Dons seek 2-0 start for first time since 2001

by Lee Passmore | from amarillo.com posted 9/5/2012
photo by Dexter Harper | North Amarillo Now

For the first time since 2007, the Palo Duro Dons go into their second game of the season having won their first game, and they’ll take that unbeaten status into their 7:30 p.m. Thursday game against Plainview at Dick Bivins Stadium.

Palo Duro rolled past Tascosa in impressive fashion last week, opening the season with a 42-21 victory. Coach Steve Parr said he was happy with his team’s results, but he doesn’t want the Dons to get too happy with them.

“It’s always nice to win, but last week’s now over,” Parr said. “The things I was most pleased with was effort and hustle, but there are some things we need to work on.”

Palo Duro looked like the Dons of old in beating Tascosa, returning to a running game that piled up 313 yards. Junior Antaun Turner (129 yards, four touchdowns on 13 carries) and sophomore Anthony McClain (138 yards, two touchdowns on seven carries) led PD’s attack.

The Dons were just as solid defensively, shutting out Tascosa in the first half. They didn’t look like a team that went 2-8 last season.

“The energy and enthusiasm I thought were great throughout the ball game,” Parr said. “If they do that, they’re a fun group to be around.”

Last week, Plainview opened against Palo Duro’s District 3-4A rival Randall and lost, 55-27. The Bulldogs looked as if they were going to get blown away early, falling behind 26-3. However, they scored 24 unanswered points and briefly went up 27-26 before Randall came alive in the second half and scored 29 unanswered points.

Plainview’s Daniel Miller ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries

“Plainview made a big comeback last week,” Parr said. “That might have worn them down at the end, but they’re an explosive football team who have a really good running back.”

Team of the week: Palo Duro Dons

Anthony McLain

Antaun Turner

by Lance Lahnert | from amarillo.com posted 9/3/2012

» Score: Palo Duro 42, Tascosa 21

» Significance: Palo Duro entered the season getting no respect from many preseason football publications. The Dons were picked to not make the playoffs in the six-team District 3-4A, where four teams make the advance. Plus, Tascosa is a city rival and Class 5A school.

» Turning point: After a scoreless first quarter, Palo Duro found its running game and scored 28 unanswered points — each on runs by Antaun Turner and Anthony McLain — setting the stage for a night of 313 rushing yards.

» Individual highlights: Running backs Turner, McLain and the Palo Duro offensive line stole the show. Turner, a junior, rushed 13 times for 129 yards and scored four touchdowns on runs of 1, 5, 10 and 41 yards. McLain, a sophomore, finished with 138 yards on seven carries and scored on runs of 68 and 29 yards.

» Comment: “The Tascosa option was pretty easy to read,” said Palo Duro senior linebacker/fullback Luis Hernandez, who helped open holes for the PD the running game as a blocker “The guards would pull and it was very predictable. We prepared hard for it all week. All the credit goes to the defensive line for making our jobs easier. It’s a new era at PD.”

» Next: vs. Plainview (0-1), 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dick Bivins Stadium.

Palo Duro Dons overwhelm Tascosa Rebels in season opener

by Lance Lahnert | from amarillo.com posted 8/30/2012
photo by Dexter Harper | North Amarillo Now

The Palo Duro Dons didn’t tip-toe into the 2012 season Thursday night.

The Dons shouted out loud and clear: “Big Blue is back.”

Palo Duro put on quite the display of season-opening football, using the running duo of junior Antaun Turner and sophomore Anthony McLain to put together a surprising lopsided 42-21 victory against Tascosa in the 51st meeting of these city teams in Dick Bivins Stadium.

Once the Dons started rolling after a scoreless first quarter, their running game proved unstoppable. PD produced 313 yards rushing and six touchdowns by the Turner and McLain show.

Turner scored four touchdowns on runs of 1, 5, 10 and 41 yards and gained 139 yards on 15 carries. McLain hurt Tascosa’s defense for 138 yards on seven carries and scored on runs of 29 and 68 yards.

“I’m going to give it all to our line,” Turner said. “If not for them, none of the backs would have scored. They did their part. We got rolling. Big Blue is back. It is back.”

The Dons put this one away by building a 28-0 lead on McLain’s 68-yarder with just less than five minutes to play in the third quarter. That 86-yard, five-play drive capped a stretch in which Palo Duro scored on four of five possessions.

While the Dons offense was clicking behind the leadership of junior quarterback Malik Sims — he completed his opening five passes and finished with 105 yards throwing — the other side of the football was handling Tascosa’s new option offense.

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Tascosa, Palo Duro meet for 51st time on football field

by Lee Passmore | from amarillo.com posted 8/29/2012
photo by Dexter Harper | North Amarillo Now

They’re not in the same district or even the same classification, but it always seems as if Tascosa and Palo Duro are on equal footing entering the high school football season.

Traditionally, the Tascosa Rebels and Palo Duro Dons have been the Amarillo ISD schools to kick off the season at Dick Bivins Stadium, and that will be no different Thursday. They square off at about 8 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader and for the 51st time in the series.

