District 12-4A opener will be a match-up of two Cats
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Oct. 7, 2004 - Sulphur Springs is listed as a 17-point favorite going into Friday's match-up with Paris.

That didn't matter last week.

Paris was a 30-point underdog to Liberty-Eylau last Friday, but squeaked out a 20-18 victory on a last-second field goal. It made the Lamar County Wildcats not only a homecoming winner, but kept their record at Noyes Stadium spotless (2-0) this year.

Sulphur Springs (4-1) goes to Paris (2-3) on Friday in the District 12-4A opener. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m. In other district games, Mount Pleasant (2-3) travels to North Lamar (5-0), and Texas High (3-2) hosts Greenville (1-4).

After being walloped by Gilmer, 62-16, in week three, Paris has changed their defense and thrived. They lost to Forney, 15-10, but bounced back with the emotional win over L-E.

"They went in as 30-point underdogs in the Harris poll, and I'm sure now they have confidence," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "Regardless that it was a 3A school, they won it on a very emotional last-minute kick. It was a big win for them. They were throwing helmets in the air, high-stepping, all of that.

"Their confidence level has got to be a lot better than it would have been had they lost, so that worries me."

Paris is unbeaten at home, but they are also winless against 4A competition. Forney was their only non-district 4A opponent. They lost to Commerce, 17-14, and beat Quinlan Ford, 49-28, before the debacle against Gilmer.

That changed their defense to a man-to-man coverage scheme, something the Wildcats have seen almost every game.

"Their defense is simpler now after the Gilmer game," Turner explained. "They had trouble covering some spread stuff and let some guys run wide open. I think they felt like with the athletes they have, they could cover man and man-free.

"But, we've really blocked every kind of defense. At this point, I don't think it matters what they get in, we've blocked it. We've seen a ton of man coverage. Every week, we've seen man or man-free, so that doesn't bother me a bunch."

Sulphur Springs goes into the game averaging 36 points per game, using a combination of offensive, defensive and special teams plays to put points on the board. They have 12 TDs rushing (led by three each from Chris Person and Keenan Clayton), five TDs passing (all from Logan Turner) and seven on various returns.

Paris is averaging two touchdowns less per game (20.8 average), though SSHS and Paris go into the contest with similar success moving the ball. Sulphur Springs has 1,444 total yards in five games (870 rushing, 574 passing) while Paris has 1,493 total yards (708 rushing, 785 passing).

Paris has been able to get the ball to their playmaker, Anquion McCuin (5-9, 160), who has caught 23 passes for 324 yards and four touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 172 yards and another TD. Lanky wide receiver Michael Savage (6-2, 175) has 17 catches for 339 yards and three more touchdowns.

Throwing the ball is junior Matt Shores (5-11, 150), who has half of his passes (52-of-104) for 785 yards and eight TDs.

"Their playmaker is McCuin. They'll throw it to him, they'll hand it to him, he's played quarterback some. He's the one we've got to zero in on," Turner said. "We've got to know where he is all the time. Wherever's he at will kind of dictate what they're doing.

"Our main concern is stopping No. 5. They have a couple of big tall wideouts. They have good height, so we've got to cover and not give up the big plays."

Paris has used several tailbacks in the I-formation, with Quentereous Smith (5-11, 170) and Charles Allen (5-9, 175) combining for 367 yards on 79 totes.

The Wildcats are led on the ground by Person, who has 521 yards on 66 carries. Turner is the leading passer with 495 yards on 52-of-100 completions. His main targets have been Rolaundo Wright (14-156), Keelan Green (13-77) and Josh Harrington (9-88), though 10 different Wildcats have a pass reception this season.

Notes: The SSHS freshman and JV are scheduled to play tonight at Gerald Prim Stadium in their first home games of the season, with the ninth-grade B game kicking things off at 4 p.m. The eighth-grade will travel to Paris for a pair of games beginning at 4 p.m.

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