|Wildcats win homecoming contest in come-from-behind fashion|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 17, 2005 - Dallas W.T. White came 80 miles to the country Friday night, and then they kept right on going down the field at Gerald Prim Stadium for the first three quarters. In the fourth period, though, the Longhorns ran into a roadblock.
W.T. White's vaunted running game churned out 300 yards in the first three quarters of play against Sulphur Springs. But, the Wildcat defense stopped White on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, and the Sulphur Springs offense went 95 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in a 35-24 victory over the Longhorns.
The Longhorns scored the first time they had the ball in the second half to take a 24-21 lead, but the Wildcat defense stiffened from then on.
"When it was 24-21 - and they had the ball and if they would have scored they would have been 10 points ahead - I told the defense, 'We have to have a stop here. We can't go two scores behind,' " said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "They did it, we scored, and then we got another stop and a score, then another stop.
"Those last three series is the best defense we've played. Regardless of what happened, we were better. We made stops. We still didn't stop the run as well as we need to, but we're not going to see many backs as good as those two. They're very talented."
White's two running backs, Dante Thomas and Leon Patton, accounted for 283 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. But, the Wildcats countered with 130 yards rushing and three touchdowns by senior halfback Chris Person, 200 yard passing by junior quarterback Logan Turner, and 122 yards receiving by senior Josh Riley.
More importantly, the Wildcats found an answer for the Longhorns' running game.
Leading 24-21 heading into the fourth quarter, W.T. White drove down to the Sulphur Springs 35-yard line, but middle linebacker Zach Attaway and outside linebacker Austin Holland stopped Patton for no gain on second down. On third down, cornerback Ivan Beard knocked away a long pass, forcing a W.T. White punt.
"I'm proud of our defense for stepping up in the fourth quarter," Coach Turner said. "They had to bow their neck on that drive when W.T. White was ahead three points. When we got that stop, that was the key to the game."
The punt traveled down to the 5-yard line, where the Wildcats took possession with 7:22 to play in the game. After a 10-minute stoppage of play due to a fight behind the home stands, the Wildcats set off on a 95-yard, go-ahead drive.
It started with Person ripping off a 58-yard run on the first play, following the blocks of linemen Lucas Garrison, Jose Vargas and Jacob Jenkins.
"We told the offensive line that the game was on their shoulders, and sure enough, the first play from scrimmage they opened a huge hole for Chris, and he just used his great vision to go 58 yards," said Riley.
That got the Wildcats to the 37-yard line. Three plays later, they faced a fourth-and-8. Logan Turner zipped a slant pass to wide receiver Tyler Rhoades, who shielded the defender with his body to make an 18-yard reception and keep the drive alive. The next play, Turner ran behind the left side of his line once again for a 17-yard TD and a 28-24 Wildcat advantage.
Rhoades finished with four catches for 51 yards.
W.T. White had almost six minutes left to retake the lead, but the defense again rose to the occasion. SSHS lineman Colt Hooten threw WTW quarterback Juan Tovar for a 1-yard loss on first-and-10 from the 30, then Attaway, Brian Nix and K.C. Smith teamed up to stop Patton for two yards, bringing up third-and-9.
Enter Wildcat safety Colby Mills. The junior, who intercepted a first-quarter pass to stop the Longhorns' first drive, picked off his second pass of the game and fourth of the season, to give the Wildcats the ball back with 3:01 to play. His 7-yard return, coupled with a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Longhorns, gave the Wildcats the ball at the 12-yard line.
Two plays later, Turner run behind the blocking of Torrence Wright and Chris Alford for a 9-yard touchdown and a 35-24 SSHS lead.
White's final, desperation drive ended on an incompletion near midfield.
"I think we just really, really, really wanted this," said Attaway, who finished with 14 tackles. "The defense stepped it up in the fourth quarter, and I think that's the way we can really play. We knew we were going to have to stop them, and we did it."
Nix led the team with 18 tackles,while Mills contributed 11, Jake Broumley added nine, Ivan Beard eight and Stephan Petty six. The defensive line of Cole Strawn, Bryce Jackson, Curtis Adams, Fred Dale, Demarcus Johnson, and Colt Hooten combined for 17 tackles.
The Wildcats drew first blood in the game. After Mills' interception stopped WTW's first drive, Sulphur Springs went 81 yards in 10 plays, capped by Person's 33-yard TD run behind the blocks of Riley and Rhoades. Spenser Daniel, who hit all five PATs, gave SSHS a 7-0 lead.
W.T. White cut it to 7-3 on Suad Hopovac's 44-yard field goal with 1:04 to play in the first quarter, but the Wildcats answered.
They went 80 yards for another TD, with Riley's leaping, tackle-breaking 27-yard catch across the middle being the big play. Riley then got the TD on a 10-yard bubble pass down the visitors' sideline two minutes into the second quarter for a 14-3 SSHS advantage.
That was all the Wildcats could manage in the first half as their final three possessions ended with two punts and a fumble. That enabled WTW the opportunity to take a 17-14 lead into halftime on Thomas' 2-yard TD run and 73-yard scamper.
The lead could have been greater, but Bryce Jackson blocked an extra point and got a piece of Hopovac's 43-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half.
The Wildcats will play their final non-district game next Friday when they travel to Lancaster to take on the speedy Tigers.
"We've just got to keep getting better," Turner said. "I hope this is a stepping stone. The speed is only going to get better. Hopefully, we can take another step next week."