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Home News-Telegram Sports Wildcats play at Wichita Falls Rider Friday

Wildcats play at Wichita Falls Rider Friday

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After the 2008 extravaganza, now it is down to hard-nosed football.
In 2008 Wichita Falls Rider came into Gerald Prim as the favored team in a game televised nationally on ESPN2. It was a Thursday Night Football happening, an instant classic.
Sulphur Springs came-from-behind scoring a 22-16 win as they took advantage of five turnovers and thrilled the record crowd and all onlookers. It was part of the march to the state championship during the 2008 year.
The 2009 season is different and new, but the two teams remain the same. This time it is Sulphur Springs which will be on the road. The No. 10-state-ranked Wildcats are 2-0 after scoring wins over Paris and Whitehouse. Now they’re off to a different part of the state, after a win against  the 0-1 Raiders.
Wichita Falls is 0-1, but favored, according to the Harris Poll. The Raiders lost to Cedar Hill 28-0 in their season opener. Cedar Hill is now the No. 1 team in Class 5A.
“That’s one thing about their program. They (Wichita Falls Rider) will play anywhere, anytime against anybody. Last year they played Tyler teams and at our place,” said Sulphur Springs head coach Greg Owens. “Now we get to return the favor. They came here and we had a big crowd and everything. Now we play at their place, at least it’s not on Thursday night.”
Owens said he was unsure how the travel would affect his team. He did not know how much the four hours sitting on a bus had to do with the outcome last year with Wichita Falls Rider traveling to Sulphur Springs.
Owens said, “We have trips like to Marshall and Texas High. This is just a longer trip about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. I guess we will see what happens. This is an opportunity to play a quality program, coach (Scott) Ponder and his guys do a great job. They have one of the most impressive defensive fronts that we will see, probably until we get to play Longview. They are very athletic and strong and they just get after it.”
In the first game of the year for Rider it was not the defense, but the offense which was questioned. Losing 28-0 was a bitter pill to swallow. The Raiders had not been shutout since 2001 and the 28-point defeat was the worse loss since Wichita Falls High downed Rider 41-7 in 2008. The Rider offense managed just 119 total yards against Cedar Hill.
Sulphur Springs is averaging 33 points a game in two wins. Last week, Sulphur Springs had 320 yards passing and 197 yards rushing. Devion “Thrill” Hill had 27 carries for 101 yards and a score. Quarterback Colton Lee completed 26-of-33 passes for 320  yards two touchdowns, one interception. Top receivers were Bryant “Day Day” Jackson with 10 snags for 106 yards and Garrett Ferguson with eight receptions for 93 yards.
The Wildcats were also flagged for nine penalties for 85 yards.
“We did a much better job taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers. But we have to clean up the penalties,” Owens said. “We just can’t afford to make mistakes like that. Several of those penalties kept us from making first downs and continuing drives.”
The Wildcats will continue operating from a spread formation, for the most part. But Wichita Falls has shown signs of being an I formation team more interested in burning the clock than lighting up the scoreboard.
For the Raiders the top offensive holdovers from 2008 include DB/RB Paul Mason (34 rushes for 204 yards), WR Reid Barnett (11 carries for 147 yards, one score), second-team all-district QB Malcolm Carter he completed 34-of-46 passes for 408 yards and three scores and was 6-0 as a starter and OL Carlon Moisant. The Rider defense brings back the likes of DE Mark Strange (49 tackles, five sacks), LB Mason Deerinwater (72 tackles, two interceptions).
“They have had a background this year of being an I football team,” Owens said. “They’ll try to run the clock and shorten the ballgame. So our defensive front and linebackers have to control that and not all them to milk the clock. We need to force them into turnovers, so we can get the ball back for our offense. Rider struggled against Cedar Hill. They’re still looking for their identity, trying to find out who’s their bell cow. They still have some speed, especially at tailback. They rotate some guys in at fullback. They have pretty good size. The quarterback does a good job, he came in last year when Shavorick Beaver went down hurt. He also  orchestrated them getting into the playoffs. So he is experienced. He can run the offense. They have not found their way, it was their first game last week. They’re doing a good job, making progress.”
Owens said he saw improvement in the team and is pleased to be 2-0, but still much work is to be done.
“We are better at 2-0, than we were at 1-0,” Owens said. “We were more consistent, we caught the ball better. Colton Lee had a fine game. We just got penalties and had long yardage. Plus it was long and we got tired, I think both sides felt the affects of the humidity. Whitehouse got tired as well.”
Physical play at the line is also something Owens is looking for from his Wildcats.
“I don’t think we pushed the Whitehouse line around as much as I would have liked,” Owens said. “I don’t know if that just us or getting tired or because Whitehouse has some pretty strong themselves. Rider has some athletes, they’re big and strong and run well.”
Owens said the game could be decided in the small patch of field turf known as the line of scrimmage and the team which dominates at the point of attack could be the victor.
“It’s a challenge for our team, the guys we’re leaning on, our offensive line will have their hands full against Rider,” Owens said. “The front seven, the offensive line along with penalties and the kicking game will probably decide how this one comes out.”
The Sulphur Springs defense allowed 359 yards to Whitehouse while recording 84 tackles.             Standouts on defense includes: linebackers Joe Scott and Tyler Higginbotham with 14 total tackles each. Both had tackles for losses. Scott picked off a pass and had a sack. Jocko Spataro had nine total tackles, seven solo tackles and one tackle for a loss. Triston Crook had seven tackles, five solo and one fumble caused. Kedrick Dial had five tackles, two sacks and eight quarterback pressures. Seth Harris had six tackles, one for a loss. Keiston Clayton recorded five tackles, one for a loss, one pass broken up. Tyler Halerumal registered six quarterback pressures. Sharard Timmons had three tackles, one pass broken up and two interceptions. One Timmons interception came on a two point conversion pass. Tanner Gilbreath recovered a fumble.
“It was another good defensive performance. Whitehouse is a high-powered defense and we gave up too many big plays,” Owens said. “Overall we played physical, especially at the end of the game. When we could not give up a score - our defense clamped down. We forced the quarterback out of his comfort zone. We made plays when we had to get plays. Whitehouse is 0-2, but very good, they could come back and win that district. They did not have the Aldridge kid, they will be good. I felt very good about how we performed against them.”
Owens is hoping that the momentum from the 2-0 start helps the Wildcats as they make the journey to 17,000 seat Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls.
“We’re making strides offensively, our kicking game is improving,” Owens said. “I hope we don’t have a let down. Rider basically whipped us the whole first half last year. If we don’t get five turnovers, maybe we don’t win that game. We made big plays. Rider knows it is going to be a battle. They played Cedar Hill, they have us next and then they play John Tyler. They have one of the best programs in the state. You have to be prepared when you play them.”
Owens said he was unsure about how injuries would impact the game. Shane McQueen could see playing time coming off an ankle injury suffered in the Aug. 21 scrimmage against Terrell.



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