Wildcats, Tiger both vie for football playoff berths
By DON WALLACE, News-Telegram Sports Editor
Oct. 9, 2008 - Both teams have the eye on the same prize and they're traveling on the same road.
The road runs through Texarkana Friday as the teams clash at Texas High with a 13-4A playoff berth on the line.
Texas High and Sulphur Springs both have seen Longview up and close and personal and lost to the raging Lobos. This should be a more even matchup for both teams.
The Tigers are hoping that the dreams of revenge will tip the scales toward their favor. Last year the Wildcats inflicted a 28-24 defeat on Texarkana and not only snapped a 27-game winning streak, but cost the Tigers a playoff berth. Then Sulphur Springs finished the district slate undefeated as district champs.
The Tigers still remember that bitter loss, at least Sulphur Springs head coach Greg Owens thinks so.
"I'm sure they have bulletin board material for us, just like we did for them," Owens said.
The main concern of the Sulphur Springs coach is getting his team bounce back from the 32-13 loss to Longview. The defeat was the first defeat tasted in 2008 by the players and coaches.
"This is a different feeling than what we've had," Owens said. "We have more anxiousness on the coaches' part of being prepared and taking care of that."
The coach continued, "I don't know why we can't bounce back from the loss to Longview. We found out a few things about our football team. We know we have areas to improve on. We're back to some fundamentals this week like tackling on defense and blocking on the offensive line. Longview was a very ball club, I expect them to keep going and be at the top of the crop."
In the loss to the Lobos, the productive offensive of the Sulphur Springs team continued to put up big yardage numbers - but just 13 points.
Tyrik Rollison completed 31-of-48 passes fir 340 yards and two scores. He also ran 17 times for 52 yards.
Jace Jackson continued to impress at the wide receiver slot with nine catch for 72 yards and one score. Ryan Young had six grabs for 73 yards and Shane McQueen caught six for 61 and a score.
Young rushed 16 times for 73 yards. He not has 839 rushing yards in six games and seven touchdowns.
The Wildcats come into the Texas High game averaging 40 points a game.
"They are a typical Texas High team, big, fast and athletic," said Owens describing the opponent this week. "They have tremendous size on the offensive line and they have some defensive linemen who are big also. They run very well, as I said before a very athletic group. They do things right."
Texas High is led into the game by Leroy Jones at running back. Jones has accounted for 205 yards on 38 carries to pace the team. Kody Sutton has rushed for 176 yards on 40 carries with three scores.
Nathan Sorenson is the triggerman at quarterback. He has completed 48-of-83 passes for 692 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. Top receiver is Cobi Hamilton with 19 receptions for 361 yards and five scores, including a 70-yarder.
"They have a talented receiver, Hamilton is a big-time Division I player. I don't know if you can stop him, but you try not to let him hurt you with the big play," Owens said. "They have two good running backs, they do some zone running. Sorenson, at quarterback, is a little lefty, he thinks well on his feet. They're a 50/50 run and pass team, but from the spread. They want to control the ball game and the clock, by running."
Owens said he expect another game that could come down to the final quarter. Sulphur Springs is ranked No. 8 in the Harris Poll and picked by eight points over the No. 31-ranked Tigers.
"We are too evenly-matched football teams. It's come down to execution and turnovers," Owens said. "We have to come out with a hunger and desire to win this football game, We better be ready, we sure don't want to head into our bye week with a two-game losing streak. The winner of this has a little advantage for a playoff berth. As things go in district, things just continue to tighten up."
The Wildcats are hoping that their defense has the clamps on the Tigers. Against Longview, Sulphur Springs allowed 385 yards and 32 points.
To tackler was junior linebacker Tyler Higginbotham with nine while Johnny McSheffery added seven with Bryant Jackson, Colton Nash and Dillon Verner recording six total tackles each.
"Our job this week is to get after it," Owens said. "Teams start to feel pressure the longer the season goes and we are running out of district ball games. We'd like to get our second win and with a few more we could be on our way to a playoff spot. We want to win out, that's our plan."
Owens knows you can't look past Texas High. The Tigers will be ready for the Friday night confrontation.
The Texas High defense is based from a 4-3 formation. They will adopt the same approach as Longview, trying to bend and not break, Owens said.
"They will give up some things, they want you to make a mistake. We have to be patient. They have some tremendous athletes," he added. "Our work is cut out for us."
"Texas High it seems is always a Top 10 team, or close to it," Owens said. "Barry Norton does a tremendous job and they have great facilities and a big pool of talent to choose from every year. They are one of the premiere programs,, they are like a mini Texas Longhorns out there and send them to major universities."
Owens said, "They also have no love lost for the Wildcats because of last year. They'll have payback on their mind. They know we whipped them last year, lots of those players are back. Going to their place, Texarkana, that's a tough place to play. We have to play a tough opponent at their house, this is a big chore ahead of us."