Homecoming Downer:
Sulphur Springs' offense get stifled by Sherman, defense wears down
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 23, 2006 - Wildcat fans saw a lot more of Jon Holt than they wanted to Friday night.

Holt, the Sulphur Springs punter, was called on to punt eight times out of 10 total Wildcat possessions.

That sums up the frustration of the SSHS offense in a 31-0 blanking by Sherman at Gerald Prim Stadium.

The evening started nicely with all the homecoming festivities, including the crowing of Katie Watson as queen. Then, the game started and the night quickly got ugly.

Along with the eight punts, the Wildcat offense allowed four sacks, had two bad snaps and were hit with six penalties. In a game where the Wildcats averaged less than four yards per snap, those mistakes were killers.

After the game, SSHS head coach Greg Owens didn't even address the players on the field. He simply led them in prayer and told them to hit the bus for the short drive back to the fieldhouse.

"I can't explain what happened offensively," Owens said. "It started going bad and just snowballed on us.We got down, and we didn't make plays offensively - that's it. That's it."

The Wildcat defense played very well in the first half, as Sherman held just a 3-0 lead on Trent Dean's 20-yard field goal late in the first quarter. But, breakdowns in the kicking game and an offense that came up with just two second-half first downs left the defense exposed for too long in the final two periods.

Sherman (4-0) scored on its first possession of the second half and added 21 fourth-quarter points.

"The reason they got so many points is because we left the defense on the field too long," Owens explained. "The defense played great, but the offense stunk it up. Sherman was exactly what we expected, and we didn't make plays."

Sulphur Springs (1-3) went to a defensive scheme that featured four down linemen, instead of three linemen used earlier in the year. It paid off as defensive end Tyler Francis had 11 tackles to tie with linebacker Josh Dunn for the team lead. Linemen Rodney Evans, A.D. Miles, Jamal Freeman, Bill Hood and DaMarcus Johnson combined for 20 more stops.

But, to start the second half Sulphur Springs had a botched kickoff that Sherman recovered and three consecutive three-and-out series that gave the Bearcats the ball near midfield each time.

The SSHS starting field position for the game was the 20-yard line, while Sherman's was their own 46.

That was partly because the Wildcats couldn't establish any part of its offensive game plan. They had just 52 yards rushing on 25 carries and 120 yards passing. Starting quarterback Brittan Diamond was the team's leading rusher with 38 yards on 14 totes, and went 10-of-18 for 103 yards passing. Tyrick Rollison was 2-of-3 for 17 yards and added seven yards on five carries.

Jeff Beck grabbed five passes for 46 yards and Tyler Rhoades had four receptions for 30 yards, all in the first half.

Sherman, meanwhile, got 114 yards rushing from sophomore halfback Waymon James, another 50 yards rushing and one TD from starting quarterback Matt Rome, and 35 yards on the ground and a TD from back-up QB Taylor Dunlap. Rome also hit wide receiver Greg Millerick with a 53-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter.

Sherman got on the board first with 3:18 left in the first quarter when Trent Deans hit a 20-yard field goal. He would add field goals of 32 and 41 yards in the second half with a strong south wind at his back.

That was enough points because Sulphur Springs crossed midfield just twice the entire game and never breached the Sherman 35-yard line.

The Wildcats' best opportunity came early in the second period when Diamond completed five passes in the drive - three to Rhoades and two to Beck - to get to the 35-yard line, but two incomplete passes and a 5-yard procedure penalty pushed them back to the 40 and forced a punt.

Sherman then drove down to the SSHS 19-yard line - keeping the drive alive with a 20-yard pass on a fake punt. But the Wildcat defense stiffened, turning the ball over on downs as Miles registered a sack, Francis knocked down a pass and then Dunn and Ryan Gibson combined for a fourth-down stop.

The Wildcats, though, were hurt again by offensive mistakes. Rollison drove them to the Sherman 41-yard line, but a bad snap and a 6-yard sack pushed them back across midfield to end the half.

To start the second half, James returned the opening kickoff 55 yards to the SSHS 35-yard line, and five plays later Dunlap scored on a 5-yard run to make the score 10-0.

Sherman's ensuing kickoff fell uncovered by the Wildcats in the middle of the field, and Sherman again had the ball deep in SSHS territory. But, Freeman came up with two big stops - including stuffing Dunlap for no gain on fourth-and-2 - to give the Wildcats back the ball.

Sulphur Springs then had its biggest gain of the game - a 35-yard completion from Diamond to Rollison - but the drive ended on two straight incompletions, starting a streak of 13 consecutive plays covering four possessions in which the Wildcats managed just one yard of total offense.

The defense, meanwhile, gave up a 53-yard TD pass from Rome to Greg Millerick and a 1-yard Rome rushing TD set up by a wide receiver pass from Millerick to Kyle Hagan. The trick play came with less than three minutes remaining in the game and Sherman already ahead by 24 points.

It was an insult added to injury.

"I give them credit for being 4-0, but I think we're better than we played tonight - I know we are - we just didn't execute plays," Owens said. "Heck, everybody felt great today. We had a great week of work - I don't know what happened. We came out and had just a horrible start offensively.

"It's just a bad game for us. Horrible."

The Wildcats have a bye next week before hosting Texarkana Liberty-Eylau on Oct. 6 in their final pre-district game.

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