There are a few positives that Sherman can take away from Friday’s home-finale loss.
One, the quest for a playoff berth is not over. The Bearcats need only one of two things to happen in the coming week to qualify for postseason play: a McKinney North loss to Mesquite Poteet on Thursday night, or a Sherman win at Tyler John Tyler on Friday night — the good news being that JT has clinched the No. 1 seed and has nothing to play for.
Two, the Bearcats did their part to solidify their position in any three-way tiebreaker by keeping the game close and staying on the plus side in points. And significantly, the Cats did not commit a turnover all night.
But of course, the sting of a missed opportunity still hurts. The Bearcats led by two points with just 7:47 to go, and had an outright clincher within grasp.
But West Mesquite’s Ty Jordan, who finished with 175 yards rushing, broke his fifth touchdown run of the game seconds later, and the Wranglers defeated the Bearcats, 33-27, in a District 7-5A (I) thriller at Bearcat Stadium.
“They’ve got so many D-I athletes over there at West Mesquite,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “I’m proud of the way our kids played … Our opportunities are still ahead of us and we still have an opportunity to go out and play.”
Jordan rushed for touchdowns of 3, 1, 1 and 11 yards in the first half, lifting the Wranglers to a 25-14 halftime lead.
West Mesquite (3-4, 2-2) needs a victory next week against Texarkana Texas High and also needs help from both McKinney North and John Tyler to qualify for the postseason.
Sherman, West Mesquite and idle McKinney North are tied for third place with one game left, and only four playoff berths are available.
Sherman (4-5, 3-2) took a 2-point lead with Blaise Bentsen’s 26-yard pass to Gage Smith with 7:47 remaining in the fourth quarter. But after West Mesquite recovered an onside kick attempt, Jordan took it 52 yards for his fifth and final score of the night, giving West Mesquite the lead for good.
The Bearcats, running the clock as much as possible to keep the Wranglers from having enough time to answer, drove as close as the West Mesquite 17 in the final minute before the West Mesquite defense made a stand, forcing a turnover on downs with 47 seconds left.
“The kids responded and did a great job,” Martinez said. “I know we came up short and I’m sorry to the fans and the community that we didn’t win the game, but the kids laid it on the line for them.”
The game was halted for about 10 minutes early in the third quarter because of an injury to senior receiver Landon Cole. Martinez tweeted after the game that Cole suffered a broken rib and a slight concussion and had been released from the hospital.
Sherman began the rally by opening the second half with a 69-yard drive, with senior Damian McKee blasting in off right tackle to cut the deficit to 25-21. Then the Cats executed an onside kick, with Benji Omayebu recovering.
“We just wanted to give our kids the best opportunity to win the game,” Martinez said. “We looked at our kickoff coverage, and we said, if we can’t cover better than that, why don’t we try to get the ball? We got the ball, so we stole a possession and it was huge for us.”
The Bearcats were unable to score on the ensuing drive as it ran out of steam at the West Mesquite 10-yard line and a high snap foiled a field goal try. But the Sherman defense stopped the Wranglers on downs at the Sherman 27 and went on the move again, with Bentsen hitting Smith for the go-ahead score.
Martinez called for another onside attempt, but this time the Wranglers saved it, although as it turned out, the field position would not matter. On the very first play, Jordan went around left end untouched, and West Mesquite led again, this time for good.
Sherman had 27 first downs to West Mesquite’s 18 and outgained the Wranglers in total yardage, 382 to 321.
The Bearcats forced the game’s only turnover when senior Cross Pike hit West Mesquite blue-chip receiver Dylan Wright hard, forcing a fumble that led to the go-ahead score.
“No. 22 (Pike) played his butt off,” Martinez said. “Did (Wright) get him sometimes? Yeah. But (Pike) got up every time and caused a fumble. He was on his legs like a dadgum hyena chewing on a bone. We had a chance to win the game because of his effort like that, all the way around.”
The Bearcats led 14-12 at the end of a seesaw first quarter in which the teams swapped touchdowns, but big plays on conversions — a Smith blocked PAT, followed by a backfield stop by sophomore Brandon Bonilla on Jordan — gave Sherman an early edge. Bentsen’s keeper gave the Cats a 7-6 lead, then Brown, who would up with exactly 100 yards on the night, reached the end zone for another score.
But Sherman bogged down offensively in the second quarter, and the Wranglers took advantage with a pair of Jordan rushing TDs to take an 11-point lead into intermission.
So the Bearcats now await Thursday night’s game between Poteet and North at McKinney ISD Stadium to learn what the next step will be — that is, whether or not the Cats must beat John Tyler to reach the postseason.
“The good thing is, we’ll know Thursday what we’ve got to do,” Martinez said. “Poteet might be a little bit angry, so hopefully that’ll help us.”