|Sulphur Springs heads to Paris in battle of second place teams|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Oct. 26, 2006 - On Friday, the District 11-4A standings will start to sort itself out somewhat.
With Sulphur Springs and Paris among the four teams tied for second place in district with 1-1 records, the two sets of Wildcats will face each other in a pivotal contest. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Noyes Stadium in Paris.
The winner of the game will likely remain tied for second, while the loser will drop into a third-place tie and must still face Texas High, the No. 1 team in the state.
While it's not a must-win game, the loser will almost certainly have to have help from other teams to make the playoffs.
Both Sulphur Springs (2-5 overall) and Paris (5-2) are trying to rebound from disappointing losses. SSHS was beaten by Lindale, 36-13, at home, while Paris lost a big lead to crosstown rival North Lamar, 28-17.
Paris, though, has a lot going for it - namely a whole stable of excellent athletes that starts with quarterback Quin Ashley and right tackle Stephen Good. Both are Division I collegiate prospects.
SSHS head coach Greg Owens said the Paris offense revolves around Ashley, who has rushed for 690 yards and 10 TDs and completed 51-of-94 passes for 707 yards and 11 more touchdowns.
"It all starts with the quarterback. He's an unbelievable player," Owens said. "Defensively, we've got to make some tackles. Their quarterback can make you miss and he can run over you."
Ashley is joined by a squad full of athleticism. Running back Courtney Hill and receivers Dewey Hale, Keon Furtch and Jordan Fields can all run well. Hill has 612 yards rushing and nine TDs, and Hale is the team's leading receiver with 344 yards and four TDs.
Then, the Wildcats have one of the best junior offensive tackles in the state in 6-5, 290-pound Stephen Good.
"They've probably got four or five Division I players over there," Owens said. "They've got a couple of receivers that are big and strong and can run. The two tailbacks can fly, and they've got a couple of big-time linemen.
"They may be the most athletic team in the district. I know Texas High has athletes, and I've not seen them on tape, but Paris is loaded - good size and great, great, great speed."
The Wildcats have made some changes themselves to get more speed and athleticism on the field.
Junior Brittan Diamond, who started the first seven games of the year at quarterback, has been shifted to defense, where he will start at outside linebacker. Diamond started several games last season at linebacker as a sophomore.
In his place, sophomore Tyrick Rollison will get the start at quarterback. Senior Colt Hooten moves from right tackle to center (Derrick Nichols takes Hooten's place) and speedy sophomore Quentin Long gets the start at running back because Jeff Pitts has been moved to safety.
"We moved Brittan to defense and he adds a lot of athleticism over there for us. He's a physical player who can run, and he's a very heads-up player," Owens said. "We're trying to move some more speed on defense to counter Paris' speed."
Offensively, Sulphur Springs will try some new wrinkles to punch up a game plan that accounted for just one TD in the first three quarters last week.
"We're going to be aggressive - that's all we can do," Owens said. "We've got to do that and get after it. We've got some new little tricks we're going to try to pull out of our hat. We've got some things in the playbook that we haven't tapped into yet, and we're fixing to tap into some of that stuff."
Defensively, Sulphur Springs will try to make Paris make mistakes. Paris has been penalized an average of 10 per game, and had 17 against Lindale. The Red River Wildcats have also lost 10 turnovers.�
"They're coming off a hard loss, and this is a big game for them to check where they're at," Owens said. "If we can cause some things to happen early that are in our favor and against them, maybe they'll feel the pressure."