|Same Place, Different Year: Sulphur Springs picked to finish as district runner-up behind Texas High|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
July 9, 2005 - When Brad Turner opens up Texas Football magazine, he knows where not to look for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats.
In his four previous seasons as head coach of the Wildcats and his tenure at Lone Oak, Turner has never had a team picked to win its district by Dave Campbell's Texas Football.
This year was no exception. It was also no surprise.
Sulphur Springs, the District 12-4A runner-up in 2004, is picked to finish there again this season by the magazine behind defending district champion Texas High.
"They ask us for our opinion, and I think it's based at least partly on the coaches' poll," Turner said. "In my mind, the defending district champion in Texas High, and until somebody beats them, they should be ranked where they are.
"When I voted, I think they're the best until somebody beats them, and I think we're right behind them. Hopefully, we'll play for a district championship again, and we get to play them here this year."
Last season, the teams were both unbeaten in district play when they met in Week 9. Texas High went on to post a 10-3 record, going three rounds deep in the playoffs.
Sulphur Springs finished 9-3, winning its first playoff game since 1998.
Not only is Texas High picked to win the district, they are ranked No. 2 in the state because they have 15 returning starters and 25 lettermen back, including First Team Super Team player Dustin Earnest at linebacker. Earnest has already verbally committed to the University of Texas.
Sulphur Springs didn't crack the magazine's top 25 despite having a Second Team Super Team player in offensive tackle Jose Vargas, and the classification's second-most prolific returning passer in quarterback Logan Turner, and Class 4A's second-highest scoring kicker in senior Spenser Daniel.
"Texas High is ranked No. 2 in the state, and we didn't make the top 25, which I don't particularly agree with - we're as good or better than several of those teams. But, preseason polls are worth the cost of the paper they're written on, and no more than that," Turner said. "It's just somebody's opinion, but for the kids, it's nice to be recognized.
"When you see a kid like Jose Vargas who gets mentioned on the Super Team, that's good for Sulphur Springs, because a lot of people see that. It's good for our program and for the kid. It's more important than where we're ranked."
Behind Texas High and SSHS, the magazine picked North Lamar as the third playoff team, followed by Greenville, Mount Pleasant and Paris.
Greenville (1,518 students) is the largest school in the district, so if the Lions were to make the playoffs, they would be the Division I representative. Texas High, just one student less than Greenville, would be the Division I representative if Greenville doesn't make the playoffs.
"It's kind of a summer ritual - it is for me - to pick that thing up and see who's ranked and who's the coverboy of each class. I enjoy it as much as anybody," Turner said. "I've read the whole thing.
"As far as our district, I don't know that I would pick Paris last. Our district is pretty equal, but I don't think I could put them down there because they have a lot of athletic ability. In our district, you've got to play every week because there are a lot of rivalries that go back a long way, and everybody's gunning for each other every game."
Being unranked at the beginning of the season gives "the players something to shoot for," Turner said.
"Our kids realize where we started four years ago - when we were picked at the bottom by everybody - now we're moving up and we've got players on the Super Team," he said. "Our program is getting better, and this further solidifies where we're headed.
"One thing about moving up in the polls is that you've got to back it up. I think our guys are ready for the challenge."