinney North, Sherman and Denison) or 0-3 (Greenville and Royse City).
Now, though, a whole new season begins.
In this case, it’s the seven-game district campaign, at the end of which will be determined the four 13-4A schools that’ll advance to the postseason.
A year ago, that quartet consisted of Lovejoy, Sherman, Wylie East and Wylie, the same four which Dave Campbell’s Texas Football projects to make the 2013 playoffs.
The march toward that part of the gridiron season kicks off 7 p.m. Thursday, when Sherman travels to McKinney’s Ron Poe Stadium to face McKinney North.
The remaining six teams will play the following evening at 7:30 p.m. each, with Wylie East heading north to Denison, Wylie hosting Lovejoy and Royse City going to Greenville.
A year ago, the Raiders crushed Denison 57-36, while Wylie was surprised by eventual 13-4A champ Lovejoy — the school had moved up from 3A — by the score of 47-21.
On Friday, the Raiders face a Denison defense that, on paper, is far superior to the one they faced in 2012, when the Yellowjackets were allowing nearly 450 yards per contest.
This season, after three games, they are limiting opponents to 295 yards a game, including 163 total to Frisco Liberty, which they stung 33-16 on Sept. 13.
A week earlier, the Raiders defeated Liberty 42-20 in a game at FCD Dallas Stadium.
In that contest, senior quarterback Garrett McCain threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
However, the passing game was less than efficient in losses to Red Oak and Denton Ryan.
Part of that inconsistency is due to a number of new players working their way into the receiving corps, which lost a number of talented individuals to graduation. Among McCain’s top targets have been Jared Wyatt (eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown) and Braden Shewmake (eight receptions for 106 yards). The latter is also the Raiders’ placekicker.
Like East, the Wylie Pirates have been tinkering during the non-district season working on various areas, including developing a running attack. After three games, the Pirates have rushed for 484 yards on 102 carries, with quarterback and receiver Kameron Kelly gaining more than half of that, 231 yards on 37 carries.
Kelly, who has split signal-calling duties with Carsen Cook, played most of Wylie’s last game, 51-36 loss at Poteet, where he displayed his running and passing skills. As a passer, Kelly has thrown for 444 yards and three touchdowns, while Cook has 331 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Alex Wesley is the Pirates’ top receiver heading into district competition, snaring 20 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown.
In the Lovejoy Leopards, the Pirates face a team that’s scored 143 points in three games, which includes 36 in a loss to Frisco.
Quarterback Bowman Sells leads the Leopards, having tossed seven touchdowns, while completing 66 percent of his passes for 608 yards. When he’s seen action, Dakota Micheals also has put up impressive numbers (337 yards and three touchdowns).
The primary receiving threat is Chochy Luce (16 catches for 383 yards and five touchdowns), while Daniel Sefcik (273 yards on 29 carries) is the top rushing threat.
In the other 13-4A contests, McKinney North is lead by quarterback Ben Dutze (457 yards passing and five touchdowns), with running back Ronald Jones having gained 541 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.
The Bulldogs face a Sherman team that also has struggled in the preseason but has held its first three foes to a little more than 100 yards rushing a game.
Royse City and Greenville each struggled in the preseason, and neither is expected to make much noise in 13-4A competition. The former lost 45-27 to Prestonwood Christian on Sept. 13 in the non-district finale, while the latter fell 56-49 in double overtime the same evening to Frisco Heritage.