McKinney North is the underdog - bottom line. And the Bulldogs know it. Nobody in town expects them to knock of McKinney Boyd in Friday night's season-opening football game at Ron Poe Stadium.
But as far as head coach Mike Fecci is concerned, his team wouldn't have it any other way.
"We know that no one expects us to beat [Boyd]," he said. "But we look at that as an advantage to us. There's no pressure on us. There are very few people out there that are going to say North will beat Boyd. We can just go out and get after it and let the chips fall where they may."
In other words, expect the Bulldogs to play like a team with nothing to lose when they take the field with the Broncos. That could mean trick plays, onside kicks, fake punts, or anything else that would give North a chance against the defending District 10-5A champions.
"Good things will happen and bad things will happen on Friday night,” Fecci said. "You've just got to play with guts. That's what it's going to take."
Like McKinney High, the Bulldogs haven't won a game against the Broncos since Boyd High School first opened in 2006. On paper, North is clearly outmatched on the defensive and offensive side of the football so the wild card in this game will be special teams. Neither team has practiced live special teams against another team so Friday will be the first time either squad sees live kickoffs, punts, and field goals.
'The thing you have to do well early in the year is play well on special teams," Fecci said. "Nobody does live special teams in scrimmages. Field position is critical so you have to play well."
Fecci described the Boyd Broncos as a 'tall order' for any opponent they face this season, especially because of their monster defensive line. He also pointed out that they look different than last year's district title team.
"They're better in some areas and not as good in others," he said.
He went on to say that the loss of Jonovan Griffin will have a bigger impact than some people may think because the Broncos will no longer have the advantage of beating people with a scrambling quarterback. Fecci believes that if the Bulldogs can somehow wrap up junior running back Bryan Driskell, they can force Boyd to pass the football.
"For us to be successful we have to get more than one person on Driskell and get him to the ground. If he makes one or two miss he'll make you pay for it."
If North is able to force Boyd to rely on its passing game, the Bulldogs are confident that their secondary can contain the Broncos' receivers.
"The strength of our defensive unit is our secondary," Fecci said. "There are six or seven that we can put in there and feel good about what they do."
McKinney Boyd's defensive line will pose a difficult task for a McKinney North offense that is relying on a new quarterback in Hunter Walling and an inexperienced backfield that includes sophomore Trey Smith and senior Selwyn Smith.
"They're very sound on defense." Fecci said. "They have a lot of confidence as well they should. They're going to get after us and hopefully we can do the same thing."
Senior running back Devin Smith is still nursing a knee injury so his third and final varsity season will be cut short but the Bulldogs expect him to be back in time for the start of district play against Wylie East. The only good news for the Bulldogs when it comes to Devin's injury is that he got hurt early enough in the spring that both Trey and Selwyn have had time to prepare for taking on a majority of the rushing load.
"Those backs take a pounding and Trey and Selwyn will get three games of experience," Fecci said. "We can ease in Devin when he comes back and those two guys will be much better because they played three games."
Even if McKinney North manages to pull off what would be considered a huge upset against McKinney Boyd, the victory will do nothing for the Dawgs in terms of reaching the playoffs. That doesn't mean that North has no interest in winning the big game but rather that Fecci will be looking at the big picture rather than the win-loss record.
"I want to see that we know how to go out and play a rivalry game because we play one in district against McKinney High," he said. "Also that we play hard and play clean. We know we're going to make mistakes but we need to make them going full speed."
Check back tomorrow for a second preview of Friday's big season opener from the perspective of the McKinney Boyd Broncos.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com