Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Allen shows it's 'a well-oiled, high-powered, back-breaking machine' after grinding DeSoto en route to 5A-I title game
UNIVERSITY PARK — Facing DeSoto and its high-powered offense, Allen knew it couldn’t relax. It had to keep pushing, keep driving, keep its foot on the pedal.
Fortunately for Allen, its team is a machine right now. It’s a well-oiled, high-powered, back-breaking machine that with a 51-36 victory Saturday earned a spot in the Class 5A Division II championship.
“Our game was that they have speed, but we’re physical. Just get bodies on bodies,” said senior running back Marcus Ward, who carried the ball 32 times for 228 yards. “Holes opened up, and it was just my job to run through them.”
Ward and Allen (14-1) did their jobs well against DeSoto (14-1), which was playing in its first state semifinal. Allen will play Houston Lamar (15-0) next Saturday in the title game at Cowboys Stadium, and although Allen will be playing a team it doesn’t know a lot about, that’s not as important as what Allen knows about itself:
Balanced, physical football wins a lot of games.
On Saturday, in front of a crowd of about 20,000 at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium, that combination won a game against a DeSoto team that was No. 1 in several national rankings.
“Allen, gosh all mighty,” DeSoto coach Claude Mathis said. “They’ve got a great ballclub.”
Allen rushed 62 times for 392 yards, which helped limit the opportunities for DeSoto (14-1), which had been averaging nearly 50 points per game. Allen took a 21-14 lead at the half and then took control in the third quarter, which it has done throughout the playoffs.
In five playoff games, Allen has outscored opponents 72-9 in the third. Helped by Mayomi Oluutu’s 85-yard kickoff return to open the second half, Allen stretched its halftime lead to 41-20 by the start of the fourth.
Showing the completeness of its team, Allen scored third-quarter touchdowns on the special-teams kickoff return, a 20-yard run by quarterback Kyler Murray and on a 40-yard interception return by linebacker Tay Evans.
And when Allen didn’t score, its offense still picked up first downs and shortened the game.
“In the second half, we just wanted to line up, play smash-mouth football, drive it down,” Ward said. “That’s what we did, and time kept ticking.”
Time ticked away fast for DeSoto, which never led. Quarterback Desmon White completed 30 of 52 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns, but Allen was able to contain his scrambling pretty well. Star running back Dontre Wilson, obviously not 100 percent because of an ankle sprain, rushed for only 39 yards but did catch seven passes for 59 yards.
Allen was determined not to allow the big play.
“We were focused on making them drive down the field time after time,” said defensive back Chad Adams, who also scored a touchdown on a 20-yard reverse. “The plan was to play our technique and do what we’ve been doing all season. Be in the right place at the right time.”
Now Allen is in the place it wants to be. One win from a state title.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.