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December 19, 2012Northwestern offensive line commit Brad North and Allen (Texas) were up against No. 1 DeSoto in a battle of two teams that share the Eagles nickname in the Texas 5A Division I playoffs.
But rather than attacking by air, it was the Allen Eagles' punishing ground attack that enabled them to punch their ticket to the state finals with a 51-36 win at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
North's blocking at left tackle was key in helping Allen's offense dominate the contest. In all, Allen rushed for 394 yards, the lion's share of their 489 total yards.
Senior running back Marcus Ward did most of the heavy lifting for Allen, finishing with 228 yards on 32 carries. Sophomore quarterback Kyler Murray also did his fair share, racking up 100 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, as well as 95 yards and another TD through the air.
The running game has been Allen's bread-and-butter all season: the Eagles have rushed for a Texas-sized total of 4,007 yards in 15 games.
On the other side of the field, DeSoto star Dontre Wilson, an Oregon commit, was held to 39 yards on 15 carries.
"The whole thing about this group is they play as a team,'' said Allen head coach Tom Westerberg. "This wasn't a real good team in the spring, but we've gotten better every week. The guys up front did a great job and Marcus Ward ran extremely hard.''
Allen wasted no time in establishing the running game as Murray ran for a 7-yard touchdown to open the scoring. He then then threw an 11-yard TD pass to Cole Carter to give Allen a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Allen extended the edge to 21-0 on a Chad Adams 20-yard touchdown run, and the rout looked to be on. But DeSoto came roaring back with two Wilson TDs -- one by air and one on the ground -- to close the gap to 21-14 at the half.
Allen ended any budding drama by blowing the game open in the third quarter. Mayomi Olootu took the second-half kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. About three minutes later, Murray added his second rushing touchdown, this time from 20 yards out, and after Tay Evans rang up a 40-yard pick-six off of a DeSoto screen on the following possession, the Allen lead was 41-14 and the game was effectively over.
With the running game bottled up, DeSoto had to rely on the passing of Delmon White. He threw for 371 yards and three scores, but it wasn't enough to compete with Allen's withering ground game. His 12-yard scoring pass to Rickey Daniels with 6:40 remaining closed the gap to 51-36, but DeSoto could draw no closer.
DeSoto's offense came into the contest averaging 48 points per game, but they turned the ball over on downs five times in Allen's territory.
"When you play a big-play team like DeSoto, the mindset is to make them snap it one more time,'' said Allen senior linebacker Nick Cobb. "Even if a play goes for 30 yards, just make the tackle and make them snap it one more time. You can't worry about it when they make a big play.''
Allen (14-1), ranked No. 19 nationally, will face Houston Lamar (15-0) for the Texas state championship on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Arlington's Cowboys Stadium.