|Pressure Cooked: Jacksonville uses blitz happy defense to turn up heat on Wildcats|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Aug. 27, 2005 - JACKSONVILLE - With the game-time temperature over 90 degrees Friday evening, the Tomato Bowl was awfully hot. Then, the Jacksonville Indians really turned up the heat.
Using a blitz-happy defensive package that forced seven Sulphur Springs turnovers, the Indians came away with a 32-14 victory in the season opener for both teams.
Two of the turnovers led directly to Jacksonville touchdowns and another stymied a promising Sulphur Springs drive deep in Indian territory right before halftime.
The Wildcat offense had trouble picking up Jacksonville's blitz packages, which squelched the SSHS running attack and threw off the timing of the passing game. The Wildcats managed just 4 yards rushing on 23 carries, and senior running back Chris Person was bottled up for 27 yards on 13 totes.
Junior quarterback Logan Turner completed 19-of-40 passes for 250 yards, but was picked off five times, three of them by Jacksonville cornerback Garry Minifee, who returned one for a touchdown on the opening drive. The Wildcats also lost a fumble, muffed a punt and had two snaps sail over the quarterback's head for 34 negative yards.
One of the bright spots offensively for the Cats was wide receiver Josh Riley, who finished with 10 catches for 108 yards, several of them coming across the middle in traffic.
SSHS head coach Brad Turner said they knew before the game that Jacksonville would try to stop the run first by overloading the Wildcat offensive line.
"They had everybody but the janitor loaded up to stop the run. We knew going in they would try to have an answer for the running game, and they did," Turner said. "They brought them all up there and brought the house almost every down and played man in the secondary.
"They're as fast on defense as anybody we'll play."
Despite Jacksonville's quick score on Minifee's 29-yard interception return for a touchdown just 90 seconds into the game, the Wildcats twice led the game - at 7-6 on a 27-yard pass from Turner to Tyler Rhoades and at 14-13 on Person's 11-yard scoring run - and had a chance to go ahead before halftime.
But, the turnover bug bit the Cats hard as they committed three turnovers in a matter of eight offensive plays spanning the end of the second quarter and start of the third, and Jacksonville had a two-touchdown lead, 26-14, because of it.
Trailing, 20-14, with 2:26 remaining in the half, the Wildcats marched the ball 44 yards down to the Jacksonville 31. Turner then hit Marc Crook with a pass that would have taken to the ball to the 10-yard line with about 40 seconds to play, but after catching the ball Crook was popped hard and the ball came out and was recovered by the Indians to preserve their halftime lead.
Then, after the Wildcat defense - which was led by linebacker Zach Attaway's 10 tackles - held Jacksonville on its first possession of the third quarter, the Cats muffed the punt return and again the Indians recovered, this time at the 17-yard line. It took just three plays for Jacksonville to cash in on Jazz Scott's 25-yard TD pass to Kendara Hall.
Turner said the muff was just one of three mistakes the Cats made on the play - they only had nine players on the field and were flagged for roughing the punter on top of that.
"Right before half, we had a chance to make it 21-20, and I thought that was a huge turning point in the game, because if we go into halftime with a lead, it's a whole different atmosphere," he said. "I chewed them pretty good at halftime, and we came out and had a great stop on the first series of the second half. Then, we had three mistakes on the punt, and any one of the three keeps the drive alive. They stick it in the end zone, and after that we were in trouble.
"I think those two plays were critical. Then, we turned it over and gave them a short field and it just got worse from there."
The Wildcats actually had more total yards than Jacksonville, 254-240, as the Indians were using their back-up quarterback, Jazz Scott, because starter Ramon Williams suffered a concussion in an automobile accident. Scott was efficient enough, completing 5-of-10 passes for 75 yards and rushing 10 times for 35 more. Tailback Carmon Boyd-Anderson did most of the offensive damage, gaining 97 yards on 13 carries and scoring three touchdowns on runs of 5, 18 and 22 yards.
The Wildcats ran 63 offensive plays to 41 for Jacksonville, but the Indians turned the ball over just twice on fumbles recovered by SSHS' Chad Rocker and linebacker Brian Nix, who had seven tackles in the game along with safety Jake Broumley.
When a team has a plus-five in the turnover battle, they're tough to beat.
"I told the kids that it's never as bad as you think and it's never as good as you think, either. We'll try to pick out what we did good and build on it, and try to pick out what we did wrong and correct it," Turner said. "Our big boys got tired and we were having to throw it quicker than normal. Our offense is a timing offense, and when people get tired and the blitz is coming a little faster and you have to throw if before you want to, and there's just a lot of things that go into it.
"We turned the ball over, but there are a lot of things that go into that. Now, we've got to find a way to correct it."
The Cats will host Forney next Friday at Gerald Prim Stadium in their home opener. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Notes: SS punter/kicker Spenser Daniel hit both PAT tries and averaged 41.3 yards on four punts. One of Daniel's extra points was blocked by Minifee, but he was offside on the play. ... Wildcats' Colby Mills returned all six Jacksonville kickoffs, averaging 15 yards per return. ... SSHS wide receiver Tyler Rhoades caught three passes for 76 yards. ... The Wildcats were hit with seven penalties for 49 yards, and Jacksonville was flagged eight times for 47 yards. ... Josh Riley had 120 yards of offense: 108 receiving, 4 rushing and 8 on a punt return. ... SS defensive end Dakieston Johnson recorded five tackles as did Clay Wilks.