The Area Round of the UIL Texas high school football playoffs are nearly underway and both teams from McKinney ISD are gearing up for their upcoming matchups.
McKinney (6A) faces Waco Midway and McKinney North (5A) has a matchup with Lancaster.
Taking time out of their busy schedules, McKinney head coach Marcus Shavers and McKinney North's Michael Fecci chatted with VYPE DFW about the importance of still playing at this point of the year and the sense of pride it instills in the community.
What does it mean to your team to still be playing at this point of the season?
Coach Fecci: It means everything. To be in the second round is an honor and one that our kids are excited about.
Coach Shavers: It validates how we train in the offseason. It means that the kids and coaches have all increased their commitment to the standard and have been living it consistently regardless of the circumstance. It also means that expectations have been shifted for a program that has not had a large amount of success over the last two decades and that's a good thing.
What is the vibe with the team and the campus overall regarding the playoffs?
Fecci: It is good. Students, players, teachers, administration and parents are excited to be playing still.
Shavers: There is a sense of excitement and pride. McKinney High is a special place, and when football wins on this campus, it sets the tone for the entire campus. There is a tremendous amount of support from all teachers and admin here. Everybody is pulling their weight to make this experience great for Lion Nation.
How does the extra practice benefit the team next for year?
Fecci: Each week you advance you gain that extra time for your younger players to get better. It pays off for sure.
Shavers: The extra practices are the best thing about this time of the year. It really allows for us to get more reps than our opponents who are done playing. It keeps the younger kids playing and developing, which helps strengthen our foundation for the entire program.
What words do you say to keep your team grounded and focused on the upcoming game?
Fecci: We talk all the time about "next play" mentality. Meaning that good or bad, it is what you do next that matters way more than what you just did.
Shavers: We talk a lot about defeating human nature and preparing themselves to reach their full potential by controlling the controllables. Those things take an extreme amount of focus. Not allowing satisfaction to cause them not to be at their best in regard to striving and straining for better.
What does it mean to you to represent the city and the ISD in the playoffs?
Fecci: It is awesome. With McKinney High still in the playoffs, McKinney ISD is in a great spot.
Shavers: It means everything. That's all we want to do is make the city and the school district proud! This city and school district has invested so much in the lives of our kids, coaches and school as a whole. Having the opportunity to represent in the state playoffs is something we do not take for granted and will play with a tremendous amount of pride.
What challenge does your opponent represent this week?
Fecci: Lancaster is crazy good - [their] team-speed is unreal. They have talent everywhere and use it very well. It will be a big challenge for us.
Shavers: It's a tremendous challenge. Midway has been a powerhouse program for the last several years and they are good in all phases. Stopping the run and running the ball will be biggest challenges we will face on Friday Night.
What is the main focus this week in practice to best position the team to win?
Fecci: Focus on us...that is all we can control. So control what we can. That is our preparation and mental approach to this game.
Shavers: Playing with a tremendous amount of toughness and grit. If we can be a tough football team and win the majority of our individual battles, that will give us our best chance to win.
Time is ticking, but there is still sand in the hour glass for the McKinney Lions 2019 football team. At 4-4 and 2-3 in District 9-6A, McKinney certainly controls a bit of its own destiny along with a little help needed from its MISD-brethren McKinney Boyd and Prosper.
On the first half of that equation, McKinney must first take care of business against Dallas Jesuit, which is 5-3 overall and 4-1 in district, and McKinney Boyd, which is 2-6 and 1-4 in district. The back half of that equation calls for Plano to lose to McKinney Boyd and then Prosper.
Because Plano holds the tie-breaker over McKinney with a head-to-head win, any loss by McKinney or a win by Plano in either of the final two weeks eliminates McKinney from playoff contention.
But first, head coach Marcus Shavers and his team are focused on Jesuit.
"(We're) approaching this week like a playoff game," Shavers said. "We know that the only thing we can control is how well we play, and we want to play extremely well as a team."
To be at its best, McKinney will have to play a well-rounded game, which will mean not getting behind early, playing ahead of the chains and not turning over the ball.
In its four wins this year, McKinney won the turnover battle in three of those contests and were able to get its defense off the field, limiting teams to just 257.5 yards a game. Conversely, the Lions lost the turnover battle in two of its four losses and gave up no less than 490 yards.
"The key will be for us to eliminate mistakes. The team with the fewest amount of mistakes will win this ball game," Shavers said. "We want to play a disciplined, clean football game."
But with riding a two-game win streak, Shavers and his team have momentum and are seeking a program's third straight playoff appearance. Doing so would be huge for a program looking establish itself as a regular playoff-bound team.
"We have built a solid foundation of trust, accountability, toughness, and togetherness. (Getting back to the playoffs) would mean that the trajectory of our football program is moving upward expeditiously and that we did what needed to be done. To represent our school and district in Texas State Playoffs is a big deal."