In rebuilding the Sherman Bearcats football program, second-year head coach J.D. Martinez is reaching out to other SHS sports to augment the talent on the football roster.
Senior Jaylyn Cleamons and junior Jeremy Norvell — key members of Sherman’s basketball team — are two players Martinez is counting on giving the football team a boost as wide receivers.
“They’ve always been hard-working kids,” Martinez said. “I’ve watched them practice in basketball and I’ve watched them lift weights.”
Both Cleamons and Norvell were first-team all-district picks in basketball last year as the Bearcats went 21-10 and qualified for the playoffs.
“I don’t think there’s a harder working kid in the whole school than Jeremy Norvell,” Martinez said. “Just a go-getter, doesn’t ever stop, finishes every rep, runs everything as hard as he can. He’s just a great kid.
“Clemons, golly, the kid’s so talented, and he doesn’t just rest on his talent. He’s a go-getter. He pushes himself to be the best that he can be.”
Neither player went through spring football practice, though Cleamons participated in the seven-on-seven summer program. Norvell decided to join Cleamons just before the start of preseason practice.
“I decided to play because I wanted to play with my friends I grew up playing with one last year before I graduated,” Cleamons said.
Cleamons was the first of the pair to record a reception, catching a 17-yard pass in last week’s season opener against Sulphur Springs. Both players said the transition to football has gone well.
“We’ve been learning the plays fast getting to do it like easy,” Cleamons said.
“And the coaches and players have been very welcoming and helpful for us,” Norvell added.
The duo said there are benefits from both sports that can carry over to the other.
“(Playing football) can help me get in shape and help me jump higher, stuff like that,” Cleamons said.
“It makes me more aggressive,” Norvell said.
Cleamons added that basketball skills can also translate to the football field.
“Since basketball helps me jump higher, on the field they can just throw it up and I can go get it,” he said.
Norvell said the experience has been made that much easier by having a built-in support system with Cleamons going through the same thing.
“Us playing together, that’s better for us,” Norvell said. “We’ve already got a brotherhood-friendship. We’re already brothers. We’re already tight. Going throw this together is just going to make us tighter.”
While appreciative of the physical ability Norvell and Cleamons add to the Bearcats, Martinez said a bigger benefit is their postseason experience.
“I want some of that success infecting (the football program),” Martinez said. “You can have a good virus and a bad virus. I want a good virus. I want some of that mindset that ‘yes, we can do it and will do it.’ Overcoming any adversity that comes your way and coming through it.
“If we can do that football-wise, getting a gold football and winning a bi-district championship, that’s what we’re striving for. They bring the mindset of winning and I’d love that to infect our kids.”
Lady Cats open district play
The Sherman Lady Cats carry an 11-match winning streak and the No. 13 state ranking in Class 5A into Friday’s District 5-5A opener at Wichita Falls High. Now, the matches start counting.
Sherman (23-4) enjoyed a highly successful non-district slate, winning Princeton and Whitesboro tournament titles and exceeding coach Ashley Aleman’s expectations.
“These girls are determined,” Aleman said. “They’re passionate. They’ve got a lot of heart, a lot of fight. They’re ready to make this season last as long as they can. Playoffs is what they’re shooting for, what they want. They want to be a top team. They don’t want to settle.
“This preseason really brought confidence. They push through adversity and still come out on top. I’m really confident in what these girls are going to do in this district.”
Aleman said maintaining an aggressive approach on offense has been a key factor for the Lady Cats.
“I want to be that team that swings in any situation given to us,” she said. “I try my best to keep hitters on there who can play all the way around. If the ball’s in the back row, we’re swinging and hitting it. If the ball’s in the front row, we’d better be swinging and hitting it.”
But Aleman doesn’t expect an easy run in district. In addition to Sherman, Denton Ryan (No. 16) and Denton Braswell (No. 22) are also ranked in the Texas Girls Coaches Association poll, and the rest of the 5-5A contingent will be tough, as well.
“I think every team is going to give us a challenge,” Aleman said. “I feel like this district is pretty evenly matched. It’s just going to be who shows up that night and who can do everything right and maintain control of their mental game and that aspect. It’s going to be a fight.”