Written by Matt Wixon
Embarrassment of high school football riches at Cedar Hill, Allen
Defending champs hit hard by graduation, but talent abounds
As many football teams prepare to begin spring practice, defending Class 5A state champions Allen and Cedar Hill are looking for new centers. Cedar Hill’s Timmis Bonner and Allen’s Tejan Koroma, all-state selections as seniors, will be difficult to replace.
But of course nobody will shed any tears for Allen and Cedar Hill. Not with the gusher of talent they still have ready to take the field.
“I cannot wait,” Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said of his team’s spring practice, which begins Monday.
The Longhorns won’t have Bonner or offensive guard Korliss Johnson, who both signed with Northwestern State. They won’t have defensive end Xavier Washington, the defensive MVP of last season’s 5A Division II title game who signed with a different Northwestern (the Big Ten school in Evanston, Ill.). And they won’t have standout defensive back Marcus Green, who signed with Oklahoma.
The defensive side will be hardest hit by graduation. But Cedar Hill’s 2014 defense, with stars-in-waiting such as linebacker Richard Moore and defensive back Darrell Miller, should develop quickly playing against the Longhorns’ offense.
“You’re not going to face a better offense than what you see every day,” McGuire told the players.
That offense will include quarterback Justin McMillan, who threw for 2,367 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior, as well as running back Aca’Cedric Ware, who became a star in the playoffs. And then there’s receiver DaMarcus Lodge, whose junior season ended with a touchdown reception and a 61-yard scoring run in the championship game.
Lodge, the offensive MVP of the Division II title game, is the rare player who can make spectacular plays look effortless. Allen quarterback Kyler Murray, offensive MVP of the last two 5A Division I title games, is one of them.
He’s also a big reason why Allen will probably be No. 1 in the preseason state rankings even if it has to replace most of its defense.
“This might be the first year we’ve lost so many on the defensive side,” said Allen coach Tom Westerberg, whose team will begin spring practice May 5.
Ten defensive starters must be replaced from the group that helped Allen finish undefeated for the first time. Among the big names who have moved on are defensive backs Chad Adams (Arizona State) and Mayomi Olootu (Northern Illinois) and linebackers Tay Evans (Oklahoma) and Christian Sam (Arizona State).
“The offensive staff is a little more comfortable with what’s going on than the defensive staff right now,” Westerberg said. “One staff will get a little more sleep than the other, I imagine.”
It’s pretty easy to sleep when Murray is your quarterback, and he’s protected by two top returning linemen: Bobby Evans (committed to Oklahoma) and Greg Little (a top recruit in the Class of 2016). Murray, who threw for 46 touchdowns last season and ran for 19, will again be throwing to big-play receiver Jalen Guyton, who caught 11 touchdown passes in last year’s playoffs. The senior-to-be orally committed to Notre Dame last month.
“We’re looking for some starters and some key leadership roles,” Westerberg said. “We’ll see how that all pans out.”
Judging by the nuggets of talent that are in the pan, it could be another gold rush for Allen and Cedar Hill.