In last week’s 49-21 victory at Denton Braswell, the Sherman Bearcats had the luxury of a big lead early in the game.

With state-ranked Denton Ryan up next on the schedule, Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez took the opportunity to play mostly backups in the second half against the Bengals.

“Those are good games to have,” Martinez said. “I’d rather be playing in those situations than being down by 40.

“Those kids work hard, too, and they want to play. I want them to play and have the opportunity to get out there and just play football. It’s supposed to be a fun game.”

Such opportunities have been rare during Martinez’s two seasons with the program as he has worked to turn the Bearcats around after they went 2-18 in the two seasons before his arrival. Sherman enters Friday’s game 8-9 under Martinez.

“I realize — and every coach does — that your paycheck is because of the W’s, not because you’re a great guy,” Martinez said. “You’d love to play everybody, but in the end you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

“When you have a game like that where people get in to play, it’s a fun thing. I’m happy for those kids.”

Among those seeing their first significant action were quarterback Tony Flores, who directed the last three series after starter Blaise Bentsen had taken every snap of the season to that point. Freshman Darian Titus, who was called up to provide depth at receiver, played running back and finished with 24 yards on 10 carries.

“We were teaching him on the sideline,” Martinez said of Titus. “You look around and you don’t want to put (a regular back in). We had to have somebody.”

Safety Aaron Potts, who was called up from the junior varsity just for the game, recovered a fumble and Miguel Ramirez punted twice for a 41-yard average in addition to kicking off three times.

“Eventually, one of these days, we’d like to build it to where we are like an Aledo or a Ryan,” Martinez said, “where a lot of those backups get a lot of time because you’re beating people pretty good most of the time.”

Injury update

Senior running back Michael Wallace (61-384, 4 TDs rushing) became the latest to join the injury list, going down with a knee injury in he third quarter against Braswell. Martinez said Mike Brown will be promoted from JV to take Wallace’s place this week.

Offensive lineman Christian Smallwood, who suffered a knee injury in the District 5-5A opener at Wichita Falls Rider, will be out for the third week in a row.

The Bearcats have yet to put their projected starting lineup from the preseason on the field in a game this year.

“We’ve been banged up all year long,” Martinez said. “It’s OK because the guys that have been in there have played really hard. They’ve come through.

“I’m not sure if this is our second game where we get to have the same starters on the offensive line. I think this will be the first time we’ve ever had that two games in a row this year.”

Playoff picture

Sherman enters the weekend tied for third in District 5-5A with Wichita Falls Rider, which owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, and cannot clinch a playoff berth even with a victory over Ryan.

But the Bearcats can move within a game of clinching this weekend if Denton High loses at Denison. Braswell hosted Wichita Falls High on Thursday with the loser being eliminated from contention.

Sherman could clinch during its bye week if it wins Friday and Denton (at Rider), Braswell (home vs. Denison) and WFHS (at Ryan) all lose next week. The Bearcats visit Wichita Falls High on Nov. 3 and would be in position to clinch a spot by winning that game if Denton loses at least once before then.

The possibility of three- or four-way ties involving Sherman at 3-3 still exist, which would bring the point-spread tiebreaker into play.