Championship Round: Wildcats finish opening day 2-1; continue play today

By BOBBY “BUTCH” BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

July 13, 2008 - COLLEGE STATION - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats weren’t perfect on Friday, but they were good enough.

Playing in the shadow of Kyle Field on the Texas A&M campus, the Wildcats made it to Saturday’s Championship Bracket of the state 7-on-7 tournament by winning two of their three pool games on Friday.

After a furious second-half comeback against Lufkin fell short in the first game, the Wildcats won by deceptively close scores against Houston Memorial and Denton Guyer to finish second in Pool H. The top two teams from each of the tournament’s 16 pools advanced to the Championship Bracket, while the other two play in the Consolation Bracket.

The FSN 7-on-7 State Championship presented by adidas and Academy Sports and Outdoors will wrap up Saturday with the final game to be played at Kyle Field.

The Wildcats were scheduled to play at 9 a.m. Saturday in the single-elimination bracket.

Lufkin 35, Wildcats 32

While 7-on-7 is considered an offensive game, both Lufkin and Sulphur Springs found out that you must still play defense. Both offenses scored every time they had the ball but once in the first half, which Lufkin led 28-19.

But, the Wildcats, led by coverage from cornerback Anthony Mills, held Lufkin scoreless on four of their five offensive drives in the second half. That allowed Sulphur Springs to take a 32-28 lead when quarterback Tyrik Rollison threaded a 10-yard pass between defenders to receiver Jace Jackson.

Lufkin, though, put together its lone second-half TD drive on the next possession to retake the lead. The Wildcats had the ball twice more, but turned it over on downs and then had the game clock run out on their final possession.

Rollison completed 20-of-36 passes for 237 yards, including TD passes to Jackson, Ben Barrows, Rashad Hall, Ryan Young and Garrett Ferguson. Jackson led all receivers with eight catches for 122 yards, while Hall had five grabs for 70 yards.

Wildcats 40, Houston Memorial 33

The Wildcats took as much as an 18-point lead in the second half, but Memorial closed the gap, scoring on the game’s final play to make the score look closer than the game played.

The Wildcats had seven different receivers catch passes and five of them either caught touchdowns or conversions. Rollison finished 20-of-33 for 225 yards.

Sulphur Springs scored on all four of their first half possessions as Rollison hit Jackson for a 2-yard TD, came back to connect with Shane McQueen on a 45-yard bomb, went down the middle to Barrows for a 25-yard score, and hit Jackson again with a 6-yard touchdown. Ryan Young also caught a conversion as Sulphur Springs held a 26-14 halftime lead.

The defense, meanwhile, allowed just two touchdowns on Memorial’s five first-half drives. Cornerback Darrell Franklin knocked down one fourth-down pass to stall a Mustang drive, and safety Johnny McSheffery defended on a third-down attempt to close out another Memorial possession.

In the second half, the Wildcats extended their lead to 32-14 as Ferguson hauled in a 2-yard reception, and after Memorial scored on two of its next three drives, Mills went up and grabbed a 5-yard jump ball from Rollison to ice the game.

Jackson again led all receivers with seven catches for 69 yards, and Hall had four receptions for 60 yards. Barrows and Ferguson each caught three passes.

Defensively, linebacker Dillon Verner came up with an interception.

Wildcats 41, Denton Guyer 27

Sulphur Springs had to beat Guyer to advance to the championship bracket, and the Wildcats exerted their dominance early, going up 14-0 after two possessions.

Hall made a diving catch in the end zone of a 9-yard pass from Rollison for the first TD, and Jackson grabbed a 2-yard scoring pass for the second score. Jackson had his best game of the day, catching three touchdowns and three conversions, finishing with 10 receptions for 131 yards.

After the Wildcats took the early lead, the teams traded TDs until halftime, with SSHS leading, 28-14. Jackson made a 34-yard reception as he outran the Guyer defense down the middle of the field, and Barrows caught a 2-yard touchdown for the Wildcats’ final first-half score.

They extended their lead to 41-14 after their first two possessions of the second half. Ferguson caught five passes in the first half, including a 3-yard TD, then Jackson made a full-out diving catch to complete an 18-yard scoring play.

Defensively, safety Triston Crook broke up a Guyer conversion attempt, and Franklin knocked down two pass attempts in the end zone on their final possession. The Wildcats also had three four-second calls (in which the play is blown dead if the quarterback does not release the ball in four seconds) thanks in part to linebackers Verner, Jayden Wallace, Jocko Spataro and Tyler Higginbotham.

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