In taking on the Garland Naaman Forest Rangers, the Sherman Bearcats face an opponent that has relied on a solid rushing attack and stifling defense to get off to a 3-0 start.

Naaman Forest, the lone Class 6A opponent on Sherman’s schedule, is off to its best start since 2009, already eclipsing the win totals of five of the past seven seasons. The Rangers were a 5-6 playoff team in Marvin Sedberry Jr.’s third season as head coach after going 1-19 his first two years.

“Coach Sedberry does a great job of working with those kids,” Sherman coach J.D. Martinez said. “He gets them ready to play. They’re playing at a real high level right now.

“Their team speed is very evident on film. They’re playing with confidence and they’revery physical. If we don’t line up and get ready to play, it could get ugly in a hurry.”

Naaman Forest is averaging 387 total yards (219 rushing, 168 passing) and 29.7 points per game. Running back Ty’Reek James (59-380, 5 TDs rushing) heads a deep corps of ballcarriers. Quarterback Thomas Gutierrez (23-32-0 495, 6 TDs) and receivers Daviciea McCartney (9-210, 3 TDs receiving) and Jaylon Dickerson (3-154, 3 TDs) give the Rangers enough of a passing threat to keep opposing defenses honest.

“We’re going to go into it to take away the three best things they do, whatever those three things are,” Martinez said. “We’re going to try to make them go to something different. Weak-side iso, they run it and they’re very good at it. The buck sweep, real they’re good at it. We’re going to have to do those things and force them to throw if that’s the case.”

Defensively, Naaman Forest allows 184.7 total yards (86.0 rushing, 98.7 passing) and 6.7 points per game. The Rangers have allowed just three touchdowns in three games and are coming off a 21-0 shutout of Grand Prairie.

“Their front six is good,” Martinez said. “No. 73 (defensive tackle Nico Ezidore), I hope we don’t hear his number in the game. He hasn’t been blocked in three games. He’s that good. He’s a good high school football player.

“Their linebackers are improved from last year. Last year, it was just the front four that were making plays. Now, it’s (Ezidore) and the two linebackers.”

Martinez said the Bearcats have to find a way to take advantage of the Rangers’ speed and aggression on defense, getting defenders to overrun plays to open up running lanes.

“We’re going to find out, whether it be with a lot of screens or what,” he said. “I don’t know if we could run a reverse on them because they’re pretty fast. They could disrupt that reverse pretty quick. (We need to) just get rid of it fast.”