|Wildcats ready for Zero Week challenge|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Aug. 25, 2005 - The first game of the season always has question marks for players and coaches, and that's certainly the case this year for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats.
It's not that SSHS head coach Brad Turner and his staff don't have a strong sense of how their players will perform, it's just that they're not sure about the opposite sideline.
The Wildcats travel to Jacksonville's Tomato Bowl at 7:30 p.m. Friday for their opening contest against the Jacksonville Indians.
Turner acknowledged that it's been difficult getting a read on the Indians, who scrimmaged Carthage at noon last Saturday. The Wildcat coaches were there as scouts, but didn't see a whole lot about their opponent because they didn't suit out several starters.
"It's so hard early because you only have one scrimmage to watch, they had a bunch of guys hurt, they had three or four starters out with injuries, they scrimmaged in the middle of the day, and they're playing a team that runs the stack-I," he said, as opposed to the Wildcats' wide-open offense. "Then, with their personnel, they played in jerseys with no numbers on them.
"So, when it comes to scouting, we don't have a whole lot to go on. You look at last year's tape and see how they schemed us in regards to our stuff, and you kind of prepare that way knowing that things might change."
Several of the Indians' top players did not participate in the scrimmage, including quarterback Ramon Williams (6-4, 200) and All-East Texas lineman Cody Lusk (6-3, 275), who were both being held out due to injuries. Whether they play tomorrow is uncertain.
Turner said the team is preparing for every situation, because opening games usually have a little bit of everything. Last year, the Wildcats blocked a punt, had a 49-yard kickoff return and downed three punts inside the 20-yard line, but also had a punt return for a TD called back, allowed a 58-yard kickoff return and blocked an extra point but had it negated on a penalty.
"That's the thing about Zero Week games - usually there's something weird," Turner said. "There are usually a lot of things that happen, in the kicking game especially, and usually turnovers play a factor, fatigue plays a factor. It's just not a normal, locked-in game.
"By the middle of the year, you know who's in your personnel groups like the hands team, the back-up on the punt team, things like that. That's my biggest concern - that we're all organized and know who and when."
He knows Jacksonville will have a lot of speed. Their tailback, Carmon Boyd-Anderson (6-0, 190), is an excellent runner, and their tight end, who will also move to fullback, is Cammeron Hackney (6-2, 240), who has already committed to the University of Houston.
Working against the Indians, though, is that they don't have a lot of size, they only show 39 players on their varsity roster, and they have four two-way players - so fatigue could obviously be a factor with the temperature expected to be in the high 80s at kickoff.
"Just looking at them, we have more kids out and they're playing more both ways, so the worst thing we can do in their home stadium is give them some confidence early," Turner said. "We need to deal them some adversity early and so how they respond to it."
He also hopes the Wildcats' superior size comes into play. The Cats want to be able to take advantage of the power on the left side of their line with Jose Vargas (6-4, 320) and Lucas Garrison (6-4, 350), and with a strong rotation of defensive linemen including Cole Strawn (6-1, 245), Bryce Jackson (6-3, 275), Fred Dale (5-10, 220), Colt Hooten (6-2, 250), Adarius Miles (6-0, 240) and Demarcus Johnson (5-11, 190).
"They've got to have an answer for our front on both sides of the ball. They have to have an answer for that, and we'll hopefully find out what that is early," Turner said. "If they pile it up, then that will open the passing game. If they don't, then we'll run it."
The Cats should have that option with 2,100-yard passing quarterback Logan Turner and 1,100-yard rusher Chris Person both returning in the backfield.
"We've prepared, and I think the kids are ready to play and they're excited about playing a good team," Turner said. "We need to execute early, not give up big plays, not turn the ball over, try to have good field position and establish our big boys up front."