Written by Matt Wixon
In matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2, Allen and Southlake Carroll focusing on getting better
It’s a Week 14 game in Zero Week.
That’s how Southlake Carroll coach Hal Wasson describes Friday’s opener against Allen. The meeting of the last two Class 5A Division I champions — Allen won last year, Carroll in 2011 — will undoubtedly be an intense matchup with a playoff atmosphere at Dragon Stadium.
But fortunately for Allen and Carroll, nothing really changes with Friday’s result. Allen, the top-ranked team in SportsDay’s 5A area rankings, and No. 2 Carroll will walk off the field as state contenders.
“We don’t have the BCS rankings at the end of the season,” Allen coach Tom Westerberg said, “so nondistrict doesn’t really matter.”
A win is the goal, of course, but getting better is what really matters. And Allen and Carroll, who have a combined record of 54-4 over the last two seasons, will be better teams a week from now.
“You don’t get better unless you play great people,” Wasson said. “If you’re shy about doing that, then you send your team a message.”
Carroll and Allen have sent a lot of strong messages about Dallas-area football since the turn of the century. Carroll won state titles in 2002, ’04, ’05, ’06 and ’11, and Allen won in 2008 and last year.
Carroll was Allen’s nemesis from 2003 to 2006, when the Dragons knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs each season. But both programs are clearly among the state elite now, and their teams this season seem qualified to extend the powerhouse brand.
Allen is less experienced than it was a year ago, but the Eagles return seven starters on defense, including three players ranked among SportsDay’s top 100 area recruits in the Class of 2014: linebackers Christian Sam and Tay Evans and defensive back Chad Adams. Allen’s offense has a lot of new faces, but junior quarterback Kyler Murray was the Offensive MVP of last year’s 5A Division I title game.
Carroll junior Ryan Agnew will make his first start at quarterback, but he got experience last season in a bevy of district blowouts and helped the Dragons win the state 7-on-7 title in July. Carroll will have another strong defense, and it returns 1,000-yard rusher A.J. Ezzard and a terrific group of receivers.
Carroll also returns with a vivid memory of what happened last year. The Dragons are focused on this season, Wasson said, but it’s impossible to forget last year’s opener, when Carroll lost, 24-0, in the debut of Allen’s Eagle Stadium.
“We’re all human. We’re all competitive,” Wasson said. “None of us likes to get our noses bloodied.”
It might be added motivation, but it doesn’t change the way Carroll views the game or how the Dragons are preparing for it. Carroll’s success is built on the same intense preparation each season. Allen is the same way, which makes sense given the two programs’ consistent success.
You don’t mess with what works. And win or lose Friday, Allen and Carroll will have a lot more work to do.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.
Southlake Carroll has lost at home only twice since Dragon Stadium opened for the 2001 season. Carroll lost to Coppell, 19-16, in 2001, and to Denton Guyer, 28-14, in 2010.
Since the loss to Guyer, Carroll has won 11 straight at Dragon Stadium by an average margin of 37 points.