Wildcats have chance to make district trophy detour from Texarkana

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

Nov. 1, 2007 - For the last five years, the road to the district championship has gone through Texarkana. On Friday, Sulphur Springs has a chance for the trophy to make a detour.

Texas High, winners of 27 consecutive district contests, will come to Gerald Prim Stadium on Friday in a match-up of two teams that are 3-0 in District 11-4A. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

The Tigers are 5-2-1 overall and are riding a four-game winning streak in which they have given up just 21 points. Sulphur Springs, on the other hand, has a 7-1 record, a six-game winning streak and is averaging over 37 points per game this season.

It has the underpinnings of a classic match-up.

"It's a great opportunity for our kids," said SSHS head coach Greg Owens. "We're sitting here at 3-0 and 7-1 on the year, and I don't know if anyone had that on our goal sheet, realistically, that we'd be at this point. The kids have earned the right to be here, and we're excited about the opportunity here before us.

"I think our kids will play a great ball game."

Texas High is favored by 13 points in the Harris Poll. To beat Texas High, the Wildcats will have to be consistent offensively against a Tiger defense that is giving up just 15 points per game. They are physical, fast and led by linebackers Brandon Brown and Terry Matthews.

T-High has posted two shutouts in the last four games.

Sulphur Springs' offense will need to be at its best to score against a T-High defense that Owens said has few weaknesses. The Wildcats have four receivers who each has more than 500 yards receiving and at least four TDs, and quarterback Tyrick Rollison (2,711 yards passing, 27 TDs) will need to connect with them, Owens said.

The Wildcat offensive line of Beau Carpenter, Alex Peek, Colby Suggs, Dakota Graham, Jake Russell and Mason Y'Barbo will also shoulder a big load against an aggressive T-High defensive line.

"Our offensive line needs to be consistent because their defensive line is physical and fast," Owens said. "There are some things we've worked on, and hopefully that will help our kids out. We can't get greedy. We have to take advantage of what they give us."

Offensively, Texas High has replaced All-State MVP quarterback Ryan Mallett (now starting at the University of Michigan) with promising sophomore southpaw Nathan Sorenson (6-3, 186). He has completed 72-of-128 passes for 1,258 yards, 11 TDs and four interceptions.

His favorite receiver is 6-3 leaper Cobi Hamilton, who is averaging 24 yards per catch and has caught six TDs. Their best running back is Leroy Jones, who is averaging 8.8-yards per carry and has scored seven TDs. As a team, the Tigers are averaging 6.9-yards per carry.

That's a byproduct of an offensive line that weighs an average of 298 pounds.

"They're playing some younger kids, and I think the plan may be to stay conservative in what they're doing. They've been pretty basic, but they're big and they're fast," Owens said. "Defensively, we've got to get lined up properly and tackle well. They're going to put their big offensive linemen on us and try to wear us down. We've got to read, get off those blocks and tackle well. We can't get tied up with those big offensive linemen."

Overall, the Wildcats likely need to play their best game to beat a team that has won five straight district championships.

"Our kids know that this is T-High," Owens explained. "They know they've got to come out and play four quarters for sure against these guys. If we're close in the fourth quarter, I think we have a good chance to beat these guys."

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