|Wildcats facing best team of season at Lancaster|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 22, 2005 - Looking at the tape from the Lancaster Tigers' first three games, Sulphur Springs head coach Brad Turner believes the Wildcats are the best team Lancaster has faced.
But, then again, the Tigers have the best athletes the Wildcats have seen, too.
"I think we're the best team they've played," Turner said the 3-0 Tigers.
"Jacksonville is probably the best team we've faced, but Lancaster will be the best we've played athletically. They're big up front, they've got a lot of speed and they can run the football."
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at the new Tiger Field, a $9 million stadium which opened this season.
The Tigers' speed, starting with quarterback Steve Love (5-9, 160) and running backs Demarcus Reynolds (5-10, 180), is impressive. They will also use sophomore back-up quarterback Dionte Dean (5-9, 170), a member of their sprint relay last year as a freshman.
Those three are the team's leading rushers, with Reynolds gaining 287 yards on 43 carries and three touchdowns, Love rushing for 226 yards and six TDs on 38 carries, and Dean averaging almost 10 yards a carry.
To stop them, the Wildcats (2-2) will have to play with the same intensity they showed in the fourth quarter last week, in which they stopped W.T. White on three straight possessions to secure the 35-24 win, Turner explained.
"Those last three series on defense, we really played better. Their intensity picked up a little bit, and we didn't miss many tackles," Turner said. "We played better overall, and at the end, our intensity level really picked up. We need to remember that, and continue to improve."
He said while Lancaster's backs aren't as good of runners as W.T. White's, they are certainly as fast. They'll run the ball out of the I-formation and the spread.
"The first thing you think of is speed. They're loaded with speed everywhere," Turner said. "They're very big up front, defensively and offensively on the line. But, what concerns is us we've just got to corral their speed."
The Wildcats will continue to use a four-man front in most situations, with Cole Strawn, Bryce Jackson, Colt Hooten, Fred Dale, Adarius Miles and Demarcus Johnson rotating in. They will be supported by linebackers Zach Attaway and Brian Nix, the team's top two tacklers.
Sulphur Springs won last year's contest, 35-19, and Lancaster finished the season at 5-6 after making the playoffs.
Offensively, the Wildcats have shown they can move the ball against just about every defense they have faced. Sulphur Springs has scored at least 30 points in every game except for the season opener against Jacksonville when they suffered seven turnovers.
Lancaster has shown the ability to blitz, which Mesquite Poteet and Jacksonville did, or sit back in coverage, like W.T. White and Forney.
"We've moved the ball against both of those schemes," Turner said. "Lancaster has the ability to man-up and bring the house, or they can drop and cover. They're big enough up front to play a three- or four-man front to handle the run. But, it doesn't really matter what they do. We've seen both, and we've just got to execute."
Sulphur Springs receiver Josh Riley leads the state in receptions, and junior quarterback Logan Turner is second in Class 4A in yardage going into the game. Running back Chris Person has had two 100-plus yard efforts in the last three games.
But, the story of how well the Wildcats move the ball may come down to the trenches. The Wildcats average about 280 pounds on the offensive line, while the Tigers go about 270 across their defensive front. Their best defensive player is probably middle linebacker Chris Mitchell (6-2, 245).
If the Tigers have a weakness, it is likely in their kicking game. They have used two placekickers, Louis Servantes and Joseph Grigsby, without too much success. To make up for it, coach Andrew Jackson has tried an onside kick and fake punt already this season.