The Sherman Bearcats took a big step forward with last week’s 35-14 victory over Denton High, now they look to keep building momentum in the District 5-5A race.


“The mood’s a little better when you go hunting for a win on Friday, wake up Saturday and realize you found it,” Sherman coach J.D. Martinez said.


The Bearcats get a chance to build on their success when they visit Denton Braswell at 7 p.m. Friday at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.


At 3-3 overall and 1-1 in District 5-5A, the Bearcats have their best record this late in a season since 2012 and are at .500 in district play for the first time under Martinez.


“I think it carries over a lot,” Martinez said. “I think it helps. It should help the mood in practice. I’m excited about the mood of the kids. We always talk about and preach hard work — ‘It’ll pay off.’”


Last week’s game marked the first time this season the Bearcats beat an opponent they lost to last year. Through the first five weeks, the 2017 results matched those of 2016.


“From last year to this year, we don’t compare the teams but when you sit there and look at the same exact results from last year, this is the one that’s different,” Martinez said. “We did take a step forward, and that’s all we want to do. We just want to keep taking steps forward and, hopefully, this week we’ll take another step forward.”


The Bearcats have developed a dependable ground attack, rushing for more than 300 yards in three of the last four games. Running back Nathaniel Omayebu (130-814, 9 TDs) has gone over 200 yards the last two weeks and Michael Wallace (57-367, 3 TDs) has provided an effective counterpunch.


“It was definitely something for the O-line and everybody to go through,” Martinez said. “It’s taken Nate a while to get going this year. Last year, he was running rampant in predistrict. Now this year, he’s able to put together a couple of 200-yard games back to back. This is where you need it. We were finding our way, but I’m glad we’re on the right path now with him and Mike Wallace. I think we’ve got a great 1-2 punch.


“I know that at any time, Michael can get in there and do the job. He’s so good, so quiet and such a great kid. Yeah, he’s a good football player, but if you ever got to meet him, he’s an even better person. I’m very happy for him and what he has. At any time during the game, we feel 100 percent confident with Mike getting in there.”


The running game has boosted Sherman’s offensive production to 385.2 total yards (218.8 rushing, 166.3 passing) and 26.2 points per game. Quarterback Blaise Bentsen (74-141-4 998, 9 TDs passing) has kept defenses from loading up to stop the run with the help of receivers Tylor Jones (27-450, 4 TDs), Jeremy Norvell (16-113, 1 TD) and Jaylyn Cleamons (6-122, 1 TD). Bentsen and Jones have connected for Sherman’s first touchdown in each of the last two games.


Defensively, the Bearcats have allowed 340.3 total yards (192.5 rushing, 147.8 passing) and 25.8 points per game. Sherman held Denton to 269 total yards, the second-lowest total allowed this season, including a season-low 67 rushing yards.


The defense helped break last week’s game open when it stopped Denton’s fourth-down attempt with 3:28 remaining and Sherman clinging to a 21-14 lead. Omayebu scored on the next play to give the Bearcats a two-touchdown lead.


“It was a great answer by our defense,” Martinez said. “Then for Nate and the offensive line to go out there and pop them right in the mouth, that was a great way to answer.


“That was one of those deals where you go, ‘it’s not going to happen today.’ It was a credit to our kids.”


Sherman enters Friday’s game as healthy as it’s been all season, Martinez said, with no new injuries causing holes in the lineup.


“We were able to get back (defensive back) Ben Cross and (linebacker) Jalyn Cotton,” Martinez said. “We didn’t have those two for (the district opener at Wichita Falls) Rider. And they’re pretty good.”