Class 5A Tascosa and Class 4A Palo Duro have seemed to provide a fairly good gauge for where each other stands over the last four seasons.

While the Rebels have won four straight in the series, including the last three under coach Ken Plunk, no victory margin has been by more than five points.

So don’t be surprised if a play here or there has a big impact, as those little things could set the foundation of what may come later in the season.

“The thing we’ve emphasized the most is to take care of the football,” Plunk said. “We need to be able to block and tackle well and that sort of thing. At this point, you’re just looking for execution.”

The Rebels will have a different offensive identity this season, as they’ll run an option offense led by new quarterback Peyton Brooks. Ironically, the Rebels and Dons may have exchanged offensive identities over the last season.

While Palo Duro opened last season against Tascosa by running the Wing-T, the Dons have switched to more of a throwing offense led by sophomore quarterback Malik Sims. With a talented corps of receivers led by Charleston White, there’s no reason to expect them not to throw the ball.

PD coach Steve Parr will be looking at some less obvious things.

“I think you want to have fun but see how you execute with some things against other people and take a long look at the kicking game,” Parr said. “There’s a lot of unknowns because you haven’t gone against anybody else in a game situation yet.”

Parr knows how much a kicking game can help or hurt after last season, when the Dons went 2-8 and lost their final five games, yet three of those losses were by a total of seven points. The opener against Tascosa might have been a harbinger of tough luck to come, as the Dons rallied late but lost 15-12.

Despite three straight wins against Palo Duro, Plunk knows not to take anything for granted due to how narrow the wins have been.

“They’re a good football team who are really athletic,” Plunk said of the Dons. “Just being in the city and knowing them well, I feel a bit of pressure in this game.”
Parr knows this territory just as well.

“It’s going to be a really hard-fought ball game, this being a city rivalry,” Parr said. “Walking down that ramp the first time is going to be the most exciting time of the year for a lot of these guys.”

Palo Duro’s Meander ready for 2-way role

by Lee Passmore | from amarillo.com posted 8/21/2012
photos by Dexter Harper | North Amarillo Now

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You won’t have to look hard to find Montrel Meander in a Palo Duro football game this season, regardless of whether the Dons have the ball.

Meander will be involved in just about every play from scrimmage this season, or at least the important ones. On defense, he’ll be the free safety, trying to prevent teams from completing passes against the Dons. On offense, he’ll be a wide receiver, trying to catch passes against those teams.

In any case, Meander figures to be around the ball a lot in his senior season.

“I only come off when I need a little break,” said Meander, a three-year starter at safety. “(Palo Duro’s coaches) let me out if I need at quick blow. I just like to compete.”

That’s been proven during Meander’s career, as he’s made a major impact on both sides of the ball. As a sophomore, he was a first team District 3-4A pick as a defensive back, and last season as a junior, he was a first team 3-4A pick on offense as a running back.

Meander is staying at safety this year but is moving to a different position on offense. Either way, it’s an indication of how valuable he’ll be to the Dons this season.

“We have to keep him on the field a great deal,” Palo Duro coach Steve Parr said of Meander. “He’s a year older and a year faster and is going to be a really big factor.”

And he’s already been one for two years. You don’t get to be all-district on both sides of the ball without your coaches noticing your talent.

Still, it came as a mild shock to Meander last season when the PD coaching staff wanted him to play more on offense. While he’d been a receiver dating back to sixth grade, he’d never played running back.

“(The coaching staff) told me before the season started that I’d be playing some running back,” Meander said. “I didn’t expect that. I just had to memorize plays.”

Meander proved to be a quick study in the offensive backfield. He led the Dons with 572 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, averaging better than 5 yards a carry.

Considering that Meander qualified for the state track meet in the spring in the 200 meters, it’s no surprise that Palo Duro’s coaches wanted to use his speed on offense as well. But Meander prefers playing free safety, where speed is just as big a factor.

“It’s pretty simple,” Meander said of playing safety. “Just don’t let anybody run past you. If you see the ball, just make a play on it.”

Now he’ll have to do the same thing on offense as well when the ball is in the air. The Dons already have some proven receivers returning from last season in all-district selection Charleston White and Joseph Taylor. Quarterback Malik Sims returns as well.

Meander will have to get up to speed to be a contributor to Palo Duro’s passing game, which Parr placed a greater emphasis on last season after putting the Wing-T in the drawer for most of the season. Experience as a safety should help Meander adapt as a route runner.

“I think I’m quick enough to separate from the defensive backs who are guarding me,” Meander said. “For me, knowing the places to stay out of as a safety, it will make it easier to make a play.”

It seems as if making plays on either side of the ball is what Meander is about. That and his speed have gotten him looks from Division I football programs such as Texas Tech, New Mexico and Wyoming, among others.

Meander would seem more like a natural at safety at the collegiate level, but Parr’s requirements of him this season are more far ranging.

“I think that you can go beyond this level and predict where he’ll play,” Parr said of Meander. “He’s just involved in all phases of the game, including the kicking game, and that can only help us.”

Especially when the ball is in the air.