The Furious Five: Huge start to second half leads Allen past DeSoto, into state finals
UNIVERSITY PARK -- All season, Allen football head coach Tom Westerberg has talked about the importance of the first five minutes of the second half.
That precise measure of time made the difference against DeSoto (14-1) in the Class 5A Division I State Semifinals Saturday night as Allen (14-1) scored a kickoff return touchdown, forced a turnover on downs, ran an eight-play touchdown drive and managed a Pick 6 in the first five minutes of the third quarter for an eventual 51-36 victory at SMU's Ford Stadium.
"I can't imagine drawing up a better five minutes," Westerberg said. "I always say that sets the tone for the rest of the game and it really did tonight."
Allen needed a strong start to the second half.
Allen held a 21-0 lead with 6:59 remaining in the second quarter after scoring touchdowns on three of its first four drives (7-yard run by sophomore quarterback Kyler Murray, 11-yard connection from Murray to junior Cole Carter, 20-yard reverse run by junior Chad Adams) but DeSoto pulled to within 21-14 at the half after a 21-yard touchdown reception and 1-yard touchdown run by Dontre Wilson.
"DeSoto is a really good team," said Marcus Ward, Allen senior running back. "We knew they weren't going to give up and they didn't."
In need of momentum, junior Mayomi Olootu stepped in.
"Mayomi had been wanting to get on kick returns, so I eventually put him there," Westerberg said. "So you've got Mayomi and Chad back there and it's kind of pick your poison."
DeSoto picked Olootu, who also came through with multiple pass breakups, and he made them pay with an 85-yard touchdown return that included some nimble footwork with 40 yards to go.
Allen's five minutes of fun was just starting.
On the ensuing possession, senior Anthony Walker made a sack on fourth down to stop DeSoto at the Allen 38. That was the sixth sack of the game for Allen with senior Nick Cobb, juniors Tay Evans, Zack Bishop, Christian Sam and Marcus Davis registering them in the first half. Walker's sack continued another trend as DeSoto was stopped on fourth down five times in Allen territory.
"Our defense has been playing well," Westerberg said. "[Defensive coordinator Cory Cain] dialed up some blitzes and we were able to get pressure and some sacks when we needed them."
Allen responded with an 8-play, 56-yard drive that was capped by a 20-yard touchdown run from Murray for a 34-14 lead with 7:29 to go in the third. The electric first-year starter completed just 8-of-17 passes for 96 yards (the bulk of which went to senior Oliver Pierce, who had five grabs for 54 yards) but also had a touchdown completion to go with 98 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Having already scored a special teams and offensive touchdown in the second half, Allen added defensive touchdown to the ledger 29 seconds later.
DeSoto quarterback Desmon White completed 30-of-51 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, but it was his lone turnover that led to Allen's largest lead as Evans returned an interception 40 yards to make it 41-14 with 7:00 left in the third.
"When I came off the line I thought it might be a screen pass cause it was too easy to get through," Evans said. "So I just sat on it and went after the ball."
Evans' dramatic return featured multiple broken tackles and a near tumble on a spin move.
"Oh yeah, it wasn't pretty, but I wanted that touchdown real bad," Evans said.
Allen and DeSoto's offensive paths diverged from there.
DeSoto was forced to primarily pass the ball for the remainder of the game, partially because it trailed but also because the run game had been ineffective to that point.
Wilson and White entered the game having combined for more than 3,000 yards rushing, but could only muster 84 yards on 34 carries against Allen. That forced White pass, where he frequently sought out Rickey Daniels, who had nine catches for 148 yards, or Wilson, who posted seven catches for 59 yards. Daniels also had two second-half touchdown receptions while White ran in a score from 7 yards with 10:30 left in the game to cut his team's deficit to 44-28.
DeSoto never got closer than that though, thanks to a different tactic from Allen.
Having done most of the heavy lifting during drives in the first half, Ward continued in the final two quarters, eventually tallying 229 yards on 32 carries.
"I thought I did pretty well," he said, "but it wasn't just me, our offensive line was creating huge holes all night."
"I thought Marcus did a great job," Westerberg added. "He was so consistent too; he'd go for 5 yards, 4 yards, 5 yards, and just kept the drives moving."
That took its toll on the DeSoto defense.
"Yeah, it seemed like they were getting a bit tired," Ward said. "You could see guys with their hands on their hips and then sometimes they wouldn't be able to line up in time."
Allen, which also got a 41-yard field goal from junior Carlos Arochi in the fourth, essentially put the game away with 7:22 remaining after a 1-yard touchdown keeper by Pierce capped an 11-play drive comprised entirely of runs. Pierce also got the game-ending first down on a run to secure the 51-36 victory and Allen's second trip to the state finals.
"It was a tough game," Westerberg said. "DeSoto battled back, like we knew they would, but we've got a pretty good team too."
Next up for the Eagles is Houston Lamar (15-0) in the Class 5A Division I State Championship, which is set for 8 p.m. Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
"That sounds great," Evans said. "I can't wait for that game ... our energy is going to be off the charts."
"I've dreamed about this opportunity since I was a little kid," Ward added. "And it's finally here."