Playing Catch-up
Sulphur Springs has hard time getting hold of healthy Denison QB
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 16, 2006 - DENISON - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats were trying to play catch-up to Denison seemingly all night on Friday.

The problem was, they never could catch up to Stanley Morrison.

The Yellowjacket quarterback, who suffered an ankle sprain last week and was not even expected to play, was healthy enough to run for over 250 yards in a 49-35 Denison homecoming win at Munson Stadium.

Morrison, the District 5-4A MVP as a junior, had 253 yards on 26 carries and running back Curly Jackson added 129 yards on 17 carries. They combined to rush for all seven Denison touchdowns as the Yellowjackets (2-1) accumulated 505 total yards.

SSHS head coach Greg Owens said Morrison's exceptional athletic ability set him apart, but that the Wildcats didn't execute well enough to win on the road.

"They had a superior athlete who's better than we are, bottom-line. He made plays and we didn't. We couldn't really tackle him," Owens said. "But, we shot ourselves in the foot on both sides of the ball. We came out a little bit flat again on the road."

The Wildcats forced three Denison turnovers, but could only take advantage of one. The most costly missed opportunity came in the fourth quarter. Denison was hanging onto a 6-point lead, 41-35, when SSHS defensive tackle A.D. Miles came up with a Yellowjacket fumble at the 45-yard line with 6:52 to play.

Sulphur Springs had a chance to take a lead for the first time in the game, but Denison sacked quarterback Brittan Diamond on two consecutive plays for a total of 15 yards. Then, a Tyrick Rollison pass fell incomplete on third-and-25, and the Wildcats had to punt, giving the Yellowjackets the ball near midfield. Denison then tacked on the final TD with 2:28 to play to put the game out of reach.

"Offensively, we made too many mistakes. We got some plays in there, but we've got to calm down and make some plays, and we didn't do it," Owens said. "It was a little bit of us, a lot of them - that kind of deal."

Diamond ended up passing for 184 yards on 7-of-14 attempts, while Rollison was 12-of-23 for 116 yards. Diamond twice connected with receiver Tyler Rhoades, moved to the slot for most of the game, for long TDs of 56 and 69 yards.

Rhoades finished the game with seven receptions for 179 yards, and DaQualin "Boo" Evans caught seven passes for 85 yards, including an 11-yard TD from Rollison.

The Wildcats also had their longest play of the year from scrimmage when halfback Jeff Pitts broke off a 79-yard run in the third quarter. SSHS had 172 yards rushing and 472 yards of total offense.

But, Owens lamented missed opportunities as the Wildcats scored just one TD in the first 23 minutes of the game, and couldn't get points out of their final two series. He saw Waxahachie put up 56 points against the Yellowjackets last week.

"I'm still disappointed in us offensively because I thought they weren't that great of a defense, and we should have been able to do some more things than we did," the coach explained. "We should have made a few more plays and continued to put the pressure on them."

While the Yellowjackets might not be top-notch on defense, they certainly have an explosive offense. Of Morrison' 26 carries, 11 went for more than 10 yards, and Jackson had a 64-yard TD run to start the second half - one of his five rushing touchdowns.

Denison struck first as Morrison scored the first of his two TDs on a 3-yard run on the Yellowjackets' first possession. The Wildcats got a glimpse of his speed on third-and-5 from the 46, when he rolled right and just kept on going for 26 yards and a first down.

The Wildcats answered right back on their next possession when Diamond hit Rhoades on a seam route. The senior receiver broke one tackle, then picked up downfield blocks from Jeff Beck and Evans to spring him the rest of the way for a 56-yard TD. Jon Holt's extra point tied the game at 7-7 with less than six minutes gone in the opening quarter.

Sulphur Springs safety Tanner Higgins then came up with his second interception of the year, when he picked off a Morrison pass at his own 20. But Diamond threw a pick three plays later, and Denison took advantage of the opportunity, going 51 yards in 10 plays.

Morrison converted a fourth-and-inches play with a 16-yard pickup, then ran for 20 more on third-and-15 to keep the drive alive. Jackson ran the final 10 yards to paydirt and a 15-7 lead.

The Wildcats tried to answer, getting down to the Denison 12, but Holt's 29-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked.

Denison later tacked on another second-quarter TD, this time on Morrison's 11-yard run, set up by a 56-yard throwback to Jesse Broward, to put the Yellowjackets up, 22-7.

The Wildcats then took advantage of a pair of Denison mistakes to score a touchdown a minute before halftime. The Wildcats were set to punt from their own 32-yard line, but a substitution penalty by Denison gave them a first down. Five plays later, the Wildcats did punt, but the bouncing ball hit a Yellowjacket and was recovered by Jacob Jenkins at the 2-yard line.

SSHS running back Christian Person cashed in the turnover with a 5-yard TD run two plays later, and the Wildcats drew to within 22-14 at halftime.

Denison, though, kept the pressure on as Jackson took a handoff on the opening pay of the second half and raced untouched 64 yards to the end zone to give the Yellowjackets a two-touchdown cushion, 29-14.

"It didn't break our backs, because I think we answered," Owens said. "But, we've got to do things right as a team, and I don't think we understand that yet. Some guys take some plays off when they get tired, and that's part of that experience thing and learning how to play through some of that. "

After exchanging punts, SSHS moved 93 yards in six plays - the big chunk was Pitt's 79-yard run over the left side behind the blocking of Levi Moore and Kevin Rape to get the ball close to the goal line. On third-and-goal, Rollison drilled an 11-yard slant to Evans and the Wildcats were within 29-20 midway through the third quarter.

From there, the teams exchanged touchdowns - Denison's Jackson scored on a 1-yard run, then Diamond capped a 76-yard SSHS drive with an 11-yard TD run. Denison came back with another 5-yard TD run by Jackson to go up 41-28, then SSHS cut the lead to 41-35 when Diamond connected on a 20-yard completion to Rhoades, who turned it up the visitor's sideline, outrunning the Denison secondary to complete a 69-yard scoring play with 9:10 left in the game.

When Miles recovered a fumble caused by Rodney Evans and K.C. Smith, the Wildcats had a chance to finally take the lead. But a three-series play that lost 15 yards ended that hope.

"We played hard. I'm frustrated I guess not because we're not playing hard, but because we're still not playing smart," Owens said. "We've got to focus and play. They're too much madness out there. Things we've covered and covered over and over again, we've got to go back and re-teach it because we're not doing it right in a game."

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