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Home News-Telegram Sports Wildcats play Pine Tree in district opener

Wildcats play Pine Tree in district opener

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The preliminary work has been done, now it is time to get serious.
The preseason games are fun and exciting - for the fans. But for the coaches and players, they are just the warm-up for the big show.
That show, District 13-4A play, some coaches call the second season, begin Friday.
“This is it. These are the games which really count,” Sulphur Springs head football coach Greg Owens said with an excited smile.
The Wildcats come into the district home opener Friday against Pine Tree with a 4-0 record while the Pirates are 1-3.
Sulphur Springs, the defending state Class 4A, Division II champions, are ranked No. 4 in the statewide Associated Press football poll. The ‘Cats are listed as the No. 15 Class 4A team in the Harris Ratings and are installed as a 30-point favorite over the Pirates.
“All the polls and that stuff doesn’t mean a thing. It sure does not win any games for you, especially in district,” Owens said. “We want to come out and start winning district ball games. That sets you up for what we call the third season, the playoffs. This game with Pine Tree is the most important game of our season so far.”
The varsity has avoided any major outbreak of illnesses, but others have been hampered by a virus.
Owens said the JV had 14 players missing from practice earlier this week.
Sulphur Springs enters the district opener with the most potent offense of all 13-4A teams. The Wildcats are averaging 426.0 yards per game.
For the year, senior starting quarterback Colton Lee has completed 50 of 82 passes (61 percent) for 622 yards, three touchdowns, five interceptions. Sophomore Justin Owens has completed 20 of 31 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown, one interception. Bryant “Day Day” Jackson, Sawyer Sinclair and Colby Suggs have also attempted passes at quarterback. Suggs had four rushing touchdowns.
Jackson has 23 receptions for 273 yards, two scores and Garrett Ferguson is second with 21 grabs for 187 yards.
Devion “Thrill” Hill, senior running back, leads the team in rushing and is second in the district. The tough-running senior has rushed for 504 yards on 81 carries with four touchdowns. Lee has rushed for 156 yards on 31 tries with two scores.
Pine Tree enters the game fresh from a 10-7 win over North Lamar. It was the first victory of the year for the Pirates under new head coach Huey Chancellor.
In the win at North Lamar, the Pirates struck first with a 28-yard field goal by Ryan Assenheimer. In the third period, Mark Malone scored on a 28-yard rush.
For the game, Xavier McCoo paced the Pirates with 121 yards rushing on 23 totes while Malone ran 13 times for  66 yards.
Quarterback Tyler Kids completed four of eight passes for 68 yards.
“They’re still running some of the wing T stuff they used last year,” Owens said of the Pine Tree offense. “They have a new system under the new coach. They are still looking for their identity. They look a little rough and raw in spots, they’re learning.”
Owens added, “They have some speed. If we don’t get after them and tackle well they’ll break some on us. We did not tackle that well against Mesquite Poteet but I like the way we are flying to the ball.”
In the Mesquite Poteet game, the Sulphur Springs defense had 78 total tackles with 11 sacks and five passes broken up and six quarterback pressures.
Kedrick Dial has eight tackles and four sacks to lead the team. Jimmy Villa and Jocko Spataro had seven tackles, two sacks each. Triston Crook, Joe Scott had seven tackles each.
For the year, Sulphur Springs has 343 total tackles. Top tackler is Crook with 37, Scott has 35 and Tyler Higginbotham has 34, despite missing last week with an injury.
“Pine Tree will be a heavy running team. They are trying to run the clock and wear you down,” Owens said. “They’re coming off a win, and like everybody else, this is their first district ball game and they want to do well.”
The coach continued, “They will be keyed up for us. They may have a bag of tricks. Last year we have to contend with onside kicks and all that. Those things always make you nervous.”
The Pine Tree defense is a 3-3 stack formation Chancellor has used at other coaching stops.
Owens said the Wildcats saw that type of defense last week from Poteet.
“We had to make a few adjustments. We can handle what they bring, they have a couple of linebackers who can run,” Owens said. “We need to put bodies on bodies and take care of the football.”
Owens said Pine Tree got big plays in 2008 meeting that they will guard against this year.
“You only see the wing T once in 10 ballgames,” Owens said. “They’re playing with some inexperienced kids trying to find their ways through. They have six seniors and some younger players. Some of them were not starters last year.”
Pine Tree quarterback/safety Tyler Kids is the son of Craig and Bonnie Kids, who are both 1980 SSHS graduates. Craig was a two-year starter at quarterback for the Wildcats.
“Kids has a local connection, he does a good job of running their offense,” Owens said. “He did a good job.”
In the 2008 game played in Longview, Sulphur Springs won 51-27. The Wildcats had 449 yards while Pine Tree rolled up 347 yards. The Pirates ran the ball well with 49 carries for 316 yards. For Sulphur Springs, Tyrik Rollison completed 13 of 19 passes for 206 yards while Ryan Yong ran 16 times for 198 yards.
Owens said Pine Tree will use different offensive formations.
“I don’t know coach Chancellor, I have just talked to him on the phone twice,” Owens said. “I don’t really know what kind of things he has planned for us.”
Owens is looking for his team to play more consistently that they have in the first four games.
While Sulphur Springs has rolled up 32 points and more than 420 yards per game offensively, he does not think the Wildcats have strung together four good quarters.

In four games, Sulphur Springs has made 35 penalties for 345 yards, had at least 15 dropped passes and nine turnovers.

“Last week we had nearly 100 yards in penalties,” Owens remarked. “We did some little things to stop drives on offense. We can’t have dropped passes and turnovers in these big district games.”
Owens was pleased with the other two phases of the game.
“We are playing well on defense, we are making things happen. I am very pleased with our aggressive play,” Owens said. “We are also a little ahead of where we were this time last year in the kicking game. We’ve made four field goals and had a return for a touchdown.”
Owens said this week of practice has been intense.
“We have to grow up and not make mistakes. We’re in a learning process, we have to get better,” Owens said. “These district games count. We are No. 4 in the  state and 4-0 and I hope we are not full of ourselves. We need to remember that this is the start of district and we’re 0-0, just like Pine Tree.”



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