Overtime Downer: Indians take 20-12 victory in extra period
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

August 28, 2004 - COMMERCE - Sulphur Springs fans got more football than they paid for Friday night, but not the result they were looking for.

Jacksonville held off a Wildcat comeback bid in the season opener, pushing across a touchdown in overtime to win 20-12 at Memorial Stadium at Texas A&M-Commerce.

The game built to a crescendo on the final play of regulation when junior Spenser Daniel knocked through a 27-yard field goal to tie the game at 12-12, but ended anti-climatically when the Wildcats lost a fumble at the 5-yard line while trying to answer Jacksonville's OT touchdown and two-point conversion.

Jacksonville was able to use it's defensive speed with a blitz-happy package that presented problems for the Wildcat offense, especially in the first half, as quarterbacks Josh Riley and Logan Turner both got their first taste of varsity action as they alternated series. They were also playing without their top receiver in 6-4 leaper Rolaundo Wright, who is recovering from an abdominal injury.

Sulphur Springs, with only one offensive starter returning from last year's season opener, finished with 180 yards of total offense, while Jacksonville had 217.

"If I had to pick an opponent to play first, that would not be the one," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "The blitz was really more than I bargained for. We just saw a lot more than we were really ready for. We've got some young players and some new varsity players, and that's tough to defend right off the bat.

"Jacksonville knew what they were doing, and they had a good plan, and it threw a wrinkle in there on us."

Sulphur Springs had to comeback from an early 12-0 deficit to send the game into overtime.

Both teams took advantage of a blocked punt to set up touchdowns, as each offense only had one sustained scoring drive.

Jacksonville went up, 6-0, with 6:21 to play in the first period on a 13-yard run by Eric Johnson, which was set up by Keith Burton's block of Daniel's first punt.

They increased the lead to 12-0 on their only sustained drive of the game, going 73 yards in seven plays, including an acrobatic 26-yard catch by wide receiver Lance Wallace to set up a 2-yard scoring run by Joseph Whitaker early in the second period.

While the Wildcat defense did a good job of bottling up speedy quarterback Trevelyan Canady (20 yards on 13 carries), Whitaker, a 240-pound sophomore, rambled for a game-high 72 yards on 10 carries.

Sulphur Springs defensive tackle Mitchell Smith, linebackers Keidric Duffey, David Barnes and Jared Ramey, and free safety Keenan Clayton led the team in tackles.

"We practiced pretty hard this week, and they didn't run a whole lot of stuff we didn't know," Smith said. "Our defense could have played better. We made a few mistakes, which are going to happen at Zero Week, but we've got to play better. We were real confident going into the overtime, but mental mistakes hurt us."

Sulphur Springs was led in rushing by Riley (48 yards on 11 carries) and fullback Chris Person (29 yards on 10 totes). Riley completed 2-of-7 passes for 28 yards, while Turner was 10-of-22 for 75 yards.

Jacksonville was able to contain Sulphur Springs' two fastest players, Keenan Clayton and Keelan Green. Clayton combined for 36 yards rushing/receiving, while Green had minus-8.

"They took away our bubble screen and some of our quick passing game," Turner explained. "Then, Keelan got a concussion, so he was out of the mix.

"They had a good plan. At least we know if we do see it again, we have a better idea of what it is like and what we can do and can't do."

The Wildcats got the game into overtime because the defense clamped down in the second half, holding the Indians to 75 yards of total offense, special teams made a couple of big plays, and the offense rallied on the final drive.

"Our kids weren't big-eyed at halftime. We came in, made some adjustments and saw what they were doing that we couldn't stop and what they were doing that we could attack," Turner said. "We came back in the second half and the defense played better."

Trailing 12-0, the Wildcats got their big break in the kicking game when Duffey and Zach Reeves blasted through the left side of the Jacksonville line and blocked Cliff Perdue's punt from inside his 20-yard line midway through the second quarter.

That gave the Wildcats the ball at the 12-yard line, and Riley responded on the next play by juking his way up the middle of the field for the touchdown. Daniel's extra point pulled the Cats to within, 12-7.

The score stayed that way until the third period, when the Cats' kicking game again set up a score as Daniel downed a 31-yard punt at the Jacksonville 5-yard line. On the next play, an errant Jacksonville toss got loose in the end zone. Though the Indians' Eric Johnson was able to pick up the ball, he was immediately tackled by Duffey and Patrick Radney.

The safety made the score 12-9, giving the Wildcats a chance to tie. Daniel had one attempt from 46 yards early in the fourth quarter fall short.

The Wildcats had other chances to win. A 70-yard punt return for an apparent touchdown by Clayton was called back for an illegal block, and two other drives were ended by a fumble and a sack.

"I thought the punt return was going to be it," Turner said. "Jacksonville was tired. We're not in great shape, but we were in better shape than them, and I thought the fatigue nearly had them. I thought we were one play away."

The Wildcats got the ball a final time with three minutes to go, but looked as if they would have to punt after three downs. Daniel, though, was knocked down as he punted, resulting in a 15-yard penalty and a Wildcat first down.

Sulphur Springs' offense responded with a two-minute drive to put Daniel in scoring position. Logan Turner connected three times with wide receiver Josh Harrington for first-down passes. Harrington was the Cats' top receiver with four catches for 48 yards, all resulting in first downs.

In overtime, the Wildcats had Jacksonville facing a third-and-16 from the 18-yard line, but Canady found Wallace on a corner route. Wallace fought through an interference penalty to make the game-winning catch.

Sulphur Springs had a chance to try to tie the game on their overtime possession, as Riley racked up 20 yards on two runs, but on his final carry, he was stripped of the ball and Jacksonville recovered.

"Just like always, there's some things we did good, and obviously some things we didn't do good, but I was pleased with how we competed, especially at the end to get back in the game," Turner said. "I'd like to be 1-0, but we're not, so we've got to take what we did good and build on it, and we've got to fix what we did bad."

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