The Sherman Bearcats have been in this position before, coming off a disappointing loss in their District 5-5A opener and needing to win to get back in the playoff hunt.
The Bearcats (2-3, 0-1) get their chance at 7 p.m. Friday when the Denton High Broncos (2-3, 0-1) visit Bearcat Stadium.
In last week’s 24-21 loss at Wichita Falls Rider, Sherman did enough things correctly — rushing for 302 yards, twice answering Rider scores with touchdowns to either take the lead — to get a victory. But four turnovers — three of them inside the Raider 5-yard line — cost the Bearcats points that could have made the difference.
Now, the Bearcats have to regroup for another opponent that handed them a loss last year and went on to qualify for the playoffs.
“I think we’re very resilient,” Bearcats head coach J.D. Martinez said. “The kids have bounced back. They understand this is exactly the same position we were in last year. The one loss doesn’t kill us, but at the same time we understand that was one we let slip away.
“We understand this game coming in is a very tough opponent, but it’s one we can match up with. We just need to go out there and do some real good tackling. We’ve got to be able to bounce back. We’ve improved in tackling. Our offense has improved, but we can’t have the red-zone turnovers. That’s a killer.”
In their last two games, both road losses, the Bearcats have managed just two field goals out of seven possessions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Martinez said being able to pinpoint the causes of the breakdowns makes it easier to correct the situation.
“It’s just being able to finish there and hold onto the ball, not throwing interceptions when we’re in the red zone,” he said. “That should have been three points for sure right before the half. It’s just a mistake that, hopefully, we will not make again, that we will improve.
“Holding onto the ball is part of the game. You’ve got to do that if you’re going to win.”
Sherman enters Friday’s game averaging 373.2 total yards (193.4 rushing, 179.8 passing) and 24.4 points per game. Running backs Nathaniel Omayebu (98-578, 5 TDs) and Michael Wallace (48-272, 3 TDs) have fueled the ground attack, while quarterback Blaise Bentsen (64-120-3 899, 8 TDs passing) and receiver Tylor Jones (21-386, 3 TDs receiving) have keyed the passing game.
Last week’s 302 rushing yards, 207 from Omayebu, marked the second time in three games the Bearcats have eclipsed the 300-yard mark and was just a yard shy of the season-high 303 yards recorded against Mount Pleasant.
“I think it’s a credit to our two offensive line coaches — (Josh) Aleman and (Presley) McMahan — what they’re able to do with the kids,” Martinez said, “and also the kids buying into it and believing and trusting it. We’ve had some different guys step in there quite a bit. We haven’t had the same O-line yet in any week, but the kids work really hard and they’re doing a really good job.
“From that, if we’re able to establish the run, now we can go in with our play-action pass and hopefully get some people sucked up. Maybe we can get some balls down the field.”
Defensively, Sherman has allowed 354.6 total yards (217.6 rushing, 137.0 passing) and 28.2 points per game. The Bearcats have lowered their yards-allowed average each of the last two games.
One factor in Sherman’s favor is being at home after playing on the road the last two weeks.
“It’ll be nice to be home and get into a good routine of being here Friday and being able to rest a little bit,” Martinez said, “being able to wait for somebody to come to our place. It’ll be nice that we can get into our mental preparation areas, arrive at the stadium about 5:15 and go through the Bearcat March, get our minds right and get ready to play.”
Also helping is the return of defensive back Ben Cross and linebacker Jalyn Cotton, both of whom were held out last week because of injury.
“I think those two guys are definitely worth three points,” Martinez said. “We kind went into the Rider game a little shorthanded, missing some all-district guys. But we’ll be able to come back and have some bullets in the gun a little bit better and be able to perform a little bit higher.”