|Cats even record at 1-1 with hard-fought win over Forney, 30-26|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 3, 2005 - The Sulphur Springs defense never found a way to corral Forney running back Mekelle Webb Friday night, but the SS offense did.
The Wildcats played the keep-away game to perfection, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 53 seconds remaining to take a hard-fought 30-26 win over Forney in the home opener at Gerald Prim Stadium.
The Wildcats (1-1) drove 72 yards, using a little over four minutes late in the fourth quarter, until quarterback Logan Turner scored his second rushing touchdown of the game from 9 yards out to give the Wildcats the lead.
With Forney (0-2) having no time to pound the ball with Webb, who finished with 219 yards on 33 carries, the Wildcat defense forced a sack and three incompletions to wrap up the victory.
That was the only possession for either team in the second half that didn't result in a touchdown.
"I knew they were going to play hard because I know those guys over there, but I didn't expect that," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "I was proud of our kids, because we kept saying we needed a stop, and we finally got it with 53 seconds left. That's what it took.
"I was proud of how our offense answered. They had to step up and lift the defense up, and they did. We certainly have things we need to work on, but I'm proud of how we played. That was a good win."
Junior quarterback Logan Turner countered Webb's production by throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more, while Wildcat senior running back Chris Person ate up 126 yards on 18 carries, and senior Spenser Daniel not only booted a 39-yard field goal, but hit all three extra points and made what turned out to be the most important catch of the game for the Cats.
On Sulphur Springs' final drive, they faced a fourth-and-3 from the Forney 41-yard line with a little over two minutes remaining. Daniel ran a 5-yard stop pattern and made a diving reception to keep the game-winning drive alive.
"That was a great catch by Spenser to bring it down," Logan Turner said. "We knew we had to score because they had been running the ball all night, and we might not get it back from them. That kept our momentum going."
The whole game, seemingly, was a momentum tug-of-war.
The teams combined on seven scoring drives of 70 yards or more. Forney finished with 273 yards rushing and 350 total yards, while the Wildcats had 321 total yards. Both teams punted just once and had 19 first downs.
Forney went up, 5-0, midway through the first quarter on Thomas Moreland's 30-yard field goal, and a safety when the ball was snapped out of the end zone on the Wildcats' second offensive play.
Forney then got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff and appeared to be driving for another score, but SS linebacker Brian Nix - who finished with a game-high 18 tackles - stripped Forney running back Deondre Smith of the ball and defensive tackle Colt Hooten recovered it at the 3-yard line. It was the only turnover of the game for either team.
The Wildcat offense responded by driving 97 yards in 18 plays, culminating in Turner's 1-yard TD run and Daniel's extra point. The Wildcats converted three third downs and one fourth down in the drive as Turner hit Josh Riley for an 11-yard pass to get the Wildcats out of the hole, and Person ripped off a 20-yard run to get the ball deep in Forney territory.
Turner finished the game 16-of-28 for 177 yards. His favorite targets were Tyler Rhoades (5 catches for 59 yards), Riley (4-59) and Daniel (5-43).
The Jackrabbits came right back with a 70-yard drive of their own powered by a 43-yard completion between quarterback Landon Hartwick and wide receiver Bobby Lind and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. Hartwick's 1-yard run gave the Jackrabbits a 12-7 lead.
Getting the ball back at their own 12-yard line with 1:35 to play in the half, the Wildcats drove to the 22 before settling for Daniel's 39-yard field goal on the final play of the half to cut the deficit to 12-10.
"The score right before halftime gave us a little momentum," Coach Turner said. "We would have liked to have had a touchdown, and contemplated going for it, but it was really too far and only had five seconds left before his kick.
"At halftime, we had a little momentum and we knew we were getting the football, so we needed to go down and score. We did that to start the second half, but they answered."
The Wildcats kept the momentum going when Person took the opening kickoff back 53 yards to the Forney 32-yard line. A holding penalty and a bad snap, coupled with a pair of 11-yard receptions by Tyler Rhoades, put the ball at the 33-yard line. That was when Turner found Riley on an out-and-up pattern for a long TD pass and a 16-12 SSHS lead.
That started an offensive see-saw. Forney scored on Webb's 24-yard, tackle-breaking run to put the Jackrabbits up, 19-16.
Sulphur Springs came back to take a 23-19 lead on Turner's 10-yard scoring pass to Daniel. The TD was set up by Persons' 44-yard run behind the offensive line of Jose Vargas, Lucas Garrison, Jacob Jenkins, Torrence Wright and Travis Longino.
Forney answered with an 80-yard, 18-play drive that ended with Webb's 2-yard run in which he mishandled the pitchout, grabbed the ball on one hop and ran to the goal line.
That set the stage for the Wildcats' final game-defining drive.
"We tried to keep it just like every other drive - to focus on what we're doing and take it down the field," Logan Turner said. "We tried to look at it as just another drive, but we knew what we had to do."
They had to keep the ball out of Webb's hands as well as score.
Webb carried the ball 22 times in the second half alone. Top SS tacklers, along with Nix who had a sack on Forney's final series, were linebacker Zach Attaway with 13, safeties Colby Mills with nine and Jake Broumley with eight, and outside linebacker Dakeiston Johnson with seven.
"Forney just ran it, and they did what they had to do. We thought their game plan was to keep it away from us, and that's what they did," Coach Turner explained. "Offensively, we played a lot better. We didn't have a turnover or many penalties.
"Defensively, we'll get better - we've got to. They whipped us up front at times, and with a couple of big ol' backs, it was tough. But, we did it when we had to, and I'm proud of that."