Down But Not Out
Loss to Paris hampers Wildcat's playoff hopes, but isn't fatal
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Oct. 28, 2006 - PARIS - Score this one a TKO by Paris.

Paris put Sulphur Springs on the ropes early Friday with three straight touchdowns, then just about the time the Wildcats looked like they were recovering, Paris delivered the knockout punch in the fourth quarter.

Paris countered two late touchdowns by Sulphur Springs with a long TD run of its own to put the Wildcats away, 28-15, at Noyes Stadium.

While the loss hurts the Wildcats' playoff chances, it didn't kill them. It doesn't get any easier, though, for Sulphur Springs (1-2 in District 11-4A, 2-6 overall) - they face No. 1-ranked Texas High on Friday in Texarkana.

Paris got two touchdowns from quarterback Quin Ashley and another from running back Courtney Hill on its first three possessions to take a 20-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.

The Sulphur Springs defense played well for the next three quarters, except for one killer play, a 52-yard TD momentum-changing run by Hill early in the fourth period immediately after Sulphur Springs had scored its first touchdown.

The Wildcats scored two TDs in the fourth quarter - on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Tyrick Rollison to DaQualin "Boo" Evans, and a 1-yard run by Brittan Diamond - but Paris' 20-point lead was too much to overcome.

"We ran out of clock, ran out of field, those types of things that eat us up," said SSHS head coach Greg Owens. "They got the breaks early, and we had a hard time getting anything going in the first half."

Paris overcame 15 penalties for 115 yards by shutting down the Wildcat offense. Sulphur Springs actually went backward on the ground, recording a minus-2 yards on 26 carries as Rollison was sacked eight times for minus-63 yards. The Wildcat running backs carried the ball just twice, other than goal line situations, as Christian Person had 19 yards rushing.

Rollison, getting his first start at quarterback, went 16-of-40 for 244 yards and two interceptions. He completed just one of his first nine passes in the second half before he started connecting with Evans on fade routes and Tyler Rhoades on bubble passes to set up the two TDs.

Evans caught five passes for 133 yards - his second straight game with more than 100 yards receiving - and Rhoades grabbed five passes for 74 yards.

Evans completed nine of his final 13 passes, but it took the SSHS offense too long to get going.

Paris was the opposite.

Paris scored on its first three possessions of the game, converting several third-and-longs along the way. The first possession, which ended with Ashley running four yards into the end zone, went 80 yards. It featured Paris converting a third-and-9 from the 21-yard line with Ashley hitting Dewey Hale for 31 yards, and a third-and-15 from the 48-yard line when Ashley threw a 24-yard pass to Raphyael Tyson.

After an SSHS three-and-out possession, Paris went 56 yards in just four plays. Hill's 3-yard run made the score 13-0 with 4:52 to go in the first quarter.

Hill finished the game with 117 yards on 18 carries as Paris accumulated 256 yards on the ground.

Paris made the score 20-0 on the first play of the second quarter when Ashley bulled in from 3-yards out to cap a 73-yard scoring drive that saw Ashley compete a 37-yard pass to Keon Furtch on a third-and-15 situation.

"We got them in some third-and-longs, but didn't make the plays," Owens said. "The third-and-longs, three of them in a row on their first three possessions, they made plays and that was sort of the story of the night. I thought our guys played hard again, but just didn't have enough. "

Sulphur Springs came out early with an empty backfield look, but had to scrap that scheme after the first two possessions accounted for just one first down, and that was off a Paris penalty. The Paris defense would bring six rushers while SSHS had just five blockers.

"It's just hard to get it done because sometimes they were bringing more than we could block and we just couldn't get rid of it quick enough," Owens said. "We had to get out of the empty set. We tried to get back into later a few times when they would give us some stuff."

The Wildcat offense finally got going midway through the second quarter, but ended on the Paris 20-yard line with a dropped pass, then a pass interference penalty against Paris that was waved off.

The only other real excitement in the first half came when Paris kicker Austin Cunningham tried a 50-yard field goal that ended up wide right and short - but it didn't matter because he was roughed on the play.

The Wildcats limited Paris to about 170 total yards over the final three quarters, largely in part to the defensive plays of outside linebackers Clay Wilks (nine tackles, two for losses) and Diamond (team-high 12 tackles), and inside linebackers Josh Dunn (nine tackles) and Stephan Petty (seven stops).

In the third quarter, Sulphur Springs drove down to the Paris 30-yard line, with 27 yards coming on a well-executed option play between Rollison and Person that picked up 27 yards. But two plays later, a high snap lost the Wildcats 15 yards and the drive ended with a punt.

The Wildcats continued shuffling linemen, with Colt Hooten getting the start at center, the third one used by Sulphur Springs since Jacob Jenkins broke his leg.

"When you start shuffling linemen, those things are going to happen," Owens said. "We're on our fourth center, and I thought Colt did a good job tonight, but we had some rough breaks in there."

Sulphur Springs finally got on the board with 11:04 to go in the game when Rollison connected with Evans on a 25-yard fade route that completed a 72-yard drive. Jon Holt's extra point made the score 20-7.

The Wildcats then tried an onside kick, but the ball sailed out of bounds giving Paris possession at their own 48-yard line.

On the next play, Hill took a toss left, turned it up at the hashmarks and raced 52 yards untouched for the back-breaking TD, giving Paris a 26-7 advantage.

The Wildcats later went 80 yards in 11 plays, with Evans catching a 43-yard pass and Rhoades picking up 26 yards on two bubble routes, then grabbing a 24-yard corner pass on fourth-and-16. That set up Diamond's 1-yard TD run. Jeff Beck then threw the conversion pass to Diamond to make the score 26-15.

The game, though, ended on a sour note as Rollison was trapped in the end zone and sacked for a safety with 1:37 left in the game.

The Wildcats had 11 plays that went for negative yards, and now comes their toughest test: Texas High.

"I just want the kids to come back and work hard and fight hard," Owens said.

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