Sherman hosts Wylie East to start district play

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman senior cornerback Braiden Speed and the Bearcats kick off District 7-5A (I) play by hosting Wylie East on Friday.

Some of the faces have changed but the Sherman Bearcats are hoping their role in the playoff chase stays the same.

Even though they missed out last year, they were in the middle of the race until the final snap of the season after consecutive postseason berths in 2018 and 2019.

Sherman has wins in the past two years against all of the holdover programs and will have to continue that success if they are going to return to the playoffs.

The first match-up in the six-game set-up comes as Sherman (1-3) hosts Wylie East (1-1) in the District 7-5A (I) opener at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Bearcat Stadium.

“We are a playoff team — that’s our mindset. I feel we are a playoff team,” Bearcats head coach J.D. Martinez said. "We need to take care of business. I worry about one team right now.”

Much of the district looks the same: Sherman is again joined by East, McKinney North, Tyler (formerly John Tyler after a name change) and West Mesquite.

Texas High and Mesquite Poteet moved out in February’s realignment and Highland Park and Longview — two of Class 5A’s powerhouse programs — were added to fill those openings.

Last year’s race was as close as it could be — after McKinney North went 6-0, everyone else but East went into the final game with a chance to reach the playoffs. Poteet ended up second at 4-2 while Sherman, Tyler and Texas High tied for third at 3-3.

Unfortunately for the Bearcats, they were the odd team out due to points a tie-breaker as the other two advanced. Sherman was a touchdown away in the final minute of its season-ending win over Tyler from getting in.

Through the first month of this season, only Highland Park and Longview have winning records. Tyler, North and West Mesquite don’t have any victories. And Highland Park, Wylie East and Tyler had to cancel games because of COVID-19.

Sherman enters district play off a 24-14 loss against McKinney. The Bearcats fell behind 14-0 after the first quarter but were within a field goal at 17-14 in the fourth before the Lions held on.

Benji Omayebu and Tate Bethel had touchdown runs in the second half and Jacoby Hunt finished with three catches for 61 yards.

Outside of the Bearcats’ win, a 62-0 blasting of Saginaw, the common theme has been an offense which hasn’t fully clicked. Two of the losses saw them score a combined three touchdowns and if not for a TD in the closing seconds against Denison in the season-opener, Sherman would have been held to 16 points or fewer in all three defeats.

“Our offensive line is totally unrecognizable from Week 1 to now, in a good way. We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Martinez said. “Jacoby’s probably the most consistent guy right now. He’s been really, really good.”

The defense has done a good job of limiting opponents to keep Sherman within striking distance, allowing only five touchdowns over the past three games.

“The defensive coaches come up with really good game plans and try to take away what you do best,” Martinez said. “They've given us opportunities to win the game and they’ve done that every week.”

The Raiders haven’t played or been able to practice for the previous two weeks because of positive COVID-19 tests within the program.

“Gotta go with what you see,” Martinez said. “They’re either going to be well-rested or really sharp.”

Wylie East opened the season with a 49-6 loss against Mount Pleasant, a team that beat the Bearcats, 24-7, the following week and then beat Irving Nimitz, 42-18, before having to shut things down.

“Common opponent, they played Mount Pleasant well. It was 6-0 at half-time,” Martinez said. “It got away from them in the second half.”

That doesn’t lead to many data points for a team which went 2-8 last season, 0-6 in 7-5A (I) play and Sherman beat 42-14.

In the win against Irving Nimitz, Christian Johnson had 24 carries for 142 yards and three touchdowns while Darren Quickley caught a TD pass and the Raiders ran for 329 yards.

Wylie East built a 25-0 half-time advantage before Nimitz made it a 28-18 game going to the fourth quarter, where the Raiders pulled away.

In the loss to Mount Pleasant, Terrell Washington had 10 carries for 116 yards and a TD but was just 5-of-16 passing for 15 yards and three interceptions and Johnson totaled 16 carries for 105 yards.

“They’ve got some good-looking kids,” Martinez said. “They’ve got some weapons.”

District 7-5A (I)

What: Wylie East at Sherman

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

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