Triumphant Return: Wildcats are 2-0 as Owens picks up victory over Lindale

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

Oct. 21, 2007 - LINDALE - Sulphur Springs head coach Greg Owens may have derived some pleasure Friday night from being able to beat the team he coached for nine years. But, he was most pleased about being 2-0.

The Wildcats took another step toward a playoff berth with a 40-27 victory over Lindale at Eagle Stadium that improved their record to 2-0 in District 11-4A and 6-1 overall.

The Wildcats are riding a five-game winning streak and a share of the district lead with Texas High as they prepare for Paris (0-2, 3-4) next week.

Sulphur Springs did it Friday behind another explosive night in the passing game as junior quarterback Tyrick Rollison set another school record, this time by throwing for 457 yards. He completed 26-of-37 passes for three touchdowns and each of the starting receivers had at least one highlight reel play.

Senior wide receiver Chris Thompson got loose for two touchdowns as part of his six-catch, 143-yard outing, senior Jeff Beck made a dazzling 70-yard TD run after a short catch to contribute to his seven-catch, 137-yard game, and junior Jace Jackson grabbed four balls for 103 yards. It is the first time in school history that three receivers have gone over 100 yards receiving in a single game.

The defense also widened its impressive take-away margin. The Wildcats came up with four more interceptions - two by sophomore Shane McQueen and one each by juniors Dillon Verner and Johnny McSheffery - to give them 18 picks for the season. Anthony Mills also came up with a fumble recovery, the team's 10th of the year.

Owens said the Wildcats weren't perfect (they punted seven times and allowed 20 fourth-quarter points), but did more than enough to win.

"It was a good win for us, a great win. We're 2-0 and in much better shape than we were in last year," he said. "We always talk about perfection, and that's what we strive for, but the bottom line is to get the win. We want to be sharp and perfect, and that's the expectation of our kids, but the main thing is win the game."

The Wildcats put up 28 first-half points and took a 37-7 lead in the third quarter before Lindale mounted a late charge.

For the first time since their second game against Whitehouse, the Wildcats didn't score on their first drive of the game. But, that changed on their second possession.

It took SSHS just two plays to go 40 yards after a short punt by Lindale. On the second play, Rollison found Thompson all alone on a deep post for the 37-yard scoring strike. Oscar Marroquin nailed the PAT for a 7-0 Wildcat lead.

The Sulphur Springs defense, led by Brittan Diamond and Verner with 13 tackles each and Josh Dunn and McSheffery with nine stops apiece, then forced another punt.

This time, it took the Wildcats three plays to span 60 yards. A 35-yard pickup by Jace Jackson on a jailbreak screen and a 24-yard yard by Rashad Hall put the ball at the 1-yard line, and Diamond powered his way into the end zone for a 13-0 lead with 3:34 left in the opening period.

The Wildcats made it 21-0 early in the second period when Beck made his highlight catch-and-run. He caught a jailbreak screen, got a ferocious clearing block from guard Alex Peek, cut down the middle of the Lindale defense and ran way from the secondary to complete the 70-yard TD. Rollison's conversion run gave the Wildcats a 21-0 lead.

Lindale cut the deficit to 21-7 on a 1-yard dive by quarterback Nate Simmons to cap a 65-yard drive. Then, Sulphur Springs had to punt on its next possession, giving the Eagles another chance with the ball near midfield.

But, Dunn stopped the Lindale drive with a quarterback sack that netted a 12-yard loss, forcing a change of possession.

The Wildcats then marched downfield on another quick drive to go up 28-7 on Rollison's 1-yard plunge. The drive - which was the Wildcats' longest scoring possession of the first half at 1 minute, 16 seconds - was powered by a 19-yard catch by DaQualin Evans and a 34-yard, tackle-breaking catch-and-run by Thompson to get the ball to the 1.

That gave Sulphur Springs a 28-7 cushion heading into halftime.

The Wildcats had a chance to get more points at the end of the half, but sack of Rollison inside the 10-yard line allowed the clock to run out.

Twice in the second half, the Wildcats got inside the Lindale 15 as well, but had to settle for field goals of 25 and 32 yards by Marroquin.

"There were times we sputtered, and we got frustrated there a little bit," Owens said. "We got down inside the 10 and didn't get touchdowns out of it. Oscar did a great job kicking field goals, but we wanted to put more points on the board."

Sulphur Springs added another TD on its first drive of the second half when Thompson again got behind the secondary on a deep post and Rollison found him for a 44-yard scoring connection.

The possession was set up by McSheffery's fourth interception of the year as he dove in front of Lindale receiver to scoop the ball before it hit the ground. The SSHS secondary covered up Lindale receivers the first three quarters, and McSheffery said film work and scouting played a big role.

"We watched a lot of film, morning and afternoon practice, after school. We've hit it hard," he said. "The coaches had us coached well. We were able to look at their formations and break it down.

"The defense is all in sync together, being in the right place to make plays."

After Lindale's Simmons threw two fourth-quarter TD passes to Johnathan King of 57 yards and to Joseph Clemmons of 26 yards, SSHS' McQueen ended the game with a leaping interception near the sideline, a replica of his first-quarter pick.

"The guys did a great job," Owens said. "We knew what they were going to run at us, and made some plays.

"We weren't as crisp as we wanted to be, but we came away with a win."

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