The Bearcat defense is coming off its best performance of the season. That is something the unit could say after every game so far, but the latest effort came at the right time.

Sherman shut down a Justin Northwest squad that was averaging over 37 points per game and two weeks prior scored 65. It was a good test for what the group is about to face.

“The kids are playing well,” Bearcat head coach J.D. Martinez said. “The best thing I can say is they’re very coachable and they bust their butt. You put a plan in and they’re listening and they do their very best to execute.”

For all the success Sherman (3-1) has had on that side of the ball in forging a three-game winning streak, the toughest test to date comes with a trip to McKinney North (3-1) for the District 7-5A (I) opener at McKinney ISD Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday.

The Bearcats, who got for four straight wins for the first time since 2012, have allowed just three touchdowns over the past two games and had a shutout going in a 23-6 victory over Northwest until the Texans, who managed just 57 yards on 27 carries, got on the board with 7:41 remaining. Sherman recovered a fumble and forced three turnovers on downs to keep there from being any comeback attempt.

“They’ve got some really good confidence,” Martinez said. “The most impressive thing I saw Friday was the fourth-down stops. It wasn’t like fourth-and-eight. It was fourth-and-one, fourth-and-twos and they got right in there and stuffed them.”

Offensively, Benji Omayebu finished with 102 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdown catches — his third straight game with multiple TDs — while Tate Bethel was 8-of-15 passing for 113 yards and two scores to go with a rushing touchdown and Mike Brown totaled 19 carries for 191 yards.

When the teams opened district play last season, Sherman jumped all over the Bulldogs with a 59-21 victory and provided what turned out to be the deciding victory in Sherman making a second straight playoff appearance. The Bearcats were up 31-7 at half-time and maintained that lead until the latter stages of the third quarter and nearly had three 100-yard rushers.

Both Sherman and North join Texas High as the only 7-5A (I) schools to have a winning record during non-district play. The Bearcats and Bulldogs are hoping to ride the good starts to another playoff berth after they tied for third place with West Mesquite in the standings a year ago. West Mesquite was the odd team out on that tie-breaker as Sherman earned the third seed and North got the fourth. John Tyler is the defending district champion and Mesquite Poteet was the runner-up.

“I think looking at it, our district has been playing pretty good competition. I think it’s wide open,” Martinez said. “I’ve been telling the kids — don’t sell yourself short. Our goal is to win a district championship.”

McKinney North’s second straight 3-1 start has been fueled by the offense, which has picked it up in a big way over last season. The Bulldogs only scored more than 34 points just three times in 2018. In the first month of 2019, their season-low is 44 points.

North started the year with a 44-42 win over McKinney and then outlasted Justin Northwest — Sherman’s foe last week — by a 68-65 margin. The Bulldogs then lost, 63-49, against Frisco Wakeland before ending their non-district schedule with a 56-34 win over Rockwall Heath last Thursday.

Emanuel Fincher ran 35 times for 162 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another, Dillon Markiewicz completed 15-of-20 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns, Noah Ford had five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns and Sean Monsour finished with five catches for 116 yards and a TD as the Bulldogs scored on five straight possessions in the first half for a 35-21 advantage.

It was a game where all but a North touchdown was scored in the first three quarters.

Rockwall Heath did finish with 505 yards and Josh Hoover threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns. North has allowed at least 490 yards in every game, including 770 to Northwest and 717 to Frisco Wakeland.

Markiewicz, who was second-team all-district last season, has completed 74-of-103 passes for 1,353 yards and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Fincher leads the running attack with 108 carries for 755 yards and nine TDs while Jayden Smith has chipped in 40 carries for 203 yards and a score.

JJ Henry leads the Bulldogs with 26 catches for 482 yards and six touchdowns, Ford, who was second-team all-district, is next at 24 receptions for 438 yards and six TDs and 6-foot-7 tight end Brandon Frazier, a first-team all-district pick who has committed to Arkansas, has nine catches for 173 yards and a touchdown.

“It will be a great challenge for our team. I want to hold onto the ball and get first downs,” Martinez said. “Hopefully we can put some pressure on them, get some stops.”