It's Sulphur Springs vs. Mount Pleasant-that's all that matters
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Oct. 12, 2006 - There's no need for elaboration on Friday's game.

It's Sulphur Springs vs. Mount Pleasant. That's about all that matters.

The two arch rivals, who have played every year since at least 1956, will tee it up at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sam Parker Field in the District 11-4A opener.

Mount Pleasant, under new head coach Jimmy Thompson, comes into the game with a 3-2 record, though they lost Friday to Carthage, 24-21. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are 1-4, but are healthier than they were last week.

SSHS head coach Greg Owens expects to see the same effort that he has received from the Wildcats, but with better execution.

"We've had some things that are killing us, but it's not the effort," Owens said. "Turnovers, missed assignments, poor tackling - those things have hurt us, but the effort is there. We're fighting as hard as we know how.

"The kids had several opportunities to quit on Friday, but they kept coming back. They won't quit."

The Wildcats' lineup will also be bolstered by the return of several players who were out due to injury. Offensive guard A.J. Johnson (6-5, 330) was cleared to play, wide receiver Tyler Rhoades is back from a jammed neck, outside linebacker Clay Wilks is moving better on a hurt knee and coaches feel that running back/linebacker Stephan Petty is in good enough shape to play both ways.

Petty had 31 yards rushing on six carries against Liberty-Eylau - the second-best output by a running back this season. At one point, Sulphur Springs went into their "Bulls" offense with three defensive linemen inserted at the skill positions to block and Petty (5-11, 225) as the I-back.

"We made a transition and got in our short yardage offense and we may have to do more of that," Owens said. "We've got to do something to get some more consistency and make things go."

Mount Pleasant knows something about a running game. The Tigers' base offense is a veer set with two tight ends and one wide receiver. They will go into a pro set with just one tight end, but their main focus is to run the ball with speedster Jonathan Aguilar and Derran Franklin. The pair have combined for almost 1,000 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

The team's most talented player is wide receiver Kevin Cheatum (6-3, 185), who also starts at strong safety. He has been a starter on varsity since he was a freshman. They'll try to throw it deep to him a handful of times each game.

"They're two tights, split back veer and eat up the clock," Owens said. "They'll throw it deep about four times a game to keep you honest, a lot of dumps to the tight ends. It's eat the clock up, three yards in a cloud of dust and try to bust one every now and then.

"Their scheme isn't real complicated. They keep it simple. They try to put a body on a body and hope you'll miss a tackle here or there, or that somebody will miss an assignment and they can find a crease and run off a big one."

The Tigers' offensive line is physical, so it will be up to the Wildcats' defensive front to be strong for four full quarters. It's also important for the Wildcat linebackers and defensive backs to play soundly because a busted assignment on an option play can mean a touchdown for Mount Pleasant.

"Assignments are crucial with the option," Owens said. "We've been working on that for a couple of weeks, working on the option stuff and who's got what.

"They eat the clock, control that as much as they can and try to have a shot in the fourth quarter. They think their kids will be in better shape than yours and they'll wear you down in the fourth quarter."

The fourth quarter has not been kind to the Wildcats this season. They have been outscored 77-22 in the final period, though they did win that quarter, 15-14, against L-E.

The fourth quarter could be crucial Friday because only one of Mount Pleasant's games have been decided by more than a touchdown.

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