Sherman’s path to a return to the playoffs is becoming clear as the Bearcats enter the home stretch in District 13-4A.

Sherman’s path to a return to the playoffs is becoming clear as the Bearcats enter the home stretch in District 13-4A.

Beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, and take at least one — preferably two — from the two challengers left on the schedule.

Winning all four would put Sherman back in the postseason for a sixth year in a row. No scenario exists where a 5-2 record is not good enough to qualify.

But the Bearcats have to start by winning the first one, and that’s their mission Friday night at Royse City.

"You can conceivably win three of four to get in, but to guarantee it you’ve got to win all four," Sherman head coach Gary Kinne said. "I think someone’s going to get in with three losses, but it may or may not be us because of the tiebreaker. If you beat the right one, you can maybe win three. But who knows who the right one is?

"But I can tell you this, you’ve got to beat Royse City. That’s not in the cards to lose to … There’s too much (football) left. You’ve got to play it one game at a time. Period. If you’re looking beyond that, you’re in trouble."

There’s no worry at all of the Bearcats doing that this year. Sherman (2-4, 1-2) is starving for a win after back-to-back losses to first-place Denison and to Wylie East, which is tied for second in 13-4A.

In years past, the Bearcats have gone into the Royse City game undefeated in district and the overwhelming favorite, at the risk of possibly looking past the Bulldogs. That’s certainly not the case this Friday.

"It’s a different scenario for us," Kinne said. "It’s a 1-2 team playing a 1-2 team, each team fighting for its playoff life. We haven’t been in this situation before. So we’d better come to play."

The Bearcats have won all three previous meetings with the Bulldogs, who’ve struggled at the Class 4A level since moving up from 3A in 2008.

But in each game, Royse City made Sherman work to earn a victory.

In 2010, the Bulldogs led going into the fourth quarter before the Bearcats erupted late for a 48-28 win. The 2011 and 2012 meetings turned into shootouts, with Sherman prevailing in each, 59-36 and 56-28.

An injury to dual-threat quarterback Jackson Watts has hampered the Bulldogs early in district play. But Watts is expected to be back in the starting lineup for Friday’s game.

Watts has passed for 623 yards and four touchdowns with seven interceptions, and is the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 516 yards and seven TDs.

"He’s a good player," Kinne said. "They realize their playoff lives are on the line too. They’re sitting there the same as we are. If they win out, they can go too. We’re definitely going to get their best effort."

The Bearcats are set defensively and won’t be making any changes to its lineup to compensate for the absence of senior Tarrence Franklin, who remains doubtful Friday with an ankle injury.

Senior Derrek Clayton, who missed all of last season with a preseason knee injury and has been slowly recovering this fall, has been rotating in at defensive tackle and is getting up to speed.

Kinne said in the last two weeks, he thought his team played relatively well against Denison, but how they played against Wylie East was substandard.

"I can’t say we didn’t play very well against Denison," he said. "There were a lot of factors, and I think Denison played well. I wasn’t disappointed in the way we played against Denison; I think our kids fought and Denison deserved it.

"We didn’t play very well against Wylie East. That’s the game I was disappointed in the way we played."