By Bill Spinks

By Bill Spinks

Herald Democrat

It’s all in front of the Sherman Bearcats as they prepare for what is probably their most meaningful game for playoff purposes in nearly a decade.

Win Friday night’s game at Bearcat Stadium against Lovejoy, and the team is on very solid footing in the shifting sands that is the District 13-4A chase. Lose the game, and a return to the playoffs becomes unlikely.

"We’ve had some big ones," Bearcats head coach Gary Kinne said. "Texas High in 2010 was a big one for the district championship, and my first year in Game 10, we were playing Denison for a district championship. But we’ve never been in this situation before since I’ve been here. For playoff lives, it’s definitely up there (with the others)."

This particular game is hugely important with Sherman, Lovejoy and McKinney North all tied for the fourth and final playoff spot out of District 13-4A. The district uses positive and negative points to a maximum of 17 points in its tiebreaker, and the Bearcats are already plus-11 against North by virtue of their 55-44 win on Sept. 26.

The worst the Bearcats can do by winning Friday night’s game is a tie for fourth place, provided the Bearcats also beat winless Greenville at home in two weeks.

However, a loss to Lovejoy would force a whole host of unlikely dominoes to fall in order for the Bearcats to sneak into the top four.

"You’ve got to win," Kinne said. "It’s not a tough situation. If you want to go to the playoffs, you’ve got to win Friday. That’s the way we’re approaching it. You can’t count on somebody else, and if you do, you’ll be disappointed. You’ve got to count on yourself."

One comfort to the team is knowing with certainty the path to the postseason, Kinne said.

"The seniors and the football team all know it’s all before them," he said. "If they want to advance and go to the playoffs, they’ve got to go on a streak. It started last week, and it goes on Friday night. You’ve got to beat Lovejoy if you want to keep your dream alive."

The Sherman High School student council is asking the community to "Pink Out" Bearcat Stadium in honor of breast cancer awareness. All spectators are asked to wear as much pink as possible to support the cause.

After wobbling a little with the four-game absence of sophomore phenom Bowman Sells at quarterback, the Leopards (4-3, 2-2) righted the ship last week with Sells’ return from a collarbone injury and knocked Denison from the ranks of the district unbeatens, 56-42.

Sells and backup Dakota Michaels have combined for more than 2,100 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Receiver Chochy Luce last week went over 1,000 yards and raised his season TD total to nine.

"Luce reminds me a lot of Joseph Harvey, as far as his ability to get open and make big plays," Kinne said. "He’s not quite as fast, but bigger, and with that same playmaking type of ability."

One difference between last year and this year with Lovejoy is the defense has not been as strong. The Leopards allow 33 points per game on average and are giving up more than 400 yards per game.

"They’ve got some dings, and they’ve lost a couple (of games) just because of that," Kinne said. "But they’re like us, if they get that defense playing, they’re tough. They’ve played some good people, too."

For the Bearcats, both quarterback Case Rolen (groin) and defensive tackle Tarrence Franklin (ankle) will be game-time decisions.

Kinne said the Bearcats have to be able to move the football, maintain possessions, keep Lovejoy’s offense off the field as long as possible, and ultimately, score points.

"If we’re able to move the football, the defense will be able to hang around and do some good things," he said. "If we’re put into some unfair situations, then we finally break. So that’s the key for us."