Good start important for Cats against speedy Lancaster
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 23, 2004 - Starting the game strong will be important Friday for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats, who will face a team known for its speed and athleticism.

The Wildcats host the Lancaster Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the SSHS homecoming game at Gerald Prim Stadium. Pre-game activities, including the crowning of the homecoming queen, start at 6:45 p.m.

Lancaster, the reigning state track and field champion, comes into the game fresh off a 20-14 overtime victory over Greenville in which they overcame the loss of their starting quarterback, nine fumbles and 11 penalties by holding Greenville to just 104 yards of total offense.

Sulphur Springs head coach Brad Turner said the Tigers like to set the tone of the game early, so it will be up to the Wildcats to come out of the blocks better than they have in their previous outings.

"We noticed that at the start of the game, they play really hard, then they've kind of worn down," he said. "But, we need to start better than we've started. We've sputtered a little bit early.

"Defensively, especially, it's important that we get on them early and stay on them."

The Tigers (2-1) have scored just 44 points in three games, but have given up only 38. They have thrived with a swarming defense that has allowed no more than 17 points in a single game.

They have quick, active linebackers led by Chris Phillips (6-0, 215), and a solid secondary anchored by cornerback Jaqwuan Smith (5-9, 175).

"Defensively, they're just plain fast. Their linebackers are aggressive. Their defensive line runs to the ball," Turner explained. "They're going to play man coverage of some kind, which we've seen.

"We've seen good defenses, and we've seen good speed. If we execute right and not put the ball on the ground, there's nobody that can stop us. We've stopped ourselves more than anyone has stopped us."

He pointed to three fumbles last week, which were caused more by carelessness than the other team.

"We've got to fix that. We can't give the ball away like that," Turner said. "We've got to execute better. We didn't execute as well up front in the running game as we had been.

"We can always do better in the passing game, but we've got to execute better in the running game."

Offensively, Lancaster is predominantly a running team behind tailback Terry Sampson, who rushed for 211 yards on 26 carries and scored all three of their touchdowns against Greenville. For the season, he has 444 yards on 58 totes.

Senior quarterback Antroin Broom is also a threat as he ran for a 30-yard TD and passed for one in Lancaster's 24-7 victory over Seagoville in Week 2, but he twisted an ankle on the first play of the game last week and did not return. He is questionable for Friday.

With him in the game, the Tigers will run the option, trying to get one of their speedsters on the perimeter.

"They'll run the isolation plays, power-type running game, but they'll also throw some dive, option plays in there," Turner explained. "They'll use their speed with that option, so our option responsibilities have to be sound. All it takes is one slip up and those guys are running - and they run fast.

"Speed is the biggest thing, but they have size to go with it. "

The Tigers have a large offensive line, anchored by 6-4, 315-pound left guard Anthony McNac. Their starting offensive line averages 266 pounds.

Notes: Lancaster has thrown the ball just 34 times in three games. Quarterbacks Antroin Broom and Teborious Taylor are collectively 10-of-34 for 145 yards, one TD and two interceptions. ...By comparison, Sulphur Springs has thrown the ball 112 times and ran it 112 times in four games.

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