Nowhere to Go: Lincoln is too much for Wildcats

Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Nov. 22, 2004 - DALLAS - Too much Eaton, Hodge and Herndon.

That trio of athletes did the job on both sides of the ball for Dallas Lincoln on Saturday as the Tigers broke open a close game at halftime to beat Sulphur Springs, 36-10, in the Class 4A, Division II area game at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

Eaton and Hodge combined for almost 300 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while Herndon forced a fumble and picked off two passes, both of which the Tigers cashed in for touchdowns.

Lincoln (10-1) advances to meet Corsicana in the regional semifinals on Friday. Sulphur Springs ends it season with a 9-3 mark and a first-round playoff victory for the first time since 1998. The nine wins were the most since the 1995 Wildcats went 12-2.

But, on Saturday the Wildcats turned the ball over four times and allowed Lincoln to rush for more than seven yards per carry - 380 yards on 53 carries. Eaton, the quarterback, ran for 147 yards on 20 carries and Hodge added 149 on 16 totes.

SSHS head coach Brad Turner said the Wildcats didn't play their best game, which they needed to do to beat the Tigers, who have three defensive players already committed to Division I colleges.

"It was disappointing not to play better. We're a better team than we showed today," Turner said. "We didn't play very good today, and I could tell before the game that we were flat or something. I could tell it just didn't feel right.

"The good thing is that we did have a great year. It's just disappointing not to play better in this situation knowing what's at stake and what's around the corner."

Sulphur Springs took a 10-9 lead less than four minutes into the second period when a failed fake punt attempt by Lincoln gave the Wildcats the ball at the 38-yard line, and Keenan Clayton found the end zone on a 4-yard run.

But, the game started slipping away after that.

Lincoln re-took the lead on the ensuing drive, and then Sulphur Springs' final drive of the first half, in which they were in field goal range, ended in an interception.

A punt on the Wildcats' first drive of the second half pinned Lincoln back inside their 20 But on third-and-16 from his own 16, quarterback Eaton ran a draw for 26 yards, setting up Hodge's 45-yard TD run that put the Tigers up by two scores, 22-10.

Meanwhile, the Sulphur Springs offense generated 82 yards rushing and 152 yards passing on 21-of-41 completions, which was not enough to overcome Lincoln's ground-based offense.

Of Sulphur Springs' 20 rushes, nine of them went for two yards or less, and of their 21 pass completions, 10 were for five yards or less.

"They're great on defense. They have some great athletes. We knew we were going to have keep it close," Turner said.

"We missed a scoring opportunity right before half, then we took the ball in the second half and had to punt. They came back and scored, and I thought that was kind of a turning point. We were in it early, but they ran it right down our throat, and we never really stopped them. We just didn't do the things we needed to do to beat a team like that."

Lincoln's first drive foreshadowed the rest of the game. They drove 66 yards in seven plays, capped by Jerrode Sneed's 5-yard scoring run. Sneed ended the game with 65 yards on 11 carries.

The Wildcats came right back on their first drive as Keenan Clayton opened the game with a 37-yard run to set up Spenser Daniel's 40-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 6-3. But, Clayton's run was the longest play of the day for Sulphur Springs.

Lincoln extended its lead to 10-9 on Salvador Miriles' 45-yard field goal with 4:21 left in the first quarter.

But, Sulphur Springs got the break it needed on Lincoln's next drive. Faced with a fourth-and-16 from their own 31, the Tigers faked a punt. But, Wildcat defenders Casey Follis and Brian Shurtleff sniffed it out and made the tackle, giving SSHS the ball at the 38-yard line.

The Wildcats quickly scored, as quarterback Logan Turner completed a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Rolaundo Wright on fourth-and-8, then Wright took a short pass and wove his way down to the 2-yard line before fumbling. SSHS center Jacob Jenkins recovered the loose ball and two plays later, Clayton gave Sulphur Springs a 10-9 lead.

Clayton led the Cats in rushing with 57 yards on seven carries. The Wildcats' leading rusher for the season, junior Chris Person, carried just 3 times for 16 yards before leaving the game with back spasms.

Lincoln retook the lead, 15-10, before halftime, and then opened up the game in the final two periods on a 45-yard TD run by Hodge, a 6-yard run by Sneed and a 1-yard run by Eaton.

The final two scores were set up by Herndon's interceptions.

Sulphur Springs came up with a pair of Lincoln turnovers, both fumble recoveries by Jake Broumley, forced by Zach Attaway and Clayton. But, both times, they gave the ball back on their ensuing drives.

Middle linebacker Keidric Duffey led the Wildcats defensively with 10 tackles, while defensive ends Patrick Radney and Tremayne Jones had nine each. Middle linebacker David Barnes and Clayton had eight tackles, while outside linebacker Jared Ramey contributed seven stops.

Lincoln threw the ball just twice, completing one, but Eaton, who is headed to Oklahoma State on a basketball scholarship, used his athleticism to control the game despite not passing the ball.

"The bad thing is that we can't make adjustments because there's no tomorrow now," Turner said. "Hopefully, we've learned and there's some things we can improve upon next year. The main thing is for these kids to be proud of the season they put together."

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