|Wildcats lose game against North Lamar on final play|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Nov. 5, 2005 - PARIS - Losing a game in the closing seconds is a heartbreaker. The Sulphur Springs Wildcats will be reminded of this one all next week.
That's because with North Lamar's last-second 35-34 win Friday night, Sulphur Springs was leap-frogged by North Lamar in the district standings. The Wildcats will now have to prepare for Terrell, the second-place team in District 11-4A, rather than Wylie, the third seed.
Sulphur Springs appeared to be on the verge of clinching the district's runner-up spot when Chris Person scored on a 9-yard run to put the Wildcats ahead, 34-28, with 37 seconds to play in the game.
But, a missed extra point, a kickoff return to near midfield and then a 46-yard, game-tying touchdown pass with two seconds remaining on the clock and game-winning PAT all combined to send the Wildcats reeling.
As improbable and disappointing as the outcome was, the end result won't be known until Friday, when the Wildcats (5-5 overall, 3-2 in District 12-4A) face Terrell (9-1, 4-1) at T.A. "Cotton" Ford Stadium in Greenville in the bi-district round.
North Lamar (8-2, 3-2) will now play Wylie (7-3) at a site and date to be determined. In the Division I bracket, Texas High (9-1) will face Highland Park (10-0) in Tyler next weekend.
Sulphur Springs could have lost by less than 10 points and still maintained the No. 2 seed in the district had Paris won. But, when Greenville upset Paris, 29-10, it dropped the Wildcats to third.
Had North Lamar lost, they would have been out of the playoffs, and the Panthers played like the game mattered most to them.
"I said they were going to," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "I knew we were going to get that effort from them - you shouldn't come over here and expect anything less - and our kids knew that.
"We've got to try not to let this affect us in a way that will be a negative next week. The thing I told the kids is that they showed up not ready to play, and the consequence was that," he said nodding toward the scoreboard. "So, next week, let's not make that choice."
North took a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter and rode workhorse running back Broderick Franklin to 367 yards and four TDs rushing on 38 carries.
And, it was Franklin who they went to with their season at stake.
After the Cats had taken a 34-28 lead and North Lamar's Justin Thomas returned the ensuing squib kick all the way to the 43-yard line, North Lamar subsequently faced a second-and-11 from the SSHS 46-yard line with just nine seconds left.
Sulphur Springs took a timeout to get the defense set, but when they got back on the field, the cornerbacks were playing tight. That allowed Franklin, who was split out as a wide receiver, to get a step behind the defense. SSHS cornerback Ivan Beard made a try for the pass from quarterback John Faulkner, but it went through his hands to Franklin, who caught it on the run at the 10-yard line with nothing between him and the goal line.
Sam Fusaro booted the extra point, and North Lamar had the victory.
"We called time out there and knew what they were running," Turner said. "We called it when we saw how they lined up. I told them they were going to run it, and they did. But, we just didn't make the play."
This was the second time the Wildcats have lost on a kick with time running out. The first was to Mesquite Poteet, and like then, Sulphur Springs has to mull over how in the world it happened.
The Wildcats wasted another outstanding rushing performance from Person, who pinballed his way to 232 yards on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Logan Turner completed 21-of-43 passes for 231 yards, one TD and two interceptions, and Josh Riley caught 13 passes for 125 yards.
Sulphur Springs forced a pair of North Lamar fumbles, recovered by Fred Dale and Colby Mills.
But, the Wildcats also had a special teams touchdown erased on a penalty, committed three turnovers, dropped five passes and allowed over 400 yards rushing.
"We were a little too loose before the game. I sensed that, and I warned them about it," Turner said. "We didn't do one particular thing that cost us the game. We weren't focused and we didn't play well."
The game didn't start like that. The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and put together a 14-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in Logan Turner's 1-yard run. Spenser Daniel's PAT gave the Cats a 7-0 lead.
Sulphur Springs had a chance to keep the heat on North Lamar at the end of the Panthers' first drive. NL punter Justin Miller fumbled the snap and Colby Mills grabbed the loose ball and ran it 20 yards for a touchdown. But, an offside penalty negated the TD and allowed North Lamar to rekick.
North Lamar then scored the next three touchdowns on Franklin's runs of 65, 3, and 2 yards, while Sulphur Springs' drives ended in a punt, interception, turnover on downs, interception and punt.
The Wildcats got the momentum back heading into halftime when they engineered a 70-yard scoring drive that took less than a minute and ended with Person scoring on a 7-yard run off an option toss to pull the Cats to within 21-14.
The Sulphur Springs defense opened the second half by stopping the Panthers on four consecutive drives, including a fumble recovery by Mills. Mills finished with 10 tackles at safety, while linebackers Zach Attaway and Stephan Petty had 14 and 12 tackles, Jake Broumley recorded seven, Dale had six and Cole Strawn and Beard accounted for five apiece.
The Wildcat offense pushed across a pair of touchdowns - a 33-yard run by Person and a 14-yard pass from Turner to wide receiver Josh Harrington - to take a 28-21 lead.
The Cats had 508 yards of total offense, powered by the offensive line of Jose Vargas, Lucas Garrison, Jacob Jenkins, Torrence Wright, Chris Alford and Travis Longino.
But, North Lamar tied the game on Franklin's 2-yard run with 4:30 to play, setting the stage for the climatic - or anti-climatic - final 37 seconds.
"We came out in the second half and played better," Turner said, "but we had too many mistakes."