SHERMAN — In a town named for Sherman, it was the Sulphur Springs defense hitting hit a Sherman tank.
And tanks to the defense, the Wildcats scored a 34-14 non-district Class 4A football win here Friday at Bearcat Stadium.
No fewer than two dozen times Sulphur Springs popped the Bearcats for losses or no gain. The Wildcats were foaming at the mouth at the line of scrimmage and living in the backfield of the Bearcats.
Tre Mask, who had 239 yards and three touchdowns in his breakout game in 2012 against Sulphur Springs, did score. But it was after he was moved from running back to quarterback late in a one-sided game. His 67-yard touchdown trot had little to do with the final outcome. He finished the night with 129 yards.
That outcome was predicated early by the Sulphur Springs defense.
"Praise the defense, tremendous effort and tenacity," said Greg Owens, Sulphur Springs head football coach. "We were getting after it. Our guys on defense did a fantastic job flying around, causing turnovers. Coach (Triston) Abron has them playing very hard."
Highlights of the defensive night include sacks by Dedric Smith, Bryton Wood and John McLarry.
Derick Ingram for the second week hit double digits in tackles with 10. Brennan Brock had an interception and Carson Hicks recovered two fumbles.
Mitchell DeYong had three touchdowns to spark the Wildcat offense.
The game wasn't decided early, but the tone was set.
Sherman got the ball back and lost two yards in four plays and soon Austin Roan had to punt. The short kick gave the Wildcats good field position.
But Sulphur Springs could not get rolling on their initial possession after a sack of Larry Pryor by Dakota Denney, the Wildcats had to punt.
The next Sherman possession was dominated by Sulphur Springs as well. In a drive which last just three plays, the Bearcats moved back four yards. Then had to punt for the second time in the first six minutes of the game.
The Wildcats got their offense going with a scoring drive of 57 yards. Pryor threw to Isaiah Lacy for a 17-yard gain on a middle screen. DeYong ran for four yards. Pryor completed a 16-yard pass to Alex Burney for another first down. Pryor took off for an eight-yard run. Two plays later Pryor went back up top to Lacy. The 5-9 senior receiver showed off more moves than a Soul Train dance contestant, catching the ball, shaking and baking through defenders for a 13-yard touchdown. Ryan Watson's extra point was true, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 4:24 left on the first quarter clock.
Sherman got the ball following the kickoff and began the drive from their own 27. Runs by Mask netted 13 yards and a first down. Sulphur Springs then brought heat to the line of scrimmage forcing Case Rolen into two incomplete passes. A reverse to Ja'Quay Pough was sniffed out by the Wildcats and thrown for a three yard loss. Jordan Hume tried to run wide and ran into a riled up Ingram for another negative play. On a third and 16 from the 37 of Sherman, Rolen was trapped for a sack by McLarry forcing a punt as action moved to the second period.
The teams traded punts until the Wildcats got their offense back in gear.
Sulphur Springs drove in for a score, this time using all running plays. A personal foul facemask call on Sherman helped the cause of the Wildcats. DeYong finished off the drive scoring on a one-yard burst up the middle. Watson's point after again split the uprights and Sulphur Springs was in command, leading 14-0 with 6:36 left before intermission.
Sherman had their best drive of the night on their next possession. Dalton Felder took over at quarterback, but he really was just another running back. Felder, a 5-8 fireplug, slipped under defenders as he had runs of 6, 8 and 6 yards to move the chains. Mask got in gear with a 21-yard run for a first down. When the Bearcats moved deep into Wildcat territory, the Sulphur Spring defense got tough. On a fourth and 15 from Sulphur Springs' 24-yard line Rolen came back in to try a pass. The senior's toss to the goal line found a receiver, but Pryor perfectly timed a hit at the goal line, knocking the ball off the hands of the Bearcat resulting in an incomplete pass.
Neither team could score in the final 2:13 of the first half and the Wildcats' 14-0 lead held up as bands took to the field.
Sulphur Springs had a prime scoring chance fall by the wayside in the opening minutes of the third period. Brennan Brock returned the second half kickoff 64 yards to set up a first and 10 from the 31-yard line of Sherman. Pryor threw to Burney for a six yard gain. Pryor was then caught for a one yard loss. On fourth and four, Pryor's next pass fell incomplete. Sherman took over after holding on downs.
The Bearcats did get on the scoreboard in the third period, but not using their offense.
Roan, the Bearcats' kicker, pinned the Wildcats deep in their own territory was a perfectly placed punt. Sulphur Springs took over with 7:08 left in the third from their own seven-yard line. Pryor's first pass was nabbed by Denney and returned 10 yards for a score for Sherman. Roan's extra point kick, cut the Sulphur Springs lead in half, 14-7 with 7:02 left in the now tight third period.
Neither offense did much until the Wildcats got a break and came up with a turnover from a Sherman fumble. Pryor threw to Lacy for a 25-yard gain. Then the fourth period ended with DeYong scoring again. The short touchdown blast gave the Wildcats a 20-7 lead with 11:55 on the game clock.
Sherman again coughed up the ball, this time on the fourth play of a short possession.
Sulphur Springs scored on the next play with DeYong again doing the honors. The extra point by Watson, gave the Wildcats a 20-point lead at 27-7.
Desperately trying to get any offense going, Mask was switched from running back to quarterback. The burly back had a pass picked off deep by Brock and returned for 27 yards.
Sulphur Springs took over with 8:28 left and put together their 58-yard scoring drive. DeYong had four runs for 16 yards total. Pryor threw to Dillon Carpenter and Dustin Fields for good gains. The scoring play came by freshman running back/defensive back Jaylon Hawkins. The Hawk found the end zone on a five-yard run. The score and extra point kick made it a 34-7 game with 6:39 remaining.
Hawkins said with a grin, "I had good blocking from my O line, it was pretty easy."
The Bearcats got a 66-yard scoring run by Mask with 1:25 left in the game. The Wildcats won their first game by the final of 34-14.
Sulphur Springs is 1-1 and will host Whitehouse next for homecoming. The Bearcats fell to 1-1.
"Our offense did well, we still a few little things to work out," Owens said. "We got great field position, but did not score on one drive and those things are killing us. We continue to battle. It was a good night for us. Sherman is a quality program. We battle them every year.”
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