The Sherman Bearcats know they face a challenge in Denton Ryan.

The Raiders (6-0, 2-0) enter Friday’s District 5-5A game at Bearcat Stadium ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 5A and are expected to repeat as district champions.

Sherman (4-3, 2-1) is supposed to be just another notch in the Raiders’ belt on their march to the postseason. While the game may seem a mismatch on paper, Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said the Bearcats are conceding nothing.

“I think it’s fantastic to have this opportunity to go in and play and be where we ware in the district standings,” Martinez said. “It’s nice being 2-1. I sure would like to be 3-1 after this week. A lot of people are going to be saying, ‘Y’all are going to be 2-2.’ But we’re going to line up and go for the victory.

“We’ve stressed to our kids that (the Raiders) are humans. They’re not robots and they’re not super aliens. They’re humans just like us. What one man can do, another man can do. They may be a little faster, a little quicker, but anybody can hit. How much heart do you have?”

While a victory Friday wouldn’t clinch a playoff berth for Sherman, it would be a monumental step forward in the district race.

“It’s kind of like Happy Gilmore when he shot the hole in one,” Martinez said. “He goes, ‘Hey, that was much easier. Let’s just do that.’ Rather than someone else paving the way for us, we stress and talk to our kids no one’s going to give you anything. If you want it, you’ve got to go take it.

“With our kids this week, what we’ve got to do, we’re going to line up and play football no matter who it is. If it happens to be Denton Braswell or Denton Ryan, we’ve got to line up and play.”

With back-to-back victories over Denton High and Braswell, the Bearcats have some momentum heading into Friday. But Martinez acknowledged the level of competition will definitely be higher this week.

“We talk to our kids about some of the things as far as rankings here and there,” Martinez said. “We felt as if we didn’t get a lot of respect. As a coach, you try to find anything you can to motivate your kids, so you find some articles here and there and go, ‘OK, let’s use this here.’

“With this game coming in, they’re a great program. A super, super quality program. It’ll be a great game for us. At the same time, you can’t back out of it and say we don’t want to play this one. No, you’re going to line up and play.”

And its a chance Martinez said the Bearcats welcome.

“I know our kids want to play this game,” he said. “The don’t want to back off. They want to play against the best. One of these times coming in the future, we want to be one of these top-ranked teams. We want to be a Manvel, an Aledo, a Calallen. We want to be that program.

“It’s got to start somewhere. Why not now?”

For Sherman, the first step is not considering the game lost before it even begins, Martinez said.

“We’re going to go out there and play football,” he said. “I know they’re a good, quality program and we’re in the process of rebuilding, I guess people might say. To come out, line up and play football and see where we are, that’s a good way to go about it. But we’re going to go at it as a coaching staff as we’ve got to game-plan to win the game.

“We’re talking to our kids when we go out to practice, we don’t want to come out and say shock the world because, let’s be honest, I don’t think people in Bangladesh really care about Texas high school football. But as far as Texas high school football, I want to come out there and play. I want our kids to have that opportunity. What a great game this will be.”

The Bearcats enter the game averaging 369.9 total yards (217.4 rushing, 152.4 passing) and 29.4 points per game. Running back Nathaniel Omayebu (142-924, 12 TDs rushing) has run for 553 yards and eight touchdowns in district play, while quarterback Blaise Bentsen (81-150-5 1,067, 10 TDs passing) has at least one TD pass in six of seven games. Martinez said Sherman will stay with what got it this far.

“We can run the ball,” he said. Let’s see if they can stop it. We can throw some balls to our receivers. They’re very talented on the back end.

“We don’t want to get into a shootout, a 7-on-7 game. That’s not something we want to do. We want to pound the rock and have some play-action pass, take care of it, stay ahead of the chains and get first downs.”

Defensively, Sherman has allowed 355.3 total yards (192.7 rushing, 162.6 passing) and 25.1 points per game. In last week’s 49-21 victory at Braswell, the Bearcats converted three interceptions, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt into five touchdowns.

“With our defense, let’s see if they will run the ball because they throw the heck out of it,” Martinez said. “Let’s see if we can force them to run it. If they’re encouraged to run it, maybe if they’re running the ball they’re not scoring as fast and maybe they’re using some clock to do that. We can rally and when we get to the ball, let’s see if we can hit them hard enough to make them drop it.

“That’s pretty much what we’ve got in store. We want to rally to the ball and get there with bad attitudes, strip it and go for it.”