After notching their first victory of the season last week, the Sherman Bearcats look to keep things rolling when they host the Mount Pleasant Tigers for homecoming at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bearcat Stadium.
Sherman (1-1) is coming off a 39-14 win at Frisco Liberty in which quarterback Blaise Bentsen passed for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Bearcats coach J.D. Martinez said the team showed it could bounce back from its season-opening loss to Sulphur Springs and now must show it can maintain the momentum built against Liberty.
“We’re starting to establish, maybe, who we are, in our identity,” Martinez said. “I think it takes a little while for that to come across. I think every team struggles with that.
“You can ask Ohio State the same thing, where they’re at now. At the same time, if you do come off a big win like Oklahoma, what’s your identity. Right now, one’s on Cloud Nine and the other’s kind of questioning themselves.”
Martinez said the Bearcats were in a similar situation after dropping a 42-21 decision to Sulphur Springs.
“For us, after the first week, it was kind of ‘what do we need to go back and redo? What are we going to be hanging our hat on?’ A part of it, too, is can we establish the run,” Martinez said. “I think it’s nice that we have the option. Maybe we need to throw the ball. If you can’t do either one, you’re in a lot of trouble.”
In both their games, the Bearcats have averaged 4.6 yards per carry, but the results have been rather different. Against Sulphur Springs, Sherman rushed 41 times for 188 yards, a good chunk of which came on Bentsen’s 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter while the Wildcats limited Nathaniel Omayebu to 40 yards on 18 carries. Against Liberty, Sherman ran just 17 times for 78 yards with Omayebu rushing for 56 yards and two TDs on just seven carries.
Meanwhile, the passing game took a big step forward as Bentsen went from an 8-of-21, 173-yard performance in the opener to completing 20 of 27 attempts against Liberty. Receivers Tylor Jones (five receptions, 117 yards), Ladarren Sewell (five receptions, 94 yards) and Jaylyn Cleamons (two receptions, 71 yards) each turned short screen passes into long scoring plays.
“If we are going to be running the ball or throwing the ball, I have no problem being identified as either/or,” Martinez said. “I’d love to be a balanced football team. That would, of course, be ideal, but if we need to hang our hat on throwing the ball, that’s fine, too. Let’s do it.
“If (opposing defenses) want to overload, we will definitely take what we can get on the edge. I am not hung on ‘we’re going to pound it in there.’ We’re not going to do that. We’re going to take whatever the defense wants to give us.”
Martinez said there was no special moment where things suddenly clicked for the Bearcats, rather the kind of improvement coaches expect to see from the first game of the season to the second.
“I think it’s one of those things when you finally understand, ‘hey, remember we discussed the game plan, what we’re going to be doing,’ and start executing it,” he said. “When you execute the game plan, things work out pretty quick and pretty good for you. Maybe sometimes not quick, but they start to work out.
“We came out and started executing the game plan, plain and simple. We scored six straight possessions. That’s a good thing. I like it when it go that way.”
Sherman showed a similar level of improvement on defense, as well. After allowing Sulphur Springs to average more than 7 yards per snap on 67 plays, the Bearcats held Liberty to 4.6 yards on 68 snaps in addition to coming up with four turnovers.
Now comes the task of continuing the progress made against the Redhawks when the Tigers come to town.
“We talked about finding out who we are and finding out what we can do really, really well, and also from the standpoint of coaches being able to make adjustments and being able to explain that to our kids where they get it,” Martinez said. “Not every team is the same. You’ve got to come through and find out what they understand. Just because us coaches know what the adjustment is, can you relate it to the kids where they get it. And they communicate on the field together to make whatever adjustment it is, whether it’s offense or defense.”