On a muddy Gerald Prim gridiron, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats slipped to 1-2 in the District 13-4A race with a 17-9 loss to Texas High.
The loss could have easily been a win. But a few plays here and there and the winner might have changed. But it was Texas High notching their first win in district as they made the big plays with the game on the line.
Neither team wanted to throw the ball with Texas High launching just seven passes on the night while the Wildcats threw the ball 16 times.
The game on the wet field was dominated by the running game. Texas High ran 41 times for 178 yards, lead by 106 from speedy Kody Sutton.
Sulphur Springs went with a ground assault as well. The Wildcats ran 36 times for 148 yards. Kody Chester had 89 tough yards thrust into a starting role in the absence of Devion Hill.
“It was a battle. We are two evenly matched teams. It was a ball game we lookd forward to. We made a big play at the end to get close, but we could not score,” Sulphur Springs head football coach Greg Owens said. “We didn’t finish it. But you can’t point to one play, it was several plays. We made mistakes and got penalties. I thought we missed some scoring chances in the first half. We got after it, our effort was second to none.”
The game turned in the second half with several unfortunate events for the Wildcats.
Sulphur Springs took over at their own 31 following a Texas High punt in the final seconds of the third period. A fumble in the crowded line on a running play saw the ball pop out, recovered by the Tigers.
Texas High drove for a score going from the Sulphur Springs 39 to the end zone in a series of remarkable plays.
On three consecutive plays, penalty flags on the Tigers littered the soggy grass field. On a second and 20 from the 35 of the Wildcats, the Tigers came up with a huge play. Quarterback Nathan Sorenson called his own number. He raced down the sidelined on a quarterback keeper picking up 21 yards to get the first down.
On first down from the 14, Sutton ran for a six-yard gain. On the next play senior linebacker Jocko Spataro met Sutton in the hole for a one-yard loss. Sutton was back on track and took off for a six-yard gain on a wide toss play down to the two-yard nine. Sorenson scored two plays later from the one and with 7:30 left in the game allowing Texas High to their lead following the nine-play drive. With the Josh Moore kick, the visiting Tigers were up 17-9 with half the final period to go.
A deep kickoff for a touchback, forced the Wildcats to start their next drive at their own 20.
Shane McQueen ran for four yards and Chester added a three-yard scamper. McQueen took for a short gain bring up a fourth and 1 from the 29. Owens called for the “Tubow” formation which is a blend of beefy linemen and players in a variety of slots. Center Colby Suggs moved the quarterback and follow a lead blocker for a five-yard gain and a first down at the 34. Chester ran for two gains on back-to-back runs up the middle. An outside run by McQueen was caught for a two-yard loss. Sulphur Springs quarterback Colton Lee tried his feet at running on the slick surface and was tackled for a loss of three yards. Lee went to the air and his pass fell incomplete.
With the game on the line, Sulphur Springs faced and fourth and 15 from their own 40. Lee scrambled out of the pocket, eluded tackled and found a wide open LeMarcus Kendricks for a 46-yard pass down to the 14-yard line of the Tigers. The clutch play was just what the Wildcats needed and set them up in scoring shape with less than three minutes remaining.
Chester ran for six yards, then Lee took off for a three-yard pickup. The “Tubow” formation was called on with a third and one from the Tigers’ five-yard line. The middle was clogged and Suggs was held to no gain. On fourth down Suggs tried to go outside and was tackled low by Jalen Jones for a loss of two. Texas High took over with 1:51 left on the game clock at their 7-yard line.
Sulphur Springs started calling time outs. But Sutton picked up two first downs to give Texas High the ball for the remainder of the game.
The contest ended with Sorenson taking a knee twice as the clock ran out and Texas High preserved their 17-9 win.
In the first half, Sulphur Springs had 15 rushing plays while Texas High ran the ball 18 times in the ultra conservative attacks.
Sulphur Springs opened the game with a flash with Irvin Anderson taking off for a 45-yard return of the opening kickoff.
The Wildcats were set up to begin the game at their on 49-yard line. But the drive had trouble from the start with a holding penalty pushing action back to the 39.
