Worth The Price Of Admission: Wildcats hold off MP in district-opening thriller
By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor
Oct. 14, 2007 - The best deal in town Friday night was at Gerald Prim Stadium.
For the price of ticket stub, Sulphur Springs Wildcat fans sat through three hours of suspense, drama and emotional twists and turns.
In the end, it all worked out OK.
The Wildcats and Mount Pleasant Tigers hooked up in an intense rivalry showdown that wasn't decided until SSHS free safety Bryant Jackson hauled in his second interception of the game with no time left on the clock to preserve a 32-29 Wildcat victory.
Sulphur Springs never trailed in the game, but had to hold off three potential Mount Pleasant scoring drives in the fourth quarter by coming up with turnovers on each possession. The Wildcats forced six turnovers overall.
SSHS quarterback Tyrick Rollison ran for two touchdowns, threw for two more and senior kicker Oscar Marroquin's first field goal of the season provided the winning margin.
Sulphur Springs improved to 5-1 on the season and more importantly 1-0 in District 11-4A. MP fell to 3-3, 0-1.
Defensively, Jackson and safety Johnny McSheffery each came up with two interceptions, while defensive linemen Ryan Miller and Jamal Freeman dug out fumble recoveries.
Miller's fumble recovery, with 2:12 to play in the game, was extremely pivotal. Sulphur Springs had just made a fourth-and-1 at their own 29-yard line when Brittan Diamond bulled his way for two yards. But, on the next play, Rollison was stripped of the ball and Mount Pleasant took possession at the 37-yard line down by just three points.
On the second play of their possession, however, MP quarterback Terrell Howard was hit by Diamond and Tyler Francis and the ball popped loose. Miller fell it on the 35-yard line to end the scoring threat.
In a span of five plays, the Wildcats rode a roller coaster of emotions with a big fourth-down conversion, then a turnover for each team.
SSHS head coach Greg Owens said the fourth quarter was all about making plays. That's why he went for it on fourth down deep in his own territory.
"You're gut tells you not to go for it, that it's crazy, we should punt it away and play 'D,' " he explained. "But, they kind of had the momentum on their side and we needed to take it back. They had so much speed that they can give it to one guy and break it. We needed to keep possession of the ball.
"But, we turned it back over trying to make a play. That's just part of it. The whole game was about turnovers. What a game -there were so many turning points and pivotal moments in the game."
Mount Pleasant had one last desperation chance with possession of the ball at their own 11-yard line with 64 seconds to play. They got the ball to their own 40-yard line, but with time running out, Jackson came up with his interception.
MP coach Jimmy Thompson was furious about the last play, animatedly talking to the officials in the middle of the field after the game about what he believed should have been a pass interference penalty.
That just seemed to add to the emotion of the contest.
Diamond, who had 53 yards rushing and also got in on 14 tackles, said the game came down to the fourth quarter, like everyone expected.
"It's always a rivalry, and it's always going to be close," said the SSHS senior. "We made bad things happen for them, and they also made bad things happen for us. We just made some plays in the fourth quarter to win it."
At first, it looked like Sulphur Springs would again go out to a big lead, as they have in four of their first five games. The Wildcats scored on two of their first three possessions.
They smartly marched the ball downfield on their first drive, taking just 57 seconds to go 71 yards, capped by Rollison's 23-yard pass to senior DaQualin Evans, who hauled in the TD in the end zone between defenders. Chris Thompson ran in the conversion on the swinging gate for an 8-0 lead.
After the teams exchanged punts, Freeman halted a potential MP scoring drive by coming up with a fumble recovery at the SSHS 19-yard line.
Four plays later, Rollison had his first rushing TD of the game, avoiding a blitz, then taking off on a 14-yard run to make the score 15-0.
Rollison had 97 yards rushing on 15 carries, his most productive rushing game of the season as he led the Wildcats to 199 yards on the ground.
But, the junior quarterback also had his lowest passing output of the season, hitting 14-of-26 for 153 yards. In the second half, he went just 1-of-5.
But, the Wildcat running game played a bigger role than in any contest this year behind the offensive line of Beau Carpenter, Dakota Graham, Colby Suggs, Alex Peek, Jake Russell and Mason Y'Barbo. Junior Rashad Hall added 30 yards rushing on three carries.
"They were giving us some runs and we were trying to work the clock, and they made a few adjustments as well," Owens said. "We were trying to help our defense, get them off the field a little bit and work the clock. Rashad had some great runs in the middle of that, and the O-line was opening some holes."
As quickly as Sulphur Springs built a lead, Mount Pleasant tied it. Eric Smith broke a 66-yard TD run on an option play, then wide receiver Trenston Hill outjumped an SSHS cornerback for a 9-yard TD pass to tie it.
But, in what became a common theme, the Wildcats answered right back, getting in position for Marroquin's 26-yard field goal. Then, after the SSHS defense held by coming up with Jackson's first interception, the Wildcats marched 78 yards in less than two minutes to take a 25-15 halftime lead.
The drive was kept alive on a 10-yard catch by Jeff Beck on third-and-1, then a leaping 24-yard reception by Jace Jackson to get the ball inside the 10-yard line. Rollison then found Beck on a short out route. The senior receiver stretched out, tipped the ball to himself, then cradled it in for the 5-yard TD.
Beck finished with five catches for 48 yards and Jackson had three receptions for 36 yards.
Mount Pleasant then drove down to the 17-yard line and attempted a 31-yard field goal by Joel Whitaker, which went wide right. A penalty gave the Tigers another chance, but this time, Whitaker's attempt fell short to preserve the Wildcats' 25-15 halftime lead.
MP cut into it midway through the third quarter when Howard again found Hill for a touchdown, this time a 41-yard connection to cut the Wildcat lead to 25-22.
But, Sulphur Springs answered right back on a 62-yard drive given a start by Hall's two carries for 30 yards and ending on Rollison's cross-country scramble that resulted in a 27-yard TD run.
Mount Pleasant scored again with just 33 seconds ran off the fourth-quarter clock when Howard kept the ball on an option 30 yards for a touchdown. Whitaker's extra point cut the deficit to 32-29.
But, a leaping interception by McSheffery at the 1-yard line, the fumble recovery by Miller and Bryant's final play interception kept Mount Pleasant out of the end zone the remainder of the game after a fourth-quarter talk by Owens.
"The kids get getting after it and plugging away. Mount Pleasant's good," Owens said. " told them to do what they've done all year, go out there have fun and get after it.
"They were hungry and made plays. Defense stepped up there the last few drives and made some big plays. Big plays, big stops and great, great win. Really a great win. "