While the Sherman Bearcats have been playing football since at least 1901 and the Eaton Eagles are in just their second varsity season, the programs actually share some similarities.
Both teams are 5-5 entering Friday’s Class 5A Division I bi-district playoff at Flower Mound’s Neal Wilson Athletic Stadium in a match-up of programs that have built quickly. Sherman coach J.D. Martinez said just because Eaton lacks history is no reason to expect an easy time in their playoff debut.
“It’s our kids’, too,” Martinez said. “It’s everybody’s first time. We can’t sit there and think they’re brand new. It’s a new season and we’re going to be focused on us and what we do, taking care of what the Sherman Bearcats need to do. It’s playoff time, so this is what we’ve got to get going.”
Sherman hasn’t had a winning record since 2012, the Bearcats’ last playoff appearance, and went 1-19 on the field in the two seasons before Martinez took over as head coach. Eaton didn’t open its doors until 2015 and spent one season playing subvarsity before moving up to UIL competition last year. That was followed by a sudden coaching change in May when Brad Turner, who got the Eagles within a game of a playoff berth in their first season, moved to an administrative position and Ellis Miller took over.
“They’ve done a great job,” Martinez said. “That staff must be doing something right, that’s for sure. They’re doing something pretty good and their program in their second year, they’re 5-5. They’ve built some trust, among everything else they’ve got going on, and the kids believed it.
“They had to win-and-in last Friday and they did it, so I’m sure they’re coming in very confident with what they’ve got going on.”
Eaton won its last two games to overtake White Settlement Brewer and Azle for the No. 1 Division I seed out of District 6-5A.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” Martinez said. “They’ve got a great running back that we’ll have to contain. We better do what we can to stop him.”
That would be junior Titus Swen, who has accounted for roughly half the Eagles’ offensive production. Swen (226-1,514, 20 TDs rushing; 20-379, 5 TDs receiving) has 1,893 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns. The rest of the team has 1,886 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“They are a spread, one-back team, some two-back,” Martinez said. “They feature their all-everything running back, who’s got multiple offers, but they will throw it around.”
In addition to Swen, Dawson Pell (105-659, 9 TDs) is another rushing threat. Quarterback Riley Taylor (106-182-6 1,400, 9 TDs passing) makes use of receivers Travell Geiger (24-267) and Luke Jeskevic (14-211, 1 TD). The Eagles average 377.9 total yards (231.3 rushing, 146.6 passing) and 33.9 points per game.
Martinez said Eaton’s explosive capability emphasize the importance of Sherman being able to control the ball and keep Swen off the field.
“You’ve got to do that,” Martinez said. “I think that’s what happened last week (in a 49-24 loss to Denison). It hurt us because we were not able to be successful.”
Defensively, Eaton has allowed 303.2 total yards (161.1 rushing, 142.1 passing) and 25.3 points per game. Martinez said the Eagles employ a straight 4-3 scheme with little, if any, variation.
“We haven’t seen it, but it’s going to be good for us,” he said. “The good thing is they’re in even. If we do this, they’re in even. What about if we do that? They’re in even. It doesn’t matter. They’re an even team, which I like.”
Martinez said the Bearcats must be able to take advantage of whatever openings Eaton presents.
“If you get into four-wide, they’re going to put seven in the box and make you throw it,” he said. “They’re going to say you’re not going to be able to run the ball, but it amazes me how many people try. They’ll line up in doubles or trips and there’ll be seven in the box, and they still try to run the ball. Why would you do that?
“Unless you’re running quarterback iso, it’s not worth a dang. It’s useless unless you can try to tag something to it. But I haven’t seen very many people have success.”