The Sherman Bearcats enjoyed their best rushing performance of the season in last week’s 35-33 homecoming victory over Mount Pleasant, gaining 303 of their 414 total yards on the ground.
While running back Nathaniel Omayebu broke loose for 185 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 27 carries, backup Michael Wallace offered a potent counterpunch with 91 yards and a TD on 13 carries.
Bearcats coach J.D. Martinez having two productive backs will be a big boost as Sherman prepare’s for next week’s District 5-5A opener at Wichita Falls Rider.
“It’s nice to have,” Martinez said. “They do compliment each over pretty well. We may have to put both of them back there at the same time. We could definitely be more explosive with those two in there.”
Not that Sherman hasn’t shown a two-back set to this point. Against Mount Pleasant, Blake Steele and Trey Holtzclaw were employed as blocking backs in front of Omayebu and Wallace.
“Our tight-end/H-back type of guys are pretty good,” Martinez said. “They do such a good job at what they’re doing. Blake and Trey, Ben Boswell, (are) very serviceable, blue-collar type of kids.”
A year ago, Omayebu was the focal point of the Sherman offense, rushing for 1,507 yards and 17 touchdowns. He accounted for more than 65 percent of the Bearcats’ rushing yards and more than 37 percent of the team’s total yards.
With the move of Brent Wilson to defense and the transfer of Xylohn Posey to Denton by way of Whitewright, the door was open for Wallace to claim the second running back spot after spending 2016 on the junior varsity. Martinez said Wallace’s stature — 5-foot-4 and 191 pounds — belies his ability.
“When you look at (Omayebu at 5-foot-11, 216), you go go, ‘wow.’ Then you look at Mike and it’s like, ‘yeah, he’ll be OK.’ Well, he’s really good,” Martinez said. “He’s a kid a lot of people wouldn’t know anything about, but here in Sherman with this football team, we know how good he is.
“He’s just a different back. He doesn’t think, he’s just reactive. He’s a pretty talented young man and does a good job. He can be explosive.”
That explosiveness was shown against Mount Pleasant as Wallace had four gains of more than 10 yards. Through three games, Wallace has rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns to go along with Omayebu’s 281 yards and four TDs.
As for Wilson, who rushed for 280 yards and three touchdowns last year, Martinez hasn’t ruled out the possibility of him being used on offense in the future.
“He’s there. He’s pretty good, too,” Martinez said. “He’s hard to bring down. He’s doing a pretty good job (on defense), but who knows? If we have to figure a way, who knows?
“Maybe we’ll have to go to the ‘bone. Just block down and go. That offense doesn’t require big linemen. Heavy doses of just moving people.”
For the second time in three weeks, the Bearcats faced a short turnaround with Thursday’s game at Garland Naaman Forest.
Martinez said having already been through the situation once this season — playing Frisco Liberty on Sept. 7 after opening the schedule Sept. 1 — has made it easier to deal with this time around as the players have experience with a compressed practice schedule.
“I think it helps a lot,” Martinez said. “Now you can tell the kids, ‘here’s where we are.’”
Martinez said the biggest benefit of playing on Thursday this week is that Sherman will have a full week before its District 5-5A opener next Thursday at Wichita Falls Rider.
“It’s going to get us in a rhythm, for sure, these two weeks,” he said. “If we’re going to do it, if we have to play Rider on a Thursday, I think this is perfect. It works out really well for us.”
Martinez noted that Rider, which hosts Kennedale on Friday, will be the team facing a short week heading into district.
“Hopefully, Kennedale will beat them up,” he said. “We’re going to find out how good Rider is because Kennedale is rolling.”