McKinney widely unknown, so Wildcats focusing on themselves
By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor
It's difficult every year to evaluate a team going into its season opener. This year's McKinney squad raises that bar to a new level.
Though Sulphur Springs and McKinney played last year's opener, the Lions don't have very many familiar faces from that team, which won the game 32-7.
This season, the game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gerald Prim Stadium.
McKinney has just one starter back from last year and a new head coach and coordinators to boot. SSHS coaches haven't even been able to see the potential starting quarterback, who is a sophomore but missed the first two weeks of practice and didn't play in McKinney's scrimmages because he was with the U.S. national baseball team playing in Venezuela.
"It's hard to evaluate McKinney," Owens said. "Sometimes breaking down personnel is a little difficult on a scrimmage because they may not be wearing numbers and they're still swapping starters in with second-teamers."
Safety/receiver Daniel Brasch is the returning starter, though cornerback Daniel Martinez has been in-and-out of the lineup the last two years.
The Lions will likely start sophomore Ronald Rocquemore at quarterback, though senior Ty Gerrild has also been getting first-team snaps in the scrimmages. Sophomore Zach Lee won the job in spring training, but missed two weeks of practice. The first day he can wear pads, according to UIL rules, is tomorrow.
New McKinney coach Bobby Reyes led Richardson Pearce for eight seasons, so Owens has been able to evaluate some of Pearce's films from last year to look at formations and schemes.
The Lions will run a spread formation with variations that include four receivers, two backs or a tight end.
But, Owens said the Wildcats are more concerned with what they should be doing rather than what McKinney might come out with.
"We prepare for McKinney, but we have to do what we need to do," Owens commented. "It'll still be a chess match at game time, but there's a lot of preparation. What we've honed in on is 'Here's what we do. Let's be good at it and do it well.' "
Both SSHS and McKinney have young teams — the Wildcats will start four sophomores and McKinney will start five. That youth, in itself, presents challenges.
"I really think in this game, momentum of the game is key," Owens said. "It'll favor the team that can jump out there and score early, get good field position and just kind of get things rolling — I think that wears on another young team."
Special teams can be another key area because neither team has done them live in game situations. Last year, McKinney had an 81-yard punt return for a TD that sent them on their way to the win.
Sulphur Springs, though, swept all the subvarsity games last season. The JV won, 27-7, the freshmen "A" squad was a 42-32 victor and the "B" team won, 22-0.
"Everyone wants to start well, and it important because you want to get a fresh start and a good start with the kids," Owens said. "Morale-wise, it's good to get that first one. Everyone would love to win the first game, but it doesn't make or break the season."