Stop Sign: Performance of first-string D is highlight of Cats' scrimmage

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 20, 2007 - GREENVILLE - Greg Owens and his defensive staff have been preaching the importance of shutting down their opponent's running game and making third-down stops.

The Wildcats apparently have been listening.

The performance of the first-string defense was the highlight of Sulphur Springs' scrimmage against the Greenville Lions Saturday morning at T.A. "Cotton" Ford Stadium.

The Wildcats starting defensive unit allowed just 18 yards rushing on 13 carries and didn't allow Greenville's first-string offense to convert any of its six third-down opportunities.

The Wildcats first-string offense scored one touchdown - a 1-yard TD run by Brittan Diamond set up by a 50-yard completion from quarterback Tyrick Rollison to DaQualin "Boo" Evans. Greenville countered with two TDs against the SSHS second-string defense.

"I thought we hit extremely well, flying around. The defense was running to the ball," said Owens. "We had a lot of third-down stops. That's one of the big things we've been preaching - stop them on third. We were very pleased with the way they got after it.

"The D-line, especially the interior two, got off blocks and put pressure on the quarterback."

The interior two were defensive tackles Rodney Evans and Jamal Freeman. Their penetration, along with the play of middle linebacker Josh Dunn, helped the Wildcats stop Greenville's starting offense for zero or minus yardage on 10 of its 13 running plays.

Sulphur Springs also came up with two interceptions, one each by Dalton Abner and Kaylon Page, and a fumble recovery by Evans, who had a sack also.

Offensively, Rollison took all the snaps with the starting offense and completed 20-of-29 passes for 169 yards. Diamond caught eight balls for 50 yards and Chris Thompson hauled in six catches for 44 yards.

But, the offense didn't generate much on the ground. The Wildcats were starting three juniors and two sophomores on the offensive line.

"Offensively, we were a little tentative, and I think that's because of some of the youth we have on offense right now up front," Owens said. "I want to see them be more aggressive up there.

"We just didn't get in an offensive rhythm. That's coming. The kids feel confident about what we're doing. Tyrick read things well - there were a couple of errant throws, and that may have had something to do with the wind."

The teams' varsity and JV units alternated possessions for about 90 minutes before the varsities went in a live 15-minute quarter. Neither team scored in the live quarter. The Wildcats have four first downs to none for Greenville.

Owens was most pleased with the intensity he saw from his starters.

"I saw that we had enthusiasm, a lot of enthusiasm with the kids. We had some life about us today," he said. "I don't know if it was having an opponent against us or whatever, but they got after it.

"They were focused, they were into it, making plays and playing with confidence."

Neither team's junior varsities scored during their possessions, and the total yardage for both teams was almost identical at around 120 yards.

"The JV kids mixed it up and got after it," Owens said. "They've been practicing against our varsity the last two weeks, so they feel like they can compete with anybody."

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