GARLAND — The Sherman Bearcats had their chances but Garland Naaman Forest kept them from taking advantage.
The Rangers held Sherman to two field goals on four possessions inside the Naaman Forest 15-yard line in grinding out a 28-6 victory at Williams Stadium on Thursday night.
Sherman's scoring came on field goals of 22 and 28 yards by Joel Nandin, both In the second quarter after Naaman Forest jumped out to. 14-0 lead.
The loss sends Sherman into next week's District 5-5A opener at Wichita Falls Rider with a 2-2 record but Bearcats head coach J.D. Martinez said there were some positives to take away from the game.
“The score is disappointing,” Martinez said. “We gave them six right off the get-go right at the start of the game, and we didn't finish. We were in the red zone four times and didn't finish. We've got to be able to do those things and don't give them that.
“We were standing toe-to-toe with them and we should be able to finish those games. We're going to go back, study film and we're going to get a lot better.”
Naaman Forest used a interception return for a touchdown and a pair of 11-play scoring drives in the first half to lead 21-6 at half-time. After opening the second half with another long TD drive, the Rangers turned it over to their defense to repeatedly thwart Sherman's threats.
Sherman finished with 225 total yards as quarterback Blaise Bentsen was 15 of 29 passing for 129 yards. Wide receiver Tylor Jones caught eight passes for 102 yards, breaking long gains on a pair of middle screens. Nathaniel Omayebu rushed for 90 yards on 17 carries against a stifling Naaman Forest defense that has allowed three touchdowns in four games.
Meanwhile, the Rangers' Wing-T offense ate up the clock with repeated long drives. Ty'Reek James rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries with Donavon Lee adding 82 yards on 10 attempts. Oddly for a ground-based offense, Naaman Forest built its lead through the air. Quarterback Thomas Gutierrez was just 4 of 8 passing for 40 yards, but two of the completions went to K'Mari Dennis for touchdowns of 21 and 4 yards.
The Rangers got a break on the fifth play of the game when a heavy rush forced Bentsen into a poor pass, which was intercepted by defensive tackle Hiram Larence and returned 16 yards for a touchdown.
Naaman followed that up with its first 11-play drive, which was capped by Dennis' first TD reception late in the first quarter.
The Bearcats clawed their way back into the game in the second quarter, driving 16 plays to the Naaman Forest 3-yard line, then reaching the Ranger 1 on the next possession. Both resulted in Nandin's field goals as the Ranger defense kept Sherman out of the end zone.
Naaman Forest closed the half with another 11-play drive, scoring as time expired. Facing fourth-and-goal at the Sherman four with two seconds left in the half, the Rangers came out in a jumbo set with Lawrence and fellow defensive tackle Nico Ezidore in the backfield, but Gutierrez hit Dennis for the second time on a bootleg pass.
The Rangers closed the scoring with Jame's 9-yard TD run on the opening possession of the third quarter.
Sherman continued to battle, driving to the Naaman Forest 38 before turning the ball over on downs late in the third quarter, then reaching the red zone two more times in the fourth.
Brent Wilson broke through to block a punt, setting the Bearcats up at the Ranger 19 early in the fourth, but Bentsen was sacked for the fourth time on fourth-and-goal from the eight. A 30-yard completion to Jones helped Sherman reach the 13 on its final drive, but Bentsen was again sacked on fourth down.
Despite the missed opportunities, Martinez said the performance against Class 6A Naaman Forest, which is off to its best start in more than a decade, indicates the Bearcats are making progress heading into district play.
“I know we can't underestimate our kids,” he said. “Our kids are gritty. They'e tough. I was concerned that we could run the ball on these guys, a 6A program. They shut down Grand Prairie last week. They didn't get anything, but we cane out here and we're able to run the ball.
“Defensively, we do really well against this type of team. (Defensive coordinator Mark Wilkinson) does a great job. They compact it for us. We don't have a lot of open-field tackles that we have to make. This type of game really suits us. I was proud of the defense. They were out there a really long time ad did a really good job.”