Bearcats are ready for return to playoffs

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
The Sherman defense celebrates after a fumble recovery last week in a win against West Mesquite. The Bearcats open the playoffs at College Station on Saturday afternoon.

Even though the road is long and winding, it is shorter than the one traveled two years ago. Of course for the Sherman Bearcats, the path they have been on in 2020 might seem a bit endless at times.

Despite staring at their final month of their season potentially coming to an abrupt end and being put in a tough spot for their final three contests, the Bearcats rose to the occasion each week to make sure they were headed to the playoffs.

“It’s great for the kids. It’s great for the community,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”

Their reward is a long road trip, but Sherman (5-4) is more than willing to claim that reward as it plays at College Station (9-1) at 2 p.m. on Saturday in a Class 5A Division I Region II bi-district contest at Cougar Field.

The winner will face either Denton Ryan or Dallas Adams in the area round next week.

While the program has been in the postseason three of the past four years, the Bearcats are seeking their first playoff win since 2012. They have come close in this recent stretch with all three games being decided by 13 points or less.

Two years ago Sherman had an even longer trek into South Texas, playing at Magnolia West to open the postseason as a No. 4 seed and nearly came away with an upset win in a 44-31 loss.

This year’s destination is a little bit closer but the lessons from before were learned and incorporated by playing on Saturday afternoon instead of Friday night with an extremely late return home.

“One thing I learned last time is you’d better be organized in advance. We started working on this two weeks ago. It’s such a long day you better be prepared,” Martinez said. “If we got an opportunity to flip and play on a Saturday, we would take it.”

The Bearcats entered the season with designs on making sure they avoided a tie-breaker like the three-way scenario which kept them out in 2019. With almost all of the skill players back — quarterback Tate Bethel, receivers Benji Omayebu, Jacoby Hunt and Sean Husband — its was going to be about finding the right pieces on the offensive line and a defense led by linebacker Brandon Bonilla and defensive back Jeff Banks to make the playoff push successful.

Sherman earned its third straight victory as it closed out District 7-5A (I) play with a 50-36 win over West Mesquite.

Andrew Nehrbass had nine carries for 71 yards and three touchdowns and four catches for 49 yards and a TD, Omayebu had 14 carries for 99 yards and six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, Hunt finished with four catches for 51 yards and a score and Bethel completed 23-of-34 passes for 272 yards and three TDs and ran seven times for 58 yards and a score.

“I think they’ve got a lot of confidence. They’ve got a lot of confidence in each other,” Martinez said. “They’re confident Tate’s going to get them the ball. Tate’s confident they’re going to catch it. On the defensive side, the guys on the defensive line have been very unselfish, giving up their bodies so others around them can make plays.”

College Station is the second high school in College Station, started varsity football in 2014 and has made the playoffs and posted a winning record every season, including winning the Class 5A Division II state championship in 2017 after being state semifinalists in 2016, and never won fewer than eight games in a year.

This past fall the Cougars suffered their only loss in a 27-16 setback to district champ Magnolia in the 8-5A (I) opener.

College Station has won seven straight and is coming off a 70-28 victory against Magnolia West last Friday. Jett Huff was 20-of-23 passing for 298 yards and four touchdowns, Roderick Brown had 15 carries for 197 yards and two TDs and two catches for 58 yards and a score, Marquise Collins finished with 11 carries for 180 yards and four TDs and Traylen Suel totaled 106 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.

Only the two Magnolia ISD schools have scored more than 21 points against the Cougars and the offense has scored at least 45 points in every victory except for one — a 24-14 win over Porter in the second district contest. In the past month, College Station has posted 64, 72, 61 and 70 points.

Huff has completed 170-of-234 passes for 2,234 yards and 28 touchdowns with four interceptions. but is not a threat to run with just 26 carries for 14 yards and a TD.

“If you give him the throw, he’s going to throw. They do a lot with RPOs,” Martinez said. “His job is to distribute it. He’s going to get it out in a hurry.”

The Cougars rely on the tandem of Brown and Collins. Brown, a senior, has 1,123 yards and 16 touchdowns on 134 carries while Collins, a sophomore, is at 90 carries for 909 yards and 19 TDs.

Suel is the leading receiver with 54 catches for 558 yards and six touchdowns while Dalton Carnes has 31 receptions for 547 yards and seven scores and Houston Thomas has 34 catches for 447 yards and three TDs.

Brown also has 19 catches for 393 yards and six touchdowns to go with his rushing ability.

Bi-district

Class 5A Division I Region II

What: Sherman at College Station

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Radio: KMAD 102.5 FM