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September 25, 2008Plano East is off to a school-worst 0-4 start. But when the Panthers renew their 26-year rivalry against undefeated Plano at 7 p.m. Thursday at Clark Stadium, there will be the standard capacity crowd of 14,500 to watch this epic cross-town rival and a live broadcast to a statewide Fox Sports Southwest audience.
Plano has the seven state titles but East has the series edge. East leads 13-12-1 since becoming Plano's second school in the 1980s.
By then of course, Plano already had established itself as one of the state's and nation's top football programs.
Former Plano coach Tom Kimbrough reminds folks he wasn't in favor of a second school joining the Plano ISD. Like most coaches, he would have preferred a one high school town with every kid growing up wanting to be a Wildcat.
"I said if they want to open a second school, I'd be for it if all the boys went to Plano and all the girls to Plano East," said Kimbrough, working his 40th year in the Plano ISD athletic department.
Of course, Plano and East are two of the biggest high schools in the country in terms of enrollment. Only 11th and 12th grades are on their Senior High campuses and ninth and 10th go to High Schools.
Plano coach Jaydon McCullough is no stranger to the rivalry. A Wildcats player for Kimbrough in 1979 and 1980, he was a longtime Wildcat assistant before assuming the head coaching duties this season. Former 16-year head coach Gerald Brence moved into the position of being fulltime Plano ISD athletic director.
Wouldn't Wildcat-blooded McCullough love to be the one to tie the overall series? Oh, and Plano would be 5-0 then too. Plano is coming off a victory at Temple in which senior running back Rex Burkhead scored six touchdowns.
How have the Wildcats changed under McCullough?
"Not much," said East coach Johnny Ringo, who'll be in his fifth meeting.
East is struggling with injuries in an offensive front it thought would be a strength. Players still are getting moved around. Junior Kyle Nicholson moves into the starting rotation this week. East had hoped its line would give standout running back Toben Opurum some substantial holes to be the foundation of an offense with a new quarterback developing.
Instead, East has struggled mightily and a loss to Plano would be the Panthers' ninth in row dating back to last year's 6-0 start.
Plano has to worry that East has the motivations that a win over its arch-rival could be a saving grace to the season _ especially with the Wildcats ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 6 in the rivalshigh.com national poll. With it also being a district opener, East also could use a win to springboard back into state playoff contention.
East is 2-2 under Ringo, who fully appreciates the Old High vs. Little Brother dynamics. East's 35-7 win over Plano in 2006 under Ringo stands as the largest margin of difference in the series.
"If we don't play better than we have," Ringo said. "That might not go past Thursday."