By Bill Spinks
By Bill Spinks
Nobody who is involved with Sherman’s football team is looking back at last week’s events. Instead, the Bearcats are looking ahead at what promises to be a battle to the finish in District 13-4A.
Losing the Battle of the Ax is always a major disappointment, but it’s not the end of the world for the losing team. Case in point: Denison, which had lost the Ax to the Bearcats in each of the three previous seasons, followed each of its losses with a win in its next game.
"This group has never been in that situation before," said Sherman head coach Gary Kinne, who missed last week’s game while serving a one-game University Interscholastic League suspension. "My first year we lost to them, but that was a playoff game the next week, so it was a little different. But whether it’s Denison or any other game, you’ve got to be able to bounce back."
For the Bearcats (2-3, 1-1), bouncing back has never been more imperative with two road games looming, followed by critical contests against Lovejoy and Wylie.
Six teams are knotted in the middle of the standings at 1-1 in the early going. Two of those teams are Sherman and Wylie East, which will tangle at Wylie ISD Stadium on Friday night in the first of two hugely-important road tests for the Bearcats.
"It’s a huge game for playoff seeding, if you want to be in the playoffs, as far as getting in the top four," Kinne said. "It’s very similar to the first week. You don’t want to go 0-1 to start out. We went on the road and held (serve) and got to 1-0, but now we’re back to .500 again.
"You don’t want to be 1-2, because you’ve still got a lot of good people to play. So it’s a crucial game to get back to 2-1 and keep yourself in second place in the district."
Kinne admitted that he didn’t expect the district to be this tight this year.
"I think it’s probably the most balanced it’s been since we’ve been here," he said. "Injuries to Lovejoy’s quarterback have brought them down a little bit, (but) not just with them. I’d say it’s a very balanced district."
Last year, the Bearcats topped Wylie East, 49-38, in a back-and-forth game that the Bearcats finally seized control of in the third quarter thanks to a kickoff return and a 52-yard pass play.
While the Bearcats graduated most of their principal players from last year’s meeting, the Raiders lost three Division I receivers — Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State), Quan Jones (Baylor) and Jesse Brubaker (SMU) — as well as all-state running back Jabari Anderson, who is now at Tarleton State.
But the Raiders (2-3, 1-1) return quarterback Garrett McCain and have found ways to be creative with the replacement pieces on offense.
"It begins and ends with the quarterback," Kinne said. "People underestimate (McCain) because they had those fantastic players last year. He’s the catalyst. I don’t care what level you’re on, professional, college or high school, if you’ve got a signalcaller you can hang your hat on, you’re going to be a good football team. Especially offensively; you’re going to find a way to move the ball."
Defensively, Kinne said Wylie East is similar to Sherman in that they are very fast, but have given up lots of points through playing strong competition. The Raiders’ losses are to Denison and Red Oak by one point each, and a 37-10 loss to Class 5A power Denton Ryan.
The Bearcats came out of a physical game with some injuries, in particular to starting defensive tackle Tarrence Franklin, who came out of the game on the opening drive with a right ankle injury. Franklin hasn’t been able to practice and Kinne said it’ll be a game-time decision on whether Franklin will play Friday night.
"If he can go, we’ll get him in there, but we may have to hold him," Kinne said. "We’ll see at game time if he can go or not. It doesn’t look good, but you never know with a guy like him. He’s a veteran returning two-year starter, and if he can get out there, he’ll get out there."
But Kinne said everyone else is healthy enough to play and will do so Friday night.
Winning games at both Wylie East on Friday, and at Royse City next Friday, is imperative for the Bearcats, who will need to separate themselves from the gaggle in time for a Week 8 clash with preseason favorite Lovejoy.
"To go 2-0 in this two-game stretch would be huge," Kinne said. "To get to 3-1 in our district staring at those two big juggernauts in a row with Lovejoy and Wylie, we really need to win this week and next to set ourselves up for whatever happens those last two to three weeks."