The Sulphur Springs Wildcats did not spend the pre-district part of their football season at Six Flags, but it feels like it.
The first five games of the year have been full of more ups and downs that the Texas Giant.
For the Wildcats to come out of the first five games with a 3-2 mark speaks volumes about the tenacity of the team and the coaching staff.
Tyler Lee 55,
Sulphur Springs 20
It might seem like the Wildcats were being set up for failure, trying to hang with a 5A program for the first game of the year.
But Sulphur Springs had defeated Robert E. Lee the year before, so they gave it a try.
Sulphur Springs, playing at home in front of a opening night packed house, came up on the short end of a 55-20 score against the Red Raiders.
What was the most telling statistic of the game was the second half. After staying pretty close after two quarters, the Wildcats were unable to get a point in the final two stanzas. They were outscored 20-0 by Lee as the squad took the first win of the year.
In the first half, the Wildcats answered an early score by Lee. Willy Ivery scooted down the grass field for a 53-yard scoring run to make it a 7-6 game. Lee got a long scoring pass to jump ahead 14-6. Sulphur Springs responded with a scoring drive capped by a 48-yard scoring run by Larry Pryor. The Wildcats only trailed by a point, 14-13. Lee got another score and extra point as the first period ended with the visitors holding 21-13 margin. Sulphur Springs came right back with Pryor throwing to Alex Burney for a 30-yard touchdown. Sulphur Springs again had pulled with in a point, 21-20.
But that was the last tally of the game for the Wildcats. Lee dominated the final half and took the win, 55-20.
Lee finished the game with 648 total yards, compared to 341 for Sulphur Springs. Pryor in his first start at quarterback completed 14 of 29 passes for 168 yards and a score.
The Wildcats had a good night on returns, but could not translate that yardage into points.
Sulphur Springs 34,
After riding the roller coaster to the bottom, this game was a climb to the top of the tracks. Riding a stellar performance by the Sulphur Springs defense, the Wildcats hammered Sherman by 20 points in an impressive road win.
Derick Ingram at linebacker and several other Wildcat defenders spent most of the night in the Sherman backfield. Sherman was held to 165 total yards, two running backs for Sherman had negative rushing totals. Without the rushing of Tre Mask, it would have been a lot worse for the Bearcats.
Sulphur Springs, playing without an injured Ivery, still had 252 yards for the night. Mitchell DeYong filled in on the ground and rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries, scoring three times. Pryor threw for 185 yards, completing 17-of-23 passes. Isaiah Lacy caught a 13-yard touchdown pass to start the fun and the Wildcats never looked back.
DeYong got a second quarter touchdown to allow the Wildcats to go up 14-0 at intermission. It felt like a bigger lead with Sherman kept under wraps for the game.
Sulphur Springs got 20 points in the final quarter to put the game on ice. Freshman Jaylon Hawkins recorded his first touchdown on a 5-yard run.
The Wildcats were now 1-1 for the season and feeling good about coming home for their next game.
“I think that the Sherman game, we had all cylinders firing. It was a pretty good game...we learned that we can play pretty good defensive by being sound giving extra effort and swarming to the ball,” said Triston Abron, Sulphur Springs defensive coordinator. “Overall, I am happy with the effort and willingness to get better everyday by the kids. We have to improve on tackling. Up front we have to remain active, but play with a low pad level, in the secondary have to limit blown assignments to zero, linebackers need to play more physical. If we fix these things and continue to play with the effort that we had the first five games, I think we could take care of our business, get off the field, and give the ball back to our offense and allow them to be as explosive as they want to be.”
Sulphur Springs 22
Any hopes the Wildcats had about coming out with a win before the big homecoming crowd at Gerald Prim Stadium vanished early. The other Wildcats, the maroon group from Smith County, did the damage and won by a 61-22 final. The loss not only hurt the Wildcats in the standings, dropping them to 1-2 after three games. But the loss hurt their pride to get throttled at homecoming.
Whitehouse had 555 total yards and did not let up scoring at least once in every quarter. The state-ranked Cats were led by Patrick Mahomes who threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns.