Sulphur Springs moved the ball with Chester getting a short gain. Lee threw to Garrett Ferguson for eight yards and then hit McQueen with a pass that netted another first down an 12-yard gain.
The next three plays netted nothing with Chester and McQueen stopped at the line. Lee’s next two passes fell incomplete and Texas High took over at their own 33.
It was evident what the Tigers had in mind. Texas High gave the ball to Sutton on six consecutive plays and he gains of four, five, one, 28, one and two yards as the Tigers moved to the 11-yard line of the Wildcats. Sorenson’s third down pass was off the mark. But the Tigers opened the scoring with a 28-yard field goal a the 5:33 mark of the first half. The visitors had a 3-0 lead which seemed large, considering the wet field.
The Wildcats had to start at their own 20 following a touchback.
McQueen ran for two yards, then caught a Lee pass for a 10-yard gain. McQueen took the next handoff and zipped up the muck for a 14-yard gain and a first down at the 46. Two plays later Lee threw to Ferguson for a gain of five. McQueen ran for a first down to the 20. Chester capped the 80-yard, seven-play scoring drive with a 20-yard run with 2:38 left in the first quarter. Sulphur Springs tried for a two point conversion from the “Tubow” formation, but Suggs was halted at the line. The Wildcats had to be content with the 6-3 lead.
The Wildcat defense came up strong to halt the next Texas High possession. A sack of Sorenson by Kedrick Dial forced a punt.
Sulphur Springs was only able to run 1:29 off the clock as their next drive fizzled with a third down pass by Lee falling incomplete on a key third down. Sharard Timmons punted deep, forcing Texas High to take over at their own 19.
The Tigers managed just 16 yards on six plays and soon had to punt.
Sulphur Springs took over at their 45. McQueen and Chester picked up back-to-back first downs on runs of 10 and12 yards to move into Tiger territory. Three plays later on a fourth and two from the 25-yard line, the Wildcats were called for illegal motion. But the Wildcats still tried a field goal, but the Fernando Arellano effort did not make it above the line on the slick surface.
Texas High took over and began a scoring drive. The Tigers used two runs by Sutton for eight yards. Then Sorenson sliced over behind blockers for a first down. Sorenson then turned in his biggest run of the night, a 44-yard effort to move the ball to the five-yard line. Sutton ran for two yards. Sorenson closed out the possession with a three-scoring burst. The kick by Moore was good and the Tigers had a 10-6 lead in the first 30 seconds of the first half.
The Wildcats did not take a chance and called a running play to Chester to end the first half. Neither band marched due to the conditions with the Tigers up 10-6 at intermission.
In the second half, the Wildcats managed another defensive stand to begin the third period, forcing a punt.
Sulphur Springs took over at their own 44-yard line. McQueen ran for three yards, Chester added six more to get close to a first down. Suggs ran for a 16-yard gain from the “Tubow” formation and move the ball to the 31 of Texas High. Lee threw a screen pass to McQueen for a first down gain. McQueen was then knocked for a two-yard loss on the next play. Chester took off for a six-yard gain down to the 14. The Wildcats had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Arellano to reduce the Texas High lead to 10-9 with 6:37 left in the third period.
Texas High found the going tough on their next possession. Spataro hit Sutton for a loss of five. Sorenson threw to Logan Preston for an 18-yard gain to near midfield. Sorenson then ran for eight. On the next play Sutton was greeted by Jimmy Villa with a head-on tackle for a loss of four yards. Dial came through the line to wrestle Sutton to the ground for another loss, forcing a punt.
Sulphur Springs got the ball back, but fumbled two plays later. Texas High scored to go ahead to stay, winning by the 17-9 final.
“We didn’t execute over the course of the game,” Owens said. “It was anybody’s ball game. Texas High did a good job of keeping the ball away from us. That was both team’s plan to keep the ball and just grind on each other.”
Sulphur Springs falls to 5-2, 1-2 going into an open week.
“It’s no fun heading into a bye week coming off a loss,” Owens said. “But these kids are resilient. It worked out last year, we did the same thing. We lost to Longview and Texas High and won the whole thing. We need to win out in district to control our destiny. That’s way down the road, we got to go back to playing one game at a time. During the break we’’ practice fundamentals.”
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