The Richter Scale is no longer used by seismologists to record the size of earthquakes. But Bearcat Stadium was the epicenter of one mighty big temblor whose magnitude was felt throughout Class 5A on Friday night.
Blaise Bentsen rushed for three touchdowns and passed for two more, and the Bearcats took a 31-7 halftime lead in a stunning 59-21 rout against McKinney North in the District 7-5A (I) opener for both teams — and the ancient edifice figuratively swayed afterward, even if only from the students singing the alma mater loud and proud for the first time in several years.
“I’m super surprised and super excited,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “The kids did a great job believing in each other and sticking together. The coaches put a game plan together and the kids executed it.”
The Bearcats (2-3, 1-0) are already one-up against a district contender and own the tiebreaker to boot. Two more wins in their last five games should ensure at least a berth in the postseason.
However, the history books provide a dose of caution. The Bearcats opened district play with a 55-44 win at playoff-bound North on Sept. 26, 2013 — a game known for seven rushing touchdowns by Tre’ Mask and one broken neck by a long-since-fully-recovered Jordan Henry — but it wasn’t enough to save a top-four finish that year.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs, and hopefully this’ll help us get there,” Martinez said. “We want to get there, and we had to get this win. We’re 1-0 (in district) and that’s what you want to do.”
The Bulldogs threatened to make a game of it in the second half, cutting the Bearcats’ lead to 31-14 — very briefly — on Hunter Chae’s 8-yard run with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter.
But just as abruptly, the Bearcats scored two quick touchdowns to reassert the boot on the Bulldogs’ throats.
After a North onside kick attempt failed, Bentsen needed just one play to scamper 54 yards up the middle to restore the 24-point edge. Then on the ensuing kickoff, Sherman’s Cody Hunter forced a fumble by North return man Charles Grogan, and after a Holy Roller-like scramble for the pigskin, Sherman’s Logan Daniel emerged with it in the end zone, and all the suspense dissipated into the cool late-September night.
“We talked about coming out and playing great in the third quarter, because we hadn’t been great in the third quarter,” Bentsen said. “Our guys did that and came ready to go. Our offensive line was great all night; the running game was there and we made some plays passing too.”
The Cats tacked on two more tallies before the night was done, on one final run by Bentsen and then one by his successor-in-waiting, the sophomore Bethel.
The Bulldogs managed one final touchdown with eight seconds left on a 2-yard run by Emanuel Fincher.
Sherman very nearly had three rushers reach the century mark. Bentsen finished with 118 rushing yards and Damian McKee added 105 for the Bearcats, while Brown wound up with 95. Joel Nandin was perfect from the spot with a 22-yard field goal and eight PATs.
Bentsen completed 12 of 20 pass attempts for 171 yards, completing six to Bethel for 88 yards.
Defensively, Hunter and Isiah Husband had interceptions for the Cats and Hunter, Bonilla, Ethan Bedgood and Isaiah Jones all stood out defensively with backfield plays, as well as Hunter, Isiah Husband, Benji Omayebu and Gage Smith on pass coverage.
“They just kept plugging and plugging and doing their job,” Martinez said. “I can’t say enough about (defensive coordinator) Mark Wilkinson. He’s fantastic. He does everything for our football team from defensive coordinator to assistant head coach and he runs our whole system. He’s a big, big reason for our success.”
Sherman matched the 59 points scored in a game against Greenville in 2013, and the 38-point final margin was their greatest since winning at Greenville, 41-0, in 2011. The Bearcats last won by a bigger margin at home in the same 2011 season in a 63-14 rout of Mount Pleasant — a very similar contest in which both the opponent’s starting and backup quarterbacks were knocked out early.
The same blow befell McKinney North (3-2, 0-1) in the second quarter when starter Cameron Constantine wobbled off the field after a hard hit by Sherman sophomore Brandon Bonilla, and never returned to the sideline.
Backup quarterback Dillon Markiewicz, who earlier had taken snaps as Constantine lined up at wide receiver, had thrown a 30-yard pass to Noah Ford on a blown coverage giving North a 7-3 lead. Ford finished with 10 catches for 166 yards and a TD to lead the Bulldogs.
Despite the defensive hiccup, Sherman ended the half with 28 unanswered points, with Bentsen’s keeper giving the Bearcats the lead for good with seconds remaining in the opening period. In the second frame, Bentsen threw for touchdowns to Sean Husband and Tate Bethel, then after a successful onside kick, Mike Brown’s 3-yard run made it 31-7 with 6:06 left before halftime.
“The first four weeks we didn’t set the tone early,” Bentsen said. “We started off a little slow again, but we got a couple of touchdowns, the defense made some stops and got some turnovers, and it just kind of went from there.”
Sean Husband, who just two plays before had dropped a wide-open deep bomb from Bentsen right in his breadbasket, redeemed himself two plays later with a short toss in the flat which Husband converted into points down the visitors’ sideline 60 yards.
“You’ve got to believe in your kids; you can’t give up,” Martinez said. “We had it there the first time, so I talked to coach (Derek) Thompson and said let’s come back and do it again. I’m glad we came back. Sean made a (heck) of a play; he’s a young pup and he’s going to be really, really good.”
The Bearcats don’t have much time to savor this landmark rout, however, with a short week to get ready for a trip to Mesquite Poteet on Thursday.
“It’s all about the kids,” Martinez said. “The coaches are coaching and we’re doing our job and what we’re supposed to be doing, but in the end it’s what the kids do, and they put it together. This week was all about discipline … and what the kids wanted the most. They wanted this the most.”