When high school football coaches speak about overcoming adversity, it usually means dealing with injuries to key players or costly mistakes such as turnovers and penalties.

Sherman defensive end Ty Rockins has a somewhat different definition of adversity.

On July 31, just two weeks before the start of preseason practice, Rockins’ family home was destroyed by fire. It left the family trying to rebuild its life before the start of a new school year.

Rockins said an outpouring of community support helped make that possible.

“At the beginning it was tough, but then the community really helped me out and got behind me,” Rockins said. “That really brought me up. It’s my senior year of football. Just saying that is really exciting.

“It was hard, but we’re fine. We’re all together and we’re still strong.”

Sherman outside linebacker Devante Clayton said the experience helped bring together a team that was already close that much more.

“I think it’s taken things a step further,” Clayton said. “Seeing that life is bigger than football, ironically in a way, helps you with football. You advance yourself as a team.

“Everybody was there support (Rockins). We wanted to make sure that we were taking care of our brother and that he had everything that he needed. If he needed to talk or anything, we were right there beside him. We just wanted to make sure that we stayed together and that no man gets left behind, because that’s the last thing you want to do.”

Rockins said the experience has helped him understand the importance of assisting those in need, whether family, friend or stranger. While he may not be able to pay back all those who helped him and his family this summer, he will be able to pay it forward at some point.

“If somebody’s in that situation, you’ve really got to help them out,” he said. “Maybe not even a fire, but any situation. In football, you’re a family. You don’t know what’s going around in their life.”

Sherman defensive coordinator Mark Wilkinson said the attitude has pervaded a senior-laden defense that has helped the Bearcats clinch their first playoff berth since 2012.

“We’ve had so many kids step up and make plays and so many seniors step up and make plays,” Wilkinson said. “They all have their good qualities.”

Sherman enter’s Friday’s Battle of the Ax against Denison with 10 of the top 15 tacklers being seniors. Junior Cody Hunter leads the team with 38 total tackles, followed by seniors Austin Bindel (37), Jaylyn Cotton (37) Brent Wilson (31), Clayton (30) Rockins (22) and Steadman Wilson (22). Also among the top 10 Sophomore Gage Smith (35), junior Landon Cole (29), junior T.K. Walton (17) and sophomore Ehtan Bedgood (17).

Wilson, who played running back last year, leads the defense with eight tackles for loss and four sacks and had a fumble recovery.

“It took him a couple of games to kind of pick up everything, but he’s been a very good player for us inside,” Wilkinson said.

“Somebody people tend to forget about is Ben Cross (15 tackles, one interception, two pass breakups). He doesn’t get his name called out a lot, but that’s because I ask Ben to lock down the other team’s best receiver. When we played Denton High, he was going back and forth covering Isaiah Wofford, and Wofford had 30 yards that game. Ben’s been playing with a high ankle sprain. He’s been hurt, but he’s been gutting it out.”

Wilkinson said the fact that no one player has to make the majority of the tackles is just another sign of the players’ willingness to do whatever the job requires.

“We don’t have just one guy, we’ve got a bunch of kids,” he said. “Even our younger kids have really gotten after it. I’m proud to be coordinating them. They’re a great group of kids.

“I can’t say enough about all of them. I don’t ever have to worry about them in the school building getting in trouble. I don’t have to ever worry about getting a call saying ‘this kid”s doing this in class.’ They’re our best kids.

“Our senior leaders are not just leaders on the football field. They lead by example inside the school building, too, which sure makes life easier. Coach Martinez has enough on his plate. I’ve got enough on my plate trying to stop an opponent and not have to deal with all that other.”

Rockins, who has 2½ tackles for loss, a half a sack and a fumble recovery, said the fact that several senior have been classmates since kindergarten has made for a closeknit unit.

“The team’s chemistry is really strong,” he said. “We’ve all grown up together and can really get on to each other since you know that person. You don’t take it to heart. You know they’re just looking out for you.”

Clayton, who has four tackles for loss, 1½ sacks and a fumble recovery, said the team’s unity has been the foundation of its success.

“I think it makes it a lot better,” he said. “Just chemistry. Once you have chemistry, you can build that as a team. You know the man next to you is fighting as hard as you are. It’s like one unit. You all go out there like you’re on a mission and get the job done.

“It’s been extremely beneficial and I think it’s really showed itself throughout the season.”