Half Done: Wildcats build halftime lead, but Whitehouse washes it away

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

Sept. 9, 2007 - WHITEHOUSE - It would have been just fine with the Sulphur Springs Wildcats if halftime had never come on Friday.

The Wildcats had Whitehouse on its heels by the end of the first half, but Whitehouse got their feet back under them in the second half on the way to a 38-22 victory at Wildcat Stadium.

Whitehouse junior quarterback Brady Attaway threw six touchdowns to five different receivers, completing 26-of-44 passes for 307 yards, and running back Matt Ponce ran for 118 yards on 12 carries to lead Whitehouse's potent offense.

Sulphur Springs countered with junior quarterback Tyrick Rollison throwing for 402 yards, the second-most in school history, on 28-of-51 passes. Two SSHS receivers had triple-digit nights as Jace Jackson caught eight passes for 101 yards and a TD, and DaQualin "Boo" Evans had four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.

But, Sulphur Springs receivers dropped two potential touchdowns and Rollison was picked off four times, three of them in the second half.

SSHS middle linebacker Josh Dunn had a tremendous game with 17 tackles and a fumble recovery, but Whitehouse also found a way to convert all four of its fourth-down attempts, including a momentum-changing TD early in the third period.

That pass, a 43-yard TD from Attaway to Julian Broaddus, gave Whitehouse a 24-22 lead, and Sulphur Springs could never recover.

It was especially hurtful because the Wildcats had scored 22 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes of the first half to take a 22-18 halftime lead. It could have been more, but a potential TD pass went off a receiver's hands in the end zone with 22 seconds left in the half.

SSHS head coach Greg Owens said it was a frustrating second half for the Wildcats, who looked better than ever in the second quarter when they speeded up the tempo and put Whitehouse out of rhythm.

"We had them on the ropes and I wish we could have just kept right on playing through halftime," Owens said. "We had them bending over. We could have put the dagger in them at halftime.

"In the second half, we stall out and don't execute. If we do, I think we have them on the ropes. But, there's a change of events and turnovers, and that's the difference in the game when two good teams play each other."

The Wildcats had to punt on their first two possessions of the second half, when they were also trying to overcome a flag-happy head official, who threw the majority of 18 combined flags against both teams.

Still, Sulphur Springs had its chances, but a crucial drop of a potential TD on third-and-18 short-circuited one drive, and then Rollison was picked off to end the next three possessions.

Whitehouse, meanwhile, had to punt just twice in the second half, and did not have any turnovers after Attaway threw two interceptions in the opening half. His passes were picked off by Quentin Long and Bryant Jackson.

"This is one of those could of, should of, would of games," Owens said. "This is one of those that I felt like we should have won. We just didn't execute. We're dropping touchdown passes, we're making key mistakes and letting guys go. We just didn't execute some things.

"But, it's all fixable. I think we're a good ballclub. That's a good club over there," he said, motioning toward Whitehouse. "They execute their offense well."

Sulphur Springs executed its offense extremely well in the final 13 minutes of the first half.

Whitehouse took an 18-0 lead as Attaway threw three TD passes, including a 35-yard scoring strike to Asher Williams on the game's opening play. His other TDs went to Lesley Perdue (3 yards) and Bart Henderson (18 yards).

But, with 1:39 to go in the half, the Wildcats went to their Nascar, hurry-up offense and things started clicking as they moved 75 yards in 39 seconds. The drive, capped by Jackson's 12-yard catch, was fueled by a 43-yard bomb from Rollison to Evans on third-and-10.

After senior kicker Oscar Marroquin - who hit both PATs he attempted - barely missed wide left on a 35-yard field goal attempt, the Wildcats got the ball right back on Jackson's diving interception of an Attaway pass at the 37-yard line.

Immediately, the Wildcats went on the attack and Rollison found Evans for a 37-yard TD strike. Brittan Diamond ran in the conversion to draw Sulphur Springs to within 18-15.

The defense held again, this time led by a pair of tackles from lineman Ryan Miller, and the Wildcats got the ball back at their own 35-yard line. Rollison lost 10 yards on a sack on the series' opening play, but on the next play he found sophomore Shane McQueen streaking down the home sideline, and Rollison launched a bomb. McQueen made a heady adjustment to get inside the defensive back, caught the ball in stride and outran the defense to the end zone. Marroquin's extra point gave the Wildcats a 22-18 advantage with 6:03 to play in the half.

That was all the scoring the Wildcats would do, however.

In the second half, Whitehouse's Attaway started the scoring with his TD pass to Broaddus, then threw a 2-yard scoring strike to Henderson and a 25-yard TD pass to Heath Mayo.

SSHS safety Johnny McSheffery came up with six tackles, including a sack, while defensive tackle Rodney Evans added seven tackles and combined with end Tyler Francis on another sack. Cornerback Dalton Abner added nine tackles and Diamond had seven stops and caused a fumble.

Both teams hit big plays. They each had six plays that covered 20 yards or more.

"They just executed a little better. They just made plays," Owens said. "I don't think we got overconfident at all in the second half. We made a few little adjustments, but we've just got to make plays at key times. We need to settle down and make plays. I know we can. It's all things that can be fixed."

The Wildcats will have a chance on Friday when they host Denison at 7:30 p.m. Homecoming activities will begin at about 6:40 p.m. It is also Fall Festival weekend and school will be dismissed that day.

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