No Doubt About It: Wildcats wrap up district title with efficient victory over N. Lamar

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

Nov. 11, 2007 - PARIS - Winning doesn't get boring, but the Sulphur Springs Wildcats made sure that Friday's regular season finale against North Lamar wouldn't get too interesting.

For all the drama of last week's thrilling victory over Texas High, the Wildcats deserved a more sedate win, and they got it with a workman-like 49-0 victory over the Panthers at R.L. Maddox Stadium.

While not a taunt game, the win was satisfying for the Wildcats because it gave them a 5-0 record in District 11-4A and the first outright district championship since 1994.

"It's a great accomplishment for the guys to go 5-0," said SSHS head coach Greg Owens in his second year at the helm. "That's a big deal, and that gives us some momentum going into the playoffs. We're also healthy - and that's a big key for us."

The Wildcats will take on Whitehouse (9-1) in the bi-district round of the Class 4A, Div. II playoffs, with the game tentatively set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mesquite's Hanby Stadium (see the accompanying story for details).

Sulphur Springs (9-1 overall) generated 515 yards of total offense while holding a bruised and battered North Lamar squad to just 54 total yards.

The Wildcat defense, led by linebackers Dillon Verner, Josh Dunn and Brittan Diamond, limited North Lamar to just six first downs, allowed the Panthers to cross midfield on only one drive and came away with three more turnovers.

The Wildcats scored on every offensive possession except for the final drive when they let the clock run out with the ball inside the North Lamar 30.

SSHS junior quarterback Tyrick Rollison accounted for 365 yards of total offense, completing 19-of-27 passes for 266 yards and rushing eight times for 99 yards. He threw for four TDs and ran for another.

Senior receiver Chris Thompson caught five passes for 94 yards, including a school record 10th TD of the season, while Jeff Beck, Jace Jackson and DaQualin Evans each hauled in a touchdown pass.

If there was a hiccup for the Wildcats, it was in the penalty department, where they were flagged seven time for 50 yards and had two long touchdowns brought back on infractions.

"We played OK. We still had too many errors in the first half," Owens said. "We started really fast, but those things slowed us down a little bit."

The Sulphur Springs defense, meanwhile, slowed down North Lamar (3-7, 1-4).

The Panthers were already short-handed due to injuries, then starting running back A.J. George left in the first period with a recurring leg injury. With virtually no passing game, the Panthers are dependent on a strong running attack, but the Wildcats held North Lamar to just 45 yards rushing on 27 carries.

North Lamar was equally ineffective passing, going 1-of-7 for nine yards with one interception by SSHS safety Jayden Wallace.

"The defense played great the whole game," Owens said. "North Lamar was a little short-handed tonight, but our kids kept making plays and executing the game plan. Even if we were better athletically than they were, we still executed the game plan."

The SSHS defense forced North Lamar into a three-and-out on the game's first possession, then the Wildcats struck quickly - or so they thought. Rollison hit Jackson with a jailbreak screen that he took 61 yards for a touchdown, but the play was called back for an illegal shift.

The Wildcats ended up settling for Oscar Marroquin's 32-yard field goal, his fifth successful field goal of the season, for a 3-0 lead.

Following another North Lamar punt, Sulphur Springs quickly made the score 10-0 as Rollison showed off his running skills on a 36-yard scramble to set up his own 9-yard, weaving TD run. Junior running back Rashad Hall also had runs of 18 and 10 yards to power the drive.

Marroquin's extra point gave the Wildcats a 10-0 lead and the game was essentially over from that point.

North Lamar punted on its next two possessions as SSHS cornerback Darrell Franklin tipped away one third-down pass and a heavy rush by the defensive line forced another third-down incompletion.

The Wildcats took advantage of relatively short fields on both occasions, going 38 yards for one TD - a 17-yard completion from Rollison to Evans, who was sprung on the jailbreak screen by a great block from tackle Jake Russell - and a 2-yard scoring run by Diamond which was set up by a 47-yard bomb from Rollison to Jackson.

That gave Sulphur Springs a 23-0 lead with 7:08 to play in the half, and the Wildcats tacked on one last second-quarter TD after defensive end Gabriel Rubio came up with a fumble recovery at the Wildcats' 34-yard line with 2:10 to play.

It took the Wildcats just 83 seconds to go the distance, the final 21 coming when Thompson caught a crossing pass, then ran through an attempted tackle into the end zone for his 10th TD of the season. That breaks the school record he shared with Kendall Wright (2003).

Ahead 29-0 at halftime, the Wildcats' first-string offense scored the next two times it had the ball - on a 21-yard TD catch by Jackson and a 3-yard scoring reception by Beck. Jackson finished with four catches for 75 yards and Beck had five receptions for 41 yards.

"It was a great job by the guys to get the win," Owens said. "We were a little flat, but the last two drives by the first group, when they were in, were good. We challenged them at halftime to come out and take care of that."

The Wildcats' second-string offense put up the final TD when back-up quarterback Johnny McSheffery fueled a 62-yard drive with runs of 23 and 13 yards to set up his own 11-yard scoring run. Quentin Long had a 29-yard TD run brought back on a holding penalty.

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