WIldcats storm toward the playoffs
By DON WALLACE, News-Telegram Sports Editor
Oct. 23, 2008 - The cool, autumnal wind raked across the practice field Wednesday.
Pass fluttered, trying to cut through the breeze which signaled the first taste of fall.
Players and coaches smiled with renewed vigor knowing what lies ahead.
Sulphur Springs takes on old rival Mount Pleasant in a pre-playoff game, playoff game.
Yes, playoffs, we're talking playoffs, still three weeks before the end of the season.But the chill is in the air, heck, the temperature dropped five degrees during Wednesday football practice as a frontal system passed through north Texas.
Mount Pleasant has been a fiesty foe in recent years. Since Greg Owens has coached at his alma mater, he has been glad to win over the Tigers by three or four points. The coach scoffs at the notice the Wildcats are a 21 point favorite, as listed by the Harris Rankings.
"The rivalry wasn't that much when I got here as head coach three years ago," Owens said. "The older generation, back when I played. It was heated, back and forth. It had fallen off the map, it wasn't quite what it had been. But the last two years we have been fortunate to beat them. It's be close ball games down to the wire. I think it is heating up again, our kids and their kids know it is going to be a tight ball game.Both bunches have to just play their hearts out and get after it."
Owens said Mount Pleasant could easily have a record better than their 3-5 overall mark and 1-3 district slate.
"They had a quarterback, some receivers and a tail back who can really run," Owens said. "They are not very big, but very athletic. They probably should have won the Nacogdoches and the Hallsville game. They have not had a break, they had some turnovers. They can break of 50 or 60 yard run. Their quarterback, Terrell Howard, is electrifying. Howard will have to be our focus, we have to slow him down that is for sure.He like roll outs and sprint outs and either running or hitting guys on crossing patterns or something like that."
Mount Pleasant has had the reputation of being an option or veer team. They also have adopted some of the facets of a spread offense.
"Their coach Jimmy Thompson puts you in a bind with their option and the plays they run off the offense," Owens admitted. "They have been in the playoffs the last two years. They don't have the big offensive linemen they have had in the past. But Howard is a good passer and he has some talented receivers. They need to win this game, just like we do. Now they have their backs against the wall, so they have fire in them to try and win this ball game. They are still in it and we are still in it. We're running out of games to win."
Sulphur Springs enters the contest with a 1-2 mark in district after having suffered back-to-back losses to Longview and Texas. Then last week the Wildcats had an open date to regroup for the final three games of the season.
"If we win out, we will control our own destiny. That is where we are," Owens said. "Mount Pleasant might rely on tie-breakers because of their record."
"Against Mount Pleasant they give you lots to cover because of their diverse offense" Owens said. "They might run the veer or the spread. You have to be disciplined and play your assignments. They can all fly. Our defensive line and linebackers need to get after it this week. Get penetration and disrupt somethings."
Owens said the game was big for the Wildcats due to the two losses heading into the bye week. The team has not practice and point toward the Mount Pleasant game as the contest where they rebound into the form earlier in the year which led them to a state-rankings with an undefeated record.
"We might be a little rusty. But we have had good practices," Owens said. "We're anxious to play, but we weren't jumping offsides and making penalties. We have the life back in our legs and that comes from an open week. I don't like the week falling in district, but we probably needed a little rest. We worked on things, like special teams and tried to stay sharp and simulate game situations.The football season is pretty long and now our kids had two weekends off back-to-back."
Owens said, "I think we are refocused and we have our mind set on what wehave to do. We have a home game, we have the induction for the Hall of Honor. Our goals are still in reach."
The coach said he knows his team will need to play well to offset some of the defenses used by the Mount Pleasant attack.
"They give us some looks we have not seen before. I think we can take advantage of a few things," Owens said. "We have to get back to playing our football. We have not been very efficient on offense. We need to get back and score, get on track and get our confidence back.The Mount Pleasant defensive line tries to get pressure on you with their front line. They have shown coverage first."
The game could come down to turnovers. In recent games the Wildcats have lost the turnover battle.
Rashad Hall will return action and Ryan Miller is getting back into game shape, the coach said.
"We're flying around, we looked really fast in practice yesterday," Owens said. "A lot of it is your attitude and how you work practice."
Owens said, "It's like the playoffs from here on out for us."
Defensive coordinator Matt Young said, "They (Mount Pleasant) do a thousand things offensively with a lot of kids. It's a challenge, they are an athletic bunch. We have to line up, fly around and get after it. Our kids look fresh, they feel comfortable with the game plan going in. They're excited to get back and turn them loose and see what they can do."
Sulphur Springs offensive coordinator Jeff Riorden commented, "They are not huge and going to run over us. They are quick and they get off blocks and make tackles. We have to be smart about what we do with the ball, because they will go get it. Hopefully we can run the ball effectly to open up the pass. Get the screen game going again for us. They'll be in a cover three or a three man look with a safety underneath. Our running game is going to have to be on. They'll be in a three-three stack, that allows for tricky blitzing. They did it last year and Ty beat them with his feet. So we will see what they choose to stop and take advantage of what they are giving us."