Sulphur Springs had 353 yards on the night. Ivery ran for 108 yards, scoring twice. Pryor completed 22 passes for close to 200 yards. Lacy again was a target for a touchdown. But it came down to Whitehouse having too much firepower.
Sulphur Springs head coach Greg Owens promised that his team would learn from the loss, regroup and be ready for the next contest.
Sulphur Springs 43, Paris 9
The Sulphur Springs coaster moved back to the crest of the hill with a 43-9 road win over 3A Paris.
It was another good night for the defense. Sulphur Springs just allowed one touchdown and 139 total yards to the homestanding Wildcats.
What turned the game from a friendly back yard rivalry to a rout was the third period. Sulphur Springs went into hyper drive on offense and scored 28 points on just 17 points in the quarter.
Sulphur Springs was up 15-3 at the intermission. It was still anybody's game.
Then came an 18-yard scoring run by Ivery. A 14-yard pass from Pryor to Dillon Carpenter. Pryor went back up top and threw a 32-yard scoring pass to Burney. Before fans could blink, Sulphur Springs had the ball again. Pryor capped a short drive with a 10-yard run and boom, it was all over. Time to "Turn out the lights" this party was over. Paris got a late touchdown which made the final, 43-9.
For the night, Pryor and Ivery both rambled for more than 100 yards. Ivery scored three times, Pryor also threw two touchdown passes.
The Sulphur Springs Wildcats were out of their slump and standing a 2-2 heading into the final non-district game of the season.
Sulphur Springs 77,
The Wildcat coaster was heading around a curve, who ever knew it would take 11 touchdowns to win this wild and crazy game.
At Corsicana, the artifical turf was clean and fast as both teams accounted for 20 total touchdowns and 1,500 yards in a cloud of points.
It was the Wildcats who survived to come out on top, 77-65, taking their second consecutive non-district win and third road win of the first five games.
Teams were up and down the field at a dizzying rate, rolling up 79 first downs, combining for 166 plays on this powerful offensive light.
Pryor threw 30 times, completing 23 for 427 yards, his best game during his short run at quarterback. Ivery scored five times and rushed for 208 yards. Burney caught two touchdown passes with Lacy ad C.J. Stephens also reaching the end zone with touchdown receptions.
Corsicana was led by the running of sophomore Lamontra Owens who scored five times and rushed for more than 400 yards for the Tigers.
The Wildcats trailed late in the contest, but got late scores to pull ahead. Pryor scored on an 11-yard run with less than a minute to play. Zach Spigner picked off a pass for Sulphur Springs to secure the hard fought victory.
The Sulphur Springs defense was on the field a lot with several players turning in stellar games. Ingram, Dedric Smith, Cain Cody and Barry Stribling had at least 10 tackles each.
The first half of the year ended with Sulphur Springs holding a 3-2 mark.
“We are pleased as an offensive unit and staff where we have progressed over the past five weeks,” said Matt Young, Sulphur Springs offensive coordinator. “The biggest positive is the progress of our first time starters on the O-line, quarterback and receivers. They now have experience and have performed under tough situations. We now have a better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. I am really pleased how Brady Carrell, Landon Watkins, Jess Jenkins, John McLarry, Spencer Bramlett and Isaac Perez are coming together as an offensive line allowing Pryor and Ivery to make plays in the backfield.”
Young added, “We are also happy with C.J. Stephens, Ben Brooks and DeYong's continued development at receiver. They are improving both with and without the ball. The best thing with this group is they show up to work each day. Burney and Lacy as seniors show great leadership coming to work each day and it rubs off. It is exciting each day seeing where we get better and as a staff we can't wait to see how that carries over into district. As far as an outlook for district, we have to show up each week. Anyone can beat anyone on any given Friday night.”
Sulphur Springs head football coach Greg Owens said it was good mentally and physically for the team have an open week after five games.
“We got to rest from bumps and bruises and concentrate on grades,” Owens said. “We stressed fundamentals and made some personnel adjustments. The team has a great attitude and we are getting focused for district play.”
The Wildcats host Mount Pleasant Friday, Oct. 11 to open 14-4A play.
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