By DON WALLACE
News-Telegram Sports Editor
The date was circled on the schedule several months ago.
Aug. 29, the opening game at Rockwall-Heath, the first game of the football season for the Hawks and the Sulphur Springs Wildcats.
The teams provide an interesting matchup and while the squads may appear opposites, they both are used to winning.
The Wildcats feature a high-power attack led by all-state quarterback Larry Pryor a backfield full of fleet and powerful runners behind a senior-laded offensive line.
Rockwall-Heath went 6-4 last year. The squad has five offensive and two defensive starters back. The Hawks are picked to finish second behind Mesquite Poteet in the 12-5A race.
The Harris Rating Poll has installed the Hawks as a six-point favorite in the game set Friday in Rockwall.
Sulphur Springs was 8-4, losing out in area in 2013. The Wildcats are picked third in 15-5A.
"Heath is big, fast and athletic, they put a body on a body and like to grind out the running game," said Greg Owens, Sulphur Springs head football coach. "They have some big time talent."
Heath offensive lineman J.J. Nwigwe is a verbal pledge to the University of Texas. Trevor Elbert, labeled by some of their best lineman, has committed to Texas A&M.
Owens said, "They're definitely a big time challenge. They have a lot to prove and we did too. They are ranked and playing at home. They will give us a tough first game."
The Hawks are coached by Mickey Moss, a 1979 graduate of Sulphur Springs High School. Moss went all 12 years of school in Sulphur Springs.
Moss has a 148-77 overall coaching record, with a 48-21 mark at Rockwall-Heath.
Moss discounted the pre-game pick by some with Heath listed as a favorite.
"The polls don't matter," Moss said. "We expect to have a strong, physical team that has the potential to win a lot of ball games."
When asked about his alma mater, Moss said, "Sulphur Springs is an outstanding program led by a great man in Greg Owens."
Owens, also a Sulphur Springs graduate, did not play football with Moss, but has followed his career in the coaching circles.
"Mickey does a great job, he's a good coach and I enjoy talking with him," Owens said. "He might not like for me to tell this, but I think our game we had with them at Texas Stadium during the '08 run to our state championship, was one of the best games. They had a great team and we were just fortunate to get a turnover and some points to beat them that year."
Owens said, "The Heath teams are tough, they will fight you. They are very talented. Heath this year has a good quarterback, some big linemen."
The Wildcats come into the game off action in two scrimmages, ready for a game which counts.
Owens said he has been impressed with the hard work his team has done under the harsh, August humidity and conditions since Aug. 4.
"We have been tough and the kids and asked a lot from them. They did it all with a minimum amount of grumbling," Owens said. "They try to do everything these coaches ask because they want to get better. They are hungry to win, especially the seniors."
Owens said, "This group is very coachable. They understand what is on the line and they believe in what we teach them. We are still trying to instill a sense of urgency. We need to learn it now and get better - now. We can't wait until Friday night. Every snap is important. The players have a great attitude. We have been demanding and they have put forth a tremendous effort. They need to, because we have lofty goals."
"One of the goals is to win a district championship," Owens admitted. "The other goal is to make a good, long run in the playoffs. We are tired of getting knocked out in the first or second round. We want a good run deep into the playoffs. This group is good enough to do that, some things have to fall right for you. But this team has what it takes to go a long way."
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