You might consider the tricky Pirates as a dangerous opponent with nothing to lose.
Especially playing in their new sandbox.
Sulphur Springs take on the Pirates in new Pirate Stadium at 7:30 p.m. in a matchup between the District 14-4A haves and have nots.
The Wildcats have a 2-1 record and are tied for second place in the district. Sulphur Springs appears heading toward a playoff berth with two games left.
Pine Tree on the other hand is a have not. They have not won a game in district. They are 3-5 on the year, 0-3 in district competition.
The Pirates will probably miss the playoffs again, for the 13th straight year. Pine Tree has won just 33 games this century.
All the more reason to be afraid, or at least concerned about playing the Pirates.
Last year, Sulphur Springs won 70-49. But Pine Tree showed to the ability to put up yardage, if not points. Caleb Chumley threw for more than 400 yards and had five touchdowns rushing in his first start at quarterback. Mason Hays, now the quarterback, was at receiver last season and collected passes for 200 yards. Victor Hawkins, the top threat for the Pirates a year ago, set a school with 12 catches for 220 yards. Hawkins now plays for the Lamar University Cardinals.
"We have to guard against our players overlooking Pine Tree because they are struggling," said Greg Owens, Sulphur Springs head football coach. "They had a coaching change and all that. We can't come into the game and think it is won. Offensively, they are explosive. The have people who can throw the ball around. They have big kids too. They have some of the best-looking athletes in district. We got to make sure they don't get it on track."
Sulphur Springs leads the district in offense, averaging 475.4 per game. Pine Tree, despite their record is No. 2 in 14-4A on offense, putting up 414.1 yards per game.
Dalvin Manns is the No. 3 quarterback in the district. He has thrown for 1,773 yards, completing 100-of-176 passes with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. Mason Hays at quarterback has completed 11-of-20 passes for 196 yards and Chumley has thrown the ball 17 times, completing six for 99 yards and one score. Hays is the top receiver on the team with 37 grabs for 846 yards with eight touchdowns, including a 94-yard reception. Douglas Morgan has 26 receptions for 388 yards and three touchdowns.
"We got to be focus and get our minds right. We need to put together back-to-back district wins," Owens said. "We'd like to win out and take this game over Pine Tree and Marshall to end district. Our focus is right now, we are not in the playoffs. We are knocking at the door. I told the kids this is when momentum really starts to build. They should start tasting the playoffs. We practice with a playoff atmosphere. We are heading that win, it's one and done after that. You got to have an urgency and excitement. For some of these guys, this is new to them. This is week nine and we have ask a lot from them. It's a grind for the new varsity level kids. To keep their intensity and maintain our health."
Concerning the Pine Tree offense, Owens says he expects Pine Tree to put the ball in the air, even with their 50/50 mix on offense.
Owens said, "They have people to make you get nervous. They use the spread, the stretch read, the mid line option. Some of it like pure option football. Then they add in the passing game. They throw a lot of offense at you. We are getting ready for things we think can hurt us the most. I think they use too much offense, but they haven't really mastered anything yet and they are using it all. They get a little impatient at times. They run the quarterback up the gut. We have defensive assignments and people have to take care of that. We have a lot to defend and we have to be ready. Chumley had plays quarterback and receiver. Hays does a really nice job and is really good. They have kids who can make some plays. Manns is the No. 3 passer in our district. So were really don't know who will play. Hays has been doing most of it lately, he is a good runner and pass. Hays makes us nervous about the inside keeper."
The Pine Tree defense is led by coordinator Barry Bowman and his 3-3 stack. Bowman, a former head coach at Paris, Bullard, Daingerfield and other locations posting a 77-24 record as a head coach.
Recently joined the staff on defense. Bowman coached at Pine Tree early in his career.
Top players on defense include Jeremy Walters, a 5-10, 215-pound lineman. Also for Pine Tree is Corvell Marshall at free safety. The Pirates allow an average of 41 points per game.
"They're had some trouble stopping people on defense," Owens said. "They try to blitz and stunt to get after you. They have kids who are pretty quick. They move around well and get after you. Miller is their best defensive lineman, he will try to give us fits. Our center, Landon Watkins, will have his hands full. They have Dakota Lynn at linebacker, he runs around pretty well. Marshall is probably the best one they have in the secondary. Our game plan is not any different than it has been. We want to make them tired and give them as many looks as we can when we have the ball. We need to move the chains and score."
Derek Fitzhenry started the year as head football coach for the Pirates. Fitzhenry has since resigned. He was replaced by interim head coach Derrick Hennigan. Hennigan is the offensive coordinator and remains as the play-caller for the team.
"Fundamentally they are the same scheme wise," Owens said. "On offense and defense. They look the same now as to what they are doing. They are moving personnel around."
The Wildcats will get their first visit to Pirate Stadium, a $16 million state-of-the-art stadium which features new turf, outstanding lighting and seats 6,500 with the capacity to expand to 7,500.
"I have heard really good things about it," Owens said. "It gives them another venue for the Longview area for football and track meets.”
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