|Lined Out: Wildcats' offensive, defensive lines control game in win over Poteet|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 11, 2004 - GREENVILLE - Winning the battle in the trenches is the football equivalent of dirty work.
Friday night, the Wildcat offensive and defensive lines were absolutely filthy.
The Wildcats beat Mesquite Poteet at the line of scrimmage all night long, and that led to a surprisingly easy 35-14 victory in front of a nice-size crowd at T.A. "Cotton" Ford Stadium.
Poteet came into the game with a 2-0 record, built mostly on a defense that had allowed just 30 points in the first two contests and a run-oriented offense. But, the Wildcats (2-1) shut down the Pirates' running game, forced four turnovers, and used the offensive momentum built in last week's win over Forney to get into an efficient rhythm.
Sophomore quarterback Logan Turner, who took the majority of snaps as signal-caller, threw for two touchdowns, and Keenan Clayton ran for one TD and returned an interception for another.
But, the real story was at the line of scrimmage. Behind a torrid game from defensive ends Tremayne Jones and Patrick Radney, tackles Mitchell Smith, Zach Attaway and Travis Edmond and middle linebackers Keidric Duffey and David Barnes, Sulphur Springs allowed Poteet just 59 yards rushing on 34 carries.
Sulphur Springs' offensive line opened holes for 128 yards rushing and did not allow a quarterback sack for the first time this year. The Wildcats also got their passing game going as Logan Turner and Josh Riley combined to go 19-of-35 for 168 yards.
"I thought we were better again on offense," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "We're getting better every week. I thought we ran better routes, we threw better passes. We ran good - not as good as last week - but we ran good. I was proud of our effort.
"I was really worried because they are big up front, very big. It was a good test for us. The offensive line, I thought did a real good job up front. I thought we blocked well, and they had some big ol' defensive linemen."
The final score could have been more lopsided as the Wildcats had another Clayton interception return for a TD called back on a penalty and had a punt and extra point blocked.
As it was, the Wildcats moved the ball well on offense, and the defense usually bailed them out of trouble when they didn't. Sulphur Springs turned the ball over four times (one fumble, two interceptions and a blocked punt), but Poteet converted just one of those turnovers into points because of the Wildcats' smothering defense.
"We knew when we came in that they were big," said Jones, who got in on 10 tackles. "The coach said that if we win the battle up front, we'll win the game. The whole D-line has been focused all week on winning the battle up front.
"We want to be quicker than them and more physical. We want to beat them off the ball and be rougher than them. We did it tonight."
Poteet came into the game averaging over 200 yards rushing per game behind the 1-2 punch of James Bester and Taylor Dupree, but they combined for just 74 yards on 24 carries.
The Wildcats struck first, covering 70 yards in 10 plays, the final 10 coming on a slant pass from Turner to Josh Harrington on third-and-eight. Turner completed five-of-seven passes on the drive, and when Spenser Daniel booted the extra point, the Wildcats had a 7-0 lead with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Turner finished 14-of-25 for 142 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.
They upped their advantage to 13-0 with eight minutes to play in the half on a second-effort, 1-yard run by Clayton. The TD was set up by John Hall's interception of a batted pass. It gave the Wildcats the ball at he 42-yard line, and Chris Person covered the first 16 yards on two carries. He finished with 44 yards on 13 totes.
Talon Askew came up with another big play on the drive, hauling in a 22-yard fade pass that put the ball at the 1.
It looked like the Wildcats would run away with it early as Clayton intercepted Poteet quarterback Seth Sartain's pass at the 14-yard line and looked to have returned it for a TD, but the play was called back on a blocking penalty.
Poteet's Roderick Preston then blocked Daniel's punt, and the Pirates had the ball at the SSHS 24-yard line. Three plays later, Sartain drilled Jansen Hyde, the Class 4A champion in the 300-meter hurdles, with a 22-yard scoring pass, and all of a sudden, Poteet was back to within 13-7, with just 1:06 remaining in the half.
The Wildcats, though, answered, as they ran the hurry-up offense to perfection.
They covered 63 yards in eight plays, all passes by Turner, that included a 9-yard catch by Eric Chenault, receptions of 11 and 16 yards from Keelan Green, and the TD catch coming on a 20-yard fade route from Rolaundo Wright, who caught the ball near the goal line and managed to tight rope his way into the end zone with just three seconds left before halftime.
On each play, Turner had plenty of time to throw with protection from Jacob Jenkins, Chris Berry, Cole Strawn, Jose Vargas and Wes Woods.
"It starts with us up front," said Woods, a two-year starter. "It starts with the snap, with us blocking. We have to give the quarterback time to read the defense, get the ball to the open man and let our playmakers make the plays. We have to fire ourselves off the ball, fire into them and get them off the line of scrimmage.
"We approach every team the same way. We work hard, we hit that sled every day, we do that every day to prepare ourselves for their big guys."
That TD was important for the Wildcats, who had dominated the first half, to go into halftime more than just one touchdown ahead.
"It was a better first half, for sure. We did a lot of things with our tempo in the first half. We went in four different tempos in the first half, and the kids executed great."
Up 21-7 at the half, Clayton almost immediately gave the Wildcats even more breathing room when he stepped in front of another Sartain pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. This time, there were no flags and the Wildcats led, 28-7.
Poteet answered back with a 67-yard drive of them own, culminated by James Bester's 5-yard TD run with 5:22 to play in the third. Then, when linebacker Ali Arif intercepted a Wildcat pass on the next possession, it looked like Poteet might take the momentum back.
But, defensive stops from Duffey, Jones and Barnes ended the Poteet drive.
"We gave up a play or two, and we gave them a short field a couple of times, but I thought our defense played well again," Turner said. "I don't know how many yards they had, but they didn't run the ball up and down the field on us."
The Wildcats salted the game away in the fourth quarter when Keelan Green raced 24 yards for a touchdown with 6:50 to play. Green carried the ball just three times but picked up 39 yards.
Wright led the Wildcats receivers with four catches for 57 yards, while Green caught five for 37, Riley and Harrington each hauled in two receptions.