|Wildcats facing a Mount Pleasant team desperate for a win|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Oct. 14, 2004 - Just two games into the district season, and already Mount Pleasant is fighting for its playoff life.
The Tigers, coming off a 49-21 loss to North Lamar in the 12-4A opener last week, can hardly afford to drop to 0-2 Friday against Sulphur Springs and keep their playoff pulse beating with match-ups still ahead against Texas High and Greenville.
That's the team and the situation the Sulphur Springs Wildcats (5-1, 1-0) will face when they step on Sam Parker Field in Mount Pleasant for the 7:30 p.m. kick off on Friday. That's not even factoring in the decades-old rivalry which seems to always brings out the best in the Tigers (2-4 overall).
"It's Mount Pleasant and that means a lot to a lot of people around here," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "Last year, our freshmen, JV and varsity all won in the last minute, so we fully expect a dog fight. Their backs are kind of against the wall. They need a win desperately.
"It's an important game. Now, it's the most important game on the schedule. It's big for us as well."
Last year, the Wildcats led 17-0 at halftime, only to have Mount Pleasant score 17 points in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Sam Smith's 80-yard kick off return with less than a minute left set up the Wildcats' winning score in the 24-17 homecoming victory.
Sulphur Springs is coming off a 37-17 district-opening win over Paris, but Turner said immediately after the game that the Cats can't afford the five turnovers and 12 penalties they committed and expect to win. He reiterated that point this week.
That's especially true since Mount Pleasant has committed just six turnovers all season (two lost fumbles, four interceptions).
"We've just got to execute. We can't plan on turning it over five times. That's a concern," Turner said. "Hopefully the game won't have 23 penalties. That's a concern. We certainly need to play well."
The Wildcats will face an MP team that has a very balanced offense. They have throw for 834 yards and rushed for 841.
Senior tailback Courtney Walker has been solid rushing (617 yards, eight TDs on 110 carries) and receiving (144 yards on 12 receptions), while quarterback Trevor Walker is also a two-way threat, completing 58-of-114 passes for 841 yards and five TDs, and rushing for 132 yards and three touchdowns on 46 totes.
He has a talented corps of receivers including Marcus Franklin (6-2, 165), who doubles as defensive back where he intercepted six passes last season including two against Sulphur Springs, and Justin Peters (6-3, 165), who leads the team with 12 catches for 247 yards.
But, the Tigers' offensive line is relatively small outside of right guard Michael Markovitch, who goes 6-3, 285. The other four interior linemen average 212 pounds.
"The offensive line is where they're not as good as they have been in the past, and hopefully we can take advantage of that," Turner said. "If you can win the battle up front, that's a pretty good place to start."
Defensively, the Tigers have given up more than 200 yards rushing per game, which could be good news for Sulphur Springs junior Chris Person, who has ran for 645 yards on 79 carries.
Turner expects to see the Tigers use a man-to-man coverage in the secondary and bring blitzes with their linebackers.
"It's nothing we haven't seen before," Turner said. "We should know what to do, we've just got to block it right and pick everybody up."
Around the District - All three games feature 1-0 teams against 0-1 squads. In addition to SSHS vs. MP, North Lamar (6-0, 1-0) travels to Greenville (1-5, 0-1), and Texas High (4-2, 1-0) goes to Paris (2-4, 0-1).
"Hopefully, North Lamar and T-High will both win, and we'll win and that will put three of us at 2-0," Turner said. "Then after next week, there can already be some playoff teams decided."