The Sherman Bearcats enter their third District 5-5A game Friday squarely in the playoff race.
Following last week's 35-14 victory over Denton High, the Bearcats (3-3, 1-1) enter this week's game at Denton Braswell (0-5, 0-1) with a chance to move above .500 in district play for the first time since 2012.
“We've got to go out there and take care of business Friday and help ourselves,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “We want to come out of this and be 2-1. If we can do that, we can help ourselves out a lot.
“The deal is you've got to come out on the winning end in October if you want to keep playing.”
Following Braswell, the Bearcats host state-ranked Denton Ryan on Oct. 20, then have their open date on Oct. 27. After a road game at Wichita Falls High on Nov. 3, Sherman closes out the regular season by hosting Denison for the Battle of the Ax at Bearcat Stadium on Nov. 10.
Grinding it out on the ground
Sherman enters Friday's game having rushed 1,313 yards through six games and has exceeded 300 yards on the ground in three of their last four games, including the last two in a row.
Martinez said the production has had a direct affect on the Bearcats' offensive approach.
“When you're running it that way, you can establish it,” he said. “I don't get much into the whole time-of-possession deal either, but if you can keep your defense off the field, that means your guys are staying fresh and their guys are getting worn down.”
Against Denton, Sherman ran 44 plays in the first half to 19 for the Broncos, who were limited to 67 total yards in the first two quarters.
“If we can establish first downs and give our (defensive) guys well-needed rest, that means they get to go out there and just play lights-out immediately,” Martinez said. “It definitely pays off.”
The situation has led Sherman to stick with the run, even in what would normally be considered passing downs.
“Even with third-and-7,” Martinez said, “the way the guys were moving, the way they were blocking up front, that third-and-7 was still a run down to us because of the way the guys were establishing up front and the way our running backs were moving. It was a no-brainer.”
Defense steps up
In its victory over Denton, Sherman had its second-best game of the season in terms of total yards allowed and matched its season low for points allowed.
The Bearcats held the Broncos to just 67 total yards in the first half before Denton put together its lone sustained drive of the game, going 75 yards in 11 plays on its second possession of the second half. The series accounted for more than 28 percent of the Broncos' total for the game.
“And that was the one time we backed them up,” Martinez said. “Out of all the things that were crazy, that was the one time we put (the kickoff) in the end zone and they had to drive 75 yards. Wouldn't you know it, that was when time they put it together. I was like, 'so much for field position.'”
The Bearcats also came up with a season-high six takeaways, giving them a plus-three turnover margin for the season.
Linebacker Brent Wilson, who played running back last season, led the defense with 11 tackles, giving him 26 for the season. Jalyn Cotton, who had a sack and a fumble recovery, and Ethan Bedgood each had seven tackles for Sherman. Austin Bindel had four tackles and an interception, while Gage Smith had three tackles with a fumble recovery and an interception.
“Brent Wilson has done an amazing job of transitioning to linebacker,” Martinez said. “He has quietly turned into probably one of the best linebackers in the district. He had a big chip on his shoulder. He definitely wanted to prove something.”