|Wildcats fall to 2-3 with loss to Lancaster, 30-7|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 24, 2005 - LANCASTER - Fears of traffic problems that never materialized took away the Sulphur Springs band, cheerleaders and drill team Friday night. The Lancaster Tigers then took away the Wildcats' offensive game plan.
With only a few hundred Wildcat fans to rally around in Lancaster's beautiful new $9 million, 7,500-seat stadium, Sulphur Springs fell to the Tigers, 30-7.
The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead in the first period, but Lancaster scored three touchdowns in a span of seven minutes in the second period to go into halftime with a 20-7 lead and control of the game.
The Tigers (3-0) averaged over nine yards per carry while gaining 547 yards on the ground. The Lancaster defense then limited SSHS to less than 250 yards of total offense.
The Wildcats have two weeks to recover, with an open date next Friday, then the District 12-4A opener at home against Paris.
Unfounded fears that Gulf Coast residents fleeing Hurricane Rita would cause gridlock in South Dallas kept the SSHS band, drill team and cheerleaders grounded. Other than about a 20-minute delay near the I-45 exchange in Hutchins, traffic was normal.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats (2-3), their offense was not in its normal sync. The Cats came into the game having scored at least 30 points in each of their last three games, but Lancaster shut down the Sulphur Springs running game and limited its passing attack.
"It was a horrible night. It started off bad. I appreciate the people who came. We didn't have a band, a drill team - we had two girls who just choose to come on their own to cheer," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "It was just dead quiet before the game, and our kids were flat.
"It's not an atmosphere to play. It just wasn't a good night to play, and it showed - we didn't play very good."
The Sulphur Springs defense came up with six turnovers (two interceptions, four fumbles) and didn't allow a pass completion in four attempts, but Lancaster used its great speed in other ways. Running back Demarcus Reynolds rushed for 202 yards on 20 carries, quarterback Steve Love ran for 146 yards on 16 carries, and running back Eric Chatman added 90 yards on 11 totes.
Meanwhile, the Tiger defense held Logan Turner to just 10 completions in 24 attempts for 109 yards, his lowest output this season, and held Sulphur Springs runners to 124 yards on 36 carries.
They did it by dropping at least six into pass coverage and letting their front five handle the run, which they did.
"Offensively against that bunch, they're so fast, you've got to be able to run the ball and we couldn't run the ball," Turner said. "They were playing five in the box, a minimal amount in the box, and when you can't run the ball against that, you're not going to move the ball.
"They had us overloaded in the secondary, and you can't throw against that, and we don't have the speed to beat them one-on-one. They had more covering than we had going out."
Despite all that, the Wildcats took a 7-0 lead with 3:24 to play in the first quarter on Logan Turner's 1-yard TD plunge. The Wildcats were set up in great field position when cornerback Jeffrey Pitts intercepted Love's first pass attempt of the game and returned it 18 yards to the Lancaster 11-yard line.
The Tigers came right back, driving 68 yards in 13 plays, capped by Chatman's 1-yard TD run to tie the score at 7-7.
Following a Sulphur Springs punt on their next possession, the Wildcats got the break they needed when safety Colby Mills forced a fumble that was recovered by Fred Dale to give the Cats the ball at the 24-yard line.
Using a 28-yard completion to Spenser Daniel and a 22-yard run by Turner that drew some controversy when he fumbled at the 2-yard line, but the ball hit out of bounds before rolling out of the end zone, the Wildcats got inside the 5-yard line. But, four straight plays could get the ball no farther than the 1-foot line, though it appeared Logan Turner broke the plane of the goal on fourth down.
"That was horrible call, I thought," Turner said. "The kids said he was an arm-length into the end zone."
The Tigers would have taken over at the 1-foot line, but a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Sulphur Springs brought the ball out to the 16-yard line. Three plays later, Chatman had his second TD of the game, this time from 32 yards out to make the score 14-7.
The next time Lancaster touched the ball, back-up quarterback Dionte Dean - probably the fastest of the Tigers - went 53 yards untouched for the final score of the half.
Sulphur Springs got turnovers on the next two Lancaster possessions - an interception by cornerback Chad Rocker and a fumble recovery by linebacker Brian Nix, and the defense made a nice stand on the Tigers' next drive when defensive end Cole Strawn and tackle Colt Hooten made back-to-back tackles for 2-yard losses to force a 29-yard field goal by Louis Servantes.
Mills led the team in tackles with 14 from his safety position, while Nix recorded 11 tackles. Strawn, Zach Attaway and Stephan Petty had seven tackles each. In addition, Petty came up with a pair of fumble recoveries.
"We played good enough in spots to win, I thought, on defense," Turner said. "The defense played really well in the first quarter, but I know offensively we didn't play well enough to win. We've got to be able to run the ball better."
Logan Turner led the team in rushing with 66 yards on 18 carries, while Chris Person had 57 yards on 17 totes. He also had a 35-yard reception virtually wiped out by a holding penalty.
Daniel was the Cats' leading receiver with three catches for 48 yards. Senior Josh Riley, who went into the game as the state's leading pass catcher averaging almost 10 receptions per game, was held to two catches for 12 yards.
"They're so fast that we can't out run them, but usually we run inside the tackles very good," Coach Turner said. "They're so big up front that we couldn't really move them out of there, so their five guys clogged up the middle and spilled it out to their runners. They didn't have to make tackles up front, they just had to take up space.
"We gashed them a few times and made some plays that were successful, but unless you've got speed to get outside, then you've got to move them off the ball."
It didn't help that the Wildcats were without two injured receivers: junior Tyler Rhoades (leg) and senior Josh Harrington (knee).