|Two playoffs teams, SSHS and Jacksonville, meeting in season opener|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
August 26, 2004 - A month of spring practice, six weeks of summer workouts and 20 fall practices has led up to this for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats - a date with the Jacksonville Indians.
The Wildcats and Indians, both coming off playoff berths in 2003, will kickoff the 2004 season off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Texas A&M Commerce's Memorial Stadium.
"Our practice yesterday was good, not great," SSHS head coach Brad Turner said Thursday morning, "but, I think it's mainly because the kids are ready to get going, ready to quit wondering and worrying."
Sulphur Springs coaches will be getting their first glimpse of several players in a varsity game as the Wildcats return just a handful of starters from last season.
The entire starting backfield and receivers' corps will be different than last year's season opener. Junior Josh Riley will start at quarterback, but sophomore Logan Turner will also see playing time. Behind them, junior Chris Person will be the starter in the one-back offense.
At wide receiver, second-team all-district senior Rolaundo Wright will not start because of a lingering abdominal injury suffered in two-a-days, and his availability will be a game time decision. Junior Josh Harrington will start on the outside opposite senior Talon Askew. Inside receivers are seniors Eric Chenault and Keelan Green, the school record-holder in the 100-meter dash. The corps will be bolstered by Keenan Clayton, who could show up anywhere in the backfield.
On the offensive line, which averages 265 pounds, will be returning starter Wes Woods alongside returning lettermen Cole Strawn and Chris Berry, junior Jose Vargas and sophomore Jacob Jenkins.
The play of the offensive line will be key for the Wildcats' success, Turner said.
"Up front, I think we'll match up pretty well. We're pretty big in spots up front," he explained. "Jacksonville be in either in man-to-man coverage or man-free. It could be good, but the downside of that is if you're getting man coverage, you're probably getting a good dose of blitz, and Jacksonville's very quick up front defensively.
"Now, can our big boys pick up the blitz and give the receivers time to create separation? The question will be how our wide receivers will do against their man defense. I think we have pretty good match-ups with Keelan and Keenan. If we have time, they can't cover Keelan and Keenan. The key is having time and being able to protect against the blitz."
Jacksonville, which went 5-6 last season under coach Randy Copeland, has speed at most positions, as usual. That includes quarterback, where Trevelyan (Tee) Canady is the offensive sparkplug.
Canady did not play in the Indians' last scrimmage because of a broken nose, but Turner expects to see him in the season opener. Last season, he ran for 450 yards, threw for 758 more and combined for 14 touchdowns.
"Their quarterback is very athletic," Turner said. "They like to use their speed. Offensively, they will put the ball in the quarterback's hands and let him operate. The speed of the game will increase compared to what we saw at Whitehouse, for sure.
"I think defending the option is the firt thing. We need to tackle better. If we can corral that quarterback and make them do something they're not used to doing, we'll be in good shape."
The defense will rely on returning starters Keidric Duffey at linebacker and Clayton at free safety. Also starting will be David Barnes at inside linebacker, John Hall and Jared Ramey at outside linebackers, Brandon Clayton and Robert Finnie at cornerbacks, and a front four of Tremayne Jones, Zach Attaway, Travis Edmond and Patrick Radney.