Paris vs. SS first game

By DON WALLACE, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Aug. 28, 2008 - Both teams have something to prove.

Sulphur Springs is out to build on last year's 9-2 record and prove they can handle the ups and downs of a long football season.

Paris, which dropped from 4A to 3A, is ready to show the fans they are better than last year's 3-7 mark.

The battle of Wildcats will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gerald Prim Stadium. Last year Sulphur Springs took a 25-15 win over the Wildcats from Paris in a key district battle. This year, the game is simply a tune-up for district and a season opener which could be intriguing.

The Sulphur Springs squad is favored by 15 points according to the Harris poll. But head coach Greg Owens is not taking the bait and won't overlook the visitors from Paris.

"They have several Division I-type players. Westley Martin at left defensive end is a two-year starter and their best defensive linemen, he's big and strong," Owens said. "They also have Roro Barr a two-year starter in the secondary and a good, athletic player. Josh Wallace is another good one, he's very fast.'

Both teams are guided by tall quarterbacks returning for another battle against each other. While Sulphur Springs has 6-3 Tyrik Rollinson, the Paris squad counters with 6-5 Quin Rollerson.

"Rollerson is tall, athletic and hard to bring down," Owens said. "They also have weapons in Walter Gunn, a 5-7 shifty runner. Dominique Mitchell has great hands and is their best receiver."

The game is important for another reason, setting the tone. Neither team wants to be 0-1 coming out of the blocks.

"We want to get some kind of consistency going, both sides of the ball," Owens said. "Just for our state-of-mind. We know we won't be perfect. But we want to get in rhythm for a game pace. A wide open game suits our attack better than scrimmages. So this game is a lot better for us."

Owens said he know his team is tired of practice and ready to be involved in game which count.

"When we start mixing our one's (starters) in we will see more intensity and focus," Owens said. "These games are for real and here we go. I am excited to see how our kids perform."

The Sulphur Springs players have been not just adjusting to practices, but the first year of school. The coach said practices leading up to the Paris game have been good. The team is working more on conditioning to battle the humid weather which is always present the few weeks of football season.

"We've been practicinng two-a-days during the cooler weather. Now the kids walk out after being in the school house all day and the temperature and humidity hits them. It zaps them, it zaps coaches. We have to learn to play through that and be ready for it mentally.It's just all part of it/"

The coach said that with the advent of school starting, the team and coaches can get into a habit and a routine to replace the grind of two-a-days practices.

Owens said he thinks a key to the game will be ball control.

"It's always ball control with me," Owens said. "We can't let them put is in predictable situations. When Paris has the ball we have to put them in long yardage situations. We have to force their hand. We can't let people consisently move the ball on us."

"Offensively we have to run perfect routes, doing what we do. Catching the ball and being focused," Owens said. "Traditionally Paris brings heat and lots of it. We have to be tuned in and pick it up. I want us to be consistent and have a 1o or 12 play drive and punch it in. We don't have to have the long ball.Paris is not as quick as they were linebacker-wise last year. We expect pressure, but not as much. They know they can't sit back or we will eat them up."

Areas of concern for Sulphur Springs heading into the first game include the defensive line and the kicking game.

"It's time for the defensive line to rise up," Owens said. "We got to grow with those guys. We'll have a rotation of five or six guys getting reps. Our kicking game still concerns me, we haven't really done it live. I got three guys battling for the spot, we will probably use them all at one time in the year."

The coach said this game will be a step toward establishing the identity of the team.

"We don't know who we are yet," Owens said. "Some people said last year we were over-achievers. Maybe that was so, I agree with that to some extent. We expect to win every ball game. Like the T-High (Texas High) game last year. We got in there and made plays. I was pleased with those kids. This is a new beginning, we are still working on some things. You have to see the leadership rise."

Owens then looked over some of the strong points of the team. He said the addition of Ryan Young running behind and experienced line will make teams play the Wildcats honest on the pass and run. He also mentioned the play of Colton Nash a 6-7 defender with the potential to play Division I football.

"We have several guys back at key spots. Nash needs to dominate his side of the football," Owens said. "Our passing game is a strong suit. With our linemen and Young we ought to be able to move people. we want to put people in a bind. To cover our run or throw, make them make a decision."

Owens said he is also looking for strong play this year from the defensive secondary.

"It will be different opening with Paris instead of seeing them in district," Owens said. "But we know what each other can do because we played them before."

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