The Sherman Bearcats know what is at stake. There are a handful of games left on the schedule as the team comes off its bye. The extra week was put to good use and it came at a good time for a program about to embark on a playoff push.
“If we were 0-2 or 2-0, I take a bye as a blessing,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “We got through playing six games. It’s perfect timing and we got exactly what we needed out of it. It was for us to be able to pull back, take a little bit of time, hit the fundamentals.”
Sherman (3-3, 0-2) doesn’t need to be perfect down the stretch but it does need to start picking up victories if it is going to remain in the playoff chase, starting on its longest road trip of the season with a visit to Texas High (3-4, 0-3) in District 7-5A (I) action at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“Here it is. If you want to keep playing, it’s got to be a Maroontober. It has to be an Octoberfest,” Martinez said. “We definitely have the capability. I believe that.”
The Bearcats have shown flashes of that since the start of the season. They put together a three-game winning streak to close out non-district play. And their three losses have all been close at half-time, keeping them withing striking distance.
But the final two quarters in each of those defeats have gotten away from them, sometimes on offense and sometimes defensively.
Senior running back Mike Brown is a little more than halfway to a second straight 1,000-yard season, sitting on 552 yards and three TDs on 98 carries. First-year starting QB Tate Bethel has completed 75-of-125 passes for 963 yards with nine touchdowns and just one interception as well as three rushing TDs. Benji Omayebu leads the team with 24 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns and scored nine times overall this season.
It will take a complete team effort to get back on track and the Tigers are feeling the same way.
The two teams square off trying to stay in the playoff chase. McKinney North, John Tyler and Mesquite Poteet all enter the final month of the season still undefeated in district play. West Mesquite currently sits in fourth place with a hold on the final playoff berth.
If the Bearcats are going to make a third straight postseason appearance, the road map looks like a 3-1 finish with wins against Texas High, Wylie East and West Mesquite. It is a good long-term goal but it can’t happen unless Sherman takes the first step against the Tigers.
“We have to beat Texas High. They’re the same way — beat us, Wylie East, West Mesquite,” Martinez said. “We’re all in the same boat. We know what we have to do.”
The Bearcats aren’t that far off their pace from last season, when they were 1-1 coming off the bye with a win against McKinney North. Even if they had repeated that success, they would almost certainly need to chart that same 3-1 path, so the outlook doesn’t really change from a year ago.
“Our kids aren’t in that mentality. We are focused on Texas High. They just battle and play,” Martinez said. “I don’t think they recognize things like that. This week is the biggest week we have.”
Texas High is coming off a 55-10 loss against Mesquite Poteet as part of the Tigers’ struggles since district play started.
Poteet was up 42-3 at half-time and was led by Seth McGowan, who had 182 yards and four touchdowns on only nine carries. Jeremiah Anukem returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a score and Tristan Golightly caught a pair of touchdowns passes for the Pirates.
Kobe Webster had the only TD for Texas High on a 29-yard catch from Zane Dodson, who was just six-of-15 passing for 81 yards, in the third quarter. Oscar Hernandez’s 44-yard field goal was the other scoring for the Tigers, who had 247 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice. Tracy Cooper ran 23 times for 126 yards.
Dodson has taken over at QB after starter Rian Cellers, a junior who is committed to Mississippi State for baseball, has been ineligible since district play began. Sophomore Brayson McHenry is also in the mix for snaps.
“The big deal for them is the quarterback. He was a talented kid,” Martinez said. “They’ve been bouncing back and forth with them.”
The Tigers opened the season with a 3-1 record. After starting with a 21-7 loss against Pflugerville Hendrickson, Texas High beat rival Texarkana Arkansas High, 28-7, then topped Liberty-Eylau, 62-13, and picked up a 30-14 win over Kilgore.
But the current three-game losing streak began with a 16-0 setback to Tyler John Tyler that was 3-0 heading to the fourth quarter and was followed by a 62-41 defeat against McKinney North where the Tigers were down 48-14 at the break before last week’s loss to Poteet.