Better practices, hopefully a better result for Wildcats this week

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

Sept. 13, 2007 - After a better round of practices this week, SSHS head coach Greg Owens believes the Wildcats will have a better result on Friday.

The Wildcats lagged on a few practices before losing to Whitehouse last Friday, but Owens said the Wildcats had a renewed intensity this week during practice.

He'll see if it equates to a victory when the Wildcats host the Denison Yellowjackets at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gerald Prim Stadium. Homecoming activities are slated to begin at about 6:40 p.m.

"We've had some good practices," Owens said. "This week, kids have been refocused. I think the coaches did a real good job of getting them refocused on some things we've got to get better at.

"The kids' attitudes are great. They're hungry, they're eager, and they know we have a chance to be really good. They know the things they have to do to get there. We have enough depth this year that we can get kids' attention when they're not giving us maximum effort."

It was important for the Wildcats (1-1) to get in a good rhythm because tomorrow will not be a normal game. First, school is out due to the Fall Festival, then homecoming can tend to be a distraction.

On top of that, Denison comes in with a 1-1 record and a history of success against the Wildcats, including a 49-35 victory last year. Denison holds a 4-1 record against Sulphur Springs all-time.

This year, Denison comes in with a young offense based around the running of sophomore D.J. Jones and junior Shaun Brown. As usual, the Yellowjackets are ground-based, though they operate out of the spread formation under first-year coach Cody White, who was their offensive coordinator the last two years.

"They spread you out to run it," Owens explained. "They have two big running backs they like to feed the ball to. They'll come off that with play action and try to throw it a little bit to keep you honest.

"They want to run the football first - that's just who they are."

Jones has picked up 185 yards rushing the first two weeks and Brown has scored a pair of TDs on short-yardage plays. Senior quarterback Eric Chavez has thrown three TD passes, all in the Yellowjackets' 39-6 opening win over Greenville.

Sophomore Jordan Taylor, who caught two of the touchdowns at wide receiver, may also take some snaps at quarterback.

It will be up to the Wildcat defensive front seven of Jamal Freeman, Rodney Evans, Tyler Francis, Colton Nash, Josh Dunn, Brittan Diamond, Rashad Hall and Dillon Verner to shut down the run.

"We really haven't been tested a whole lot on our run because our first two games, they other teams threw the ball," Owens said. "We've got to make them do what they don't want to do - we've got to shut down the run and make them throw the football."

Defensively, Denison brings in the quickest, most athletic squad that the Wildcats have seen. Their defensive linemen all weigh 220 pounds or less, and their linebackers can run to the ball.

The Wildcats will likely use screens and misdirection plays to use their speed and aggression against them.

"This will probably be the quickest defense we've faced thus far. They get off blocks well and like to strike you," Owens said. "The linebackers move well, the defensive front are quick guys. These kids hit you and get off and run."

He added that the Wildcat offense needs to settle down at the beginning of the game and have a more efficient start than they have the first two weeks. He believes part of the problem is that the young players (six are first-year starters) are too wired before the game.

"I think we need to calm down and have a little smoother start. We need to methodically move the ball and get in a comfort zone," Owens said. "We're too excited, too juiced up, and they've got to mature and slow down and get in a rhythm."

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