There is a worry about the Battle of the Ax that goes beyond that singular game, and it comes on both sides. Some refer to it as a rivalry hangover — win or lose — that Sherman and Denison might deal with after squaring off in such a big contest surrounded by all the hype.
Can you keep the momentum going or will your head be too big after the victory? Can you get up off the mat and bounce back from the defeat?
Since 2012, the Bearcats have not been able to follow up their performance in the Battle of the Ax with a winning one. All of that changed last Friday against Fort Worth Brewer as they never trailed and built a four-score lead in the fourth quarter.
“I’m happy with the way the kids went down there and took care of business. We talked all about treating it like a business trip,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “The kids played well. We executed right from the get-go.”
Sherman was able to fix some of the issues that plagued the offense in the season-opening loss and continue to expand on the positive aspects.
The Bearcats don’t have much time to celebrate, however, with a short turnaround as Sherman (1-1) travels to take on Frisco Liberty (0-2) at The Star at 7 p.m. on Thursday night looking for consecutive victories.
In the 28-17 win against Brewer, the Bearcats built a 28-3 lead before Brewer scored twice in the fourth quarter.
“We’re in a good position right now, trying to get a win on a short week,” Martinez said. “It’s a good opportunity for us.”
Tate Bethel was 8-of-13 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, Benji Omayebu scored in three different ways — rushing, receiving and returning a blocked field goal 68 yards — and Sherman salted away the game with an improved rushing attack led by Mike Brown’s 22 carries for 154 yards.
“We were able to push on them a little bit,” Martinez said. “I was proud of our ability to run the ball, eat up some clock.”
It took until the second half for the Bearcats to commit their first turnover of the season and they did finish with double-digit penalties again.
Defensively Sherman allowed just under 350 yards and gave up only Jorge Estrada’s 43-yard field goal through three quarters against a Bears offense that had an 81-44 play advantage but couldn’t find the end zone until the game was out of reach.
“They were trying to run it first. Our defense continued that ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ attitude,” Martinez said.
Last year’s 19-0 victory over the Redhawks was Sherman’s first shutout in eight years and the first at Bearcat Stadium since 2002.
Liberty fumbled 10 times, losing three of them, finished with 119 yards and didn’t cross midfield until the third quarter.
“They have confidence,” Martinez said about his defense. “They feel like they should go win this game.”
Blaise Bentsen ran for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, Joel Nandin kicked a field goal and Brown had 30 carries for 134 yards as the defense did the rest.
Frisco Liberty is coming off a 42-14 loss against Carrollton Creekview after the Mustangs pulled away when Liberty tied the game at 14 on its first possession of the third quarter.
Will Ashmore paced the Redhawks with 110 yards and both touchdowns on just seven carries. Will Glatch completed only 8-of-17 passes for 84 yards with an interception.
Creekview totaled 384 yards and all but one of those came on the ground. The Mustangs were led by Isai Pena, who ran 15 times for 95 yards and three touchdowns. Edgar Paige also had 128 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
The Redhawks opened the season with a 42-7 loss against North Garland. Liberty was in it for a quarter with Glatch scoring on a two-yard run to tie the game at seven after the first 12 minutes. North Garland held the Redhawks scoreless the rest of the way and to 164 yards for the night on the way to a 28-7 half-time lead.
Liberty went winless last season and has lost 13 straight dating back to 2017. Last year’s defeat against the Bearcats is the only shutout in that span. The program hasn’t had a winning season since it lost in the bi-district round after a fourth-place finish in 2011.
“Their offense is more open. More trips, more doubles, more motion trying to get the edges,” Martinez said. “We’re going to have to go out and execute our game.”