Cats want Lincoln's history to repeat itself
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Nov. 18, 2004 - Dallas Lincoln has been in this situation before, and Sulphur Springs head coach Brad Turner wants history to repeat itself.

Lincoln has advanced to the area round of the playoffs each of the last five years, and has come out 0-5. The Tigers have qualified for the playoffs nine times in the last 10 years, but advanced past the second round of the playoffs just once.

The Wildcats (9-2) and Lincoln (9-1) will kick off the Class 4A, Division II area game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium at Southern Methodist University. The winner gets either Corsicana or Brownwood next week.

Lincoln, the District 10-4A champion, goes into the game riding a seven-game win streak while allowing just 13 points over that span. The Tigers' last loss was in Week 2 to Denton Ryan, 30-7, and they are coming off a 48-7 victory over Lake Dallas. But, each of the last five years, the Tigers came into the second round of the playoffs with at least nine wins only to lose.

"They've been in this situation the last few years, but haven't gotten past this round," Turner said. "This year, they've never been behind other than Denton Ryan. We need to put a little adversity on them, and see how they handle that.

"They're beatable, but they're so athletic. At this stage of the game, there's not many bad teams left. Everybody's pretty good. We need to execute and play better. Penalties and turnovers have to be decreased."

Playing better means moving the ball against one of the best defenses the Wildcats have faced this year.

The Tigers are allowing just 8.3 points per game. They have at least two Division I players on their defense, including free safety Byron Eaton (basketball at Oklahoma State) and linebacker Courtney Herndon (Kansas State), and two more who may sign with D-I colleges after the season.

"They probably have the best defense we've faced," Turner said. "It's hard to compare them to Texas High because they're different. They're more athletic than T-High.

"Defensively, they're as good as anybody. When you shut people out every week, you're going to win."

Turner described the Tiger defense as "very physical" and without a glaring weakness. Dallas Hillcrest, the 10-4A runner-up, was the only district team to score on Lincoln. Meanwhile, the Tigers are averaging 42.5 points per game.

Sulphur Springs is averaging 35.5 points per game on offense and are giving up an average of 17.9 points on defense.

Along with playing free safety, Eaton (6-0, 210) is also the Tigers' quarterback, and he has been effective, gaining 444 yards on 51 carries (more than 8 yards per carry) and scoring six TDs. He has completed just 34-of-67 passes, but for 635 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He is protected by a huge offensive line that averages 6-2.5 and 280 pounds. That is one reason the Tigers have five runners who have gained at least 270 yards and scored five TDs each this season.

The challenge for the Wildcats will be to stop another good running team.

"The biggest thing about their offense is their offensive line. They're gigantic. We're going to have to play good on the defensive line," Turner said. "It's got to start there. We've got to do better up front, and then we've got to contain their athleticism."

Last week, the Wildcats simply out-scored Terrell, 38-34, with the defense coming up big on the final series of the game. Defensively, the Wildcats are led by free safety Keenan Clayton (110 tackles, four interceptions), linebackers David Barnes (97 tackles) and Keidric Duffey (82 tackles, three safeties) and defensive end Patrick Radney (70 tackles, eight sacks).

On offense, Clayton had his biggest impact of the season last week in his most extended playing time. He finished with 178 yards receiving on six catches and led the team in rushing with 58 yards. He also scored two touchdowns.

The Wildcats have a chance to have a trifecta of sorts on offense. With their normal output, Sulphur Springs will have for the first time in its history a 2,000-yard passer (Logan Turner has 1,985), a 1,000-yard receiver (Rolaundo Wright has 915) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Chris Person already has gained 1,135) all in the same season.

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