Mixed Review: Wildcats overcome 'rocky' start of scrimmage to tie Greenville, 2-2
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 19, 2006 - One thumb up and one thumb down.

The Sulphur Springs Wildcats came out of their initial preseason scrimmage Saturday morning with mixed reviews.

The Wildcats, inexperienced especially on offense where only two starters return, saw Greenville score a pair of touchdowns in the early going, but Sulphur Springs returned the favor in the live quarter situation to knot the final score at two TDs apiece.

Greenville scored a pair of long runs - 60 and 46 yards - in the regular scrimmage portion, while the Sulphur Springs offense was still trying to make positive yards.

In the game-situation quarter, though, the Wildcats looked like a different team. They marched 70 yards for one TD, then used a fumble recovery by Rodney Evans to set up another touchdown.

The Wildcats forced a pair of Greenville turnovers - the other fumble was recovered by cornerback Darrell Franklin - while not turning the ball over themselves in 52 snaps.

"We started pretty rocky," acknowledged SSHS head coach Greg Owens. "We've got some guys who have never played a varsity snap, and they look up there and Greenville has some guys with some speed and size who'll bring it after you a little bit.

"It started rocky, and I wasn't really sure what would happen in the game part of the scrimmage, but once we got there the kids performed. They did a good job."

Sulphur Springs scored on its first possession of the quarter on a 12-yard screen pass from quarterback Brittan Diamond to halfback Jeff Pitts. The TD was set up three plays earlier when Diamond scrambled around before finally heaving a 34-yard completion to wide receiver Tyler Rhoades.

After Evans recovered the Greenville fumble at the 16-yard line on the next series, sophomore quarterback Tyrick Rollison, who shared snaps with Diamond, hit Rhoades with a slant pass from 9 yards out.

Senior Jon Holt kicked both PATs.

"On offense, I felt like we stumbled there a little bit early, but once we got to control on our tempo in the scrimmage part, I felt like we did a good job," Owens said. "We made plays and made things happen. Defensively, they threw some pop sweeps and stuff at us that we haven't seen, and we just didn't play that right. We're not worried about that.

"I felt like the effort was there and the kids got after it. Technique-wise, we're still a little off ... but, it's the first scrimmage."

Greenville, expected to be much improved under new head coach Jeff Cordell after going 3-7 last season, performed well in the true scrimmage session. The Lions outgained Sulphur Springs by a 2-to-1 margin (248 total yards to 124).

The Sulphur Springs offense had some trouble getting in sync, allowing four sacks and five other plays that went for negative yardage.

"I think we were shocked there a little bit going into the series," Owens said. "We had some little mistakes of blocks making the wrong cut or missing one block here.

"We did have a lot of nerves. We've got two quarterbacks who had never taken a varsity snap who are trying to read defenses that are moving around on you and throwing blitzes at you, and they're trying to make sure the protection is set right. There's a lot on their minds."

For the entire morning, Diamond completed 9-of-17 passes for 92 yards, and Rollison went 6-of-11 for 79 yards.

Junior Phillip Wilson was the top running back, carrying three times for 35 yards, including a 29-yard gain.

Receiving and defensive stats were not able to be kept because players were not wearing numbers.

"Defensively, we did a great job in the scrimmage of creating turnovers. They got excited about it and did what they needed to do," Owens explained. "I was pleased with the way it ended up. The kids did a good job of bouncing back, persisting and keeping after it."

The Sulphur Springs JV were outscored 2-0 by their Greenville counterparts. 

Running back Tarran Wright had a good scrimmage with 55 yards on five carries. Quarterback Johnny McSheffery hooked up with wide receiver Jace Jackson three times for 22 yards and the pair almost had a 15-yard TD, but the pass was caught out of bounds.

Notes: Veteran official Tony Flippin said after the scrimmage that in his 16 years of refereeing football, that was the most well-behaved pair of teams he has encountered in a scrimmage. He said he was impressed with the conduct of the players and coaches.

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