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Positive reinforcement: Confident Cats to tangle with McKinney

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman's Andrew Nehrbass had three touchdowns during the Bearcats' win against Saginaw last week. Sherman travels to McKinney on Friday.

It would be hard to find a game that could produce a more confident group than the bunch of Bearcats who walked away from their victory last week.

After two games where very little went right, Sherman spent four quarters of bliss where almost nothing went wrong.

And with district play right around the corner, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

Sherman got contributions up and down the lineup and from its offense, defense and special teams.

It shone a light on the potential for a core which was good enough to come as close as they could to a playoff spot without earning one and be back at it this season.

“I always want to keep getting better. You never want to regress,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “They’re mentally focused. They’re not fooling around. We have to continue getting better and they are committed to doing that.”

But the Bearcats (1-2) aren’t worried about being overconfident as they travel to McKinney (2-1) to close out non-district play at McKinney ISD Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday.

“I think it’s a week-to-week proposition and doing your best. It’s all about the next game,” Martinez said. “You focus on yourself and focus on the process. I think the biggest challenge for us is looking at the calendar and seeing we’re about to play our fourth game and it’s the middle of October. We’ve been at it for eight weeks but we’ve still got a long ways to go.”

After starting with two losses, the Bearcats broke out in a big way with a 62-0 victory against Saginaw.

Andrew Nehrbass ran eight times for 120 yards and two touchdowns and also returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score, Caleb Thompson ran 17 times for 86 yards and a score, Tate Bethel returned from a one-game absence due to injury and ran for a TD and had a touchdown pass and Jacoby Hunt finished with three catches for 55 yards and a score.

“It’s all contingent on if the line continues to do the job,” Martinez said. “I want to see improvement. I want to see us compete.”

Sherman held a 41-0 half-time advantage and Saginaw never really threatened to end the shutout. The Rough Riders totaled just 93 yards, including 18 yards on 26 carries, and converted only four first downs — one in the first half. Connor Clark returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown, Phoenix Grant recovered a fumble and Trey'vian Knight blocked a punt.

It was the most points by Sherman since a 63-14 win over Mount Pleasant in 2011 and its biggest shutout win since 64-0 against Trimble Tech in 1994.

There hadn’t been that large of a victory for the Bearcats since a 69-7 win over Trimble Tech in 1995.

But all of the positive reinforcement from an outing like that won’t matter much when it comes to taming the Lions this week or against Wylie East in the District 7-5A (I) opener next Friday.

“A lot of the starters out there are young. There’s some puppies out there,” Martinez said. “They’re so focused on getting better. That’s what I like to see. They're starting to know their roles and what they can do to help the team.”

This is also the non-district finale for McKinney, which starts 6-5A action next week.

The Lions are coming off a 21-13 victory against Dallas Skyline. In the fourth quarter, Sampson Nazarko subbed in for Jakobe Walton ran for a touchdown and had a 60-yard TD pass to Cameron Rivas to help McKinney pick up the victory.

Adrian Shepherd returned an interception 39 yards for a score to notch the other touchdown by the Lions, who held Skyline — which was playing its first game of the season — to less than 100 total yards.

After opening the season with a thrilling 36-35 victory against Plano where a kickoff return got a TD in the final minute to go with the two-point conversion that proved to be the difference, the Lions suffered their lone loss, 27-10, against Flower Mound Marcus.

McKinney went 7-5 last season and is seeking a fourth straight playoff appearance after going from 2010-2016 without one. The seven victories matched 2017 for the most wins since 2004.

“They get after it. They play really, really hard,” Martinez said. “There’s going to be places where they have a size advantage. We need to use our speed to counter that. We better come ready to battle. You better buckle up and be ready.”

Non-district

What: Sherman at McKinney

Where: McKinney ISD Stadium

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Radio / Webcast: KMAD 102.5 FM / www.shsbearcats.net/broadcasts