College Station holds off Sherman for bi-district win

By Alex Miller
For the Herald Democrat
Sherman's Benji Omayebu brings in a touchdown pass from Tate Bethel over College Station's Denim Day in a bi-district contest at College Station.

COLLEGE STATION — Sherman was relentless, but College Station fended off the Bearcats, 38-26, in a Class 5A Division I Region II bi-district playoff game by busting big plays at opportune moments and responding to the Bearcats’ second-half scores.

“The kids go out and battle,” Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. “They give it everything they’ve got and that’s how our kids are able to compete because they play so hard.”

Sherman (5-5) was seeking to advance to the area round for the first time since 2012. The Bearcats' last four playoff losses had been decided by 13 points or less.

College Station (10-1) will face Denton Ryan in the second round.

Sherman wouldn’t surrender in the second half. Bearcats’ quarterback Tate Bethel accounted for three second-half touchdowns – two passing, one rushing – and willed Sherman down the field to keep the Bearcats alive.

“He’s the grittiest, toughest football player I’ve ever known in my life,” Martinez said.

Bethel completed 19-of-35 passes for 257 yards for three touchdowns and ran 10 times for 34 yards and a score, Benji Omayebu had seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown to go with six carries for 23 yards, Andrew Nehrbass ran 15 times for 60 yards, Elijah Chapman caught for passes for 79 yards and Sean Husband had four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown for the Bearcats.

Their effort wasn’t enough, however, as Sherman never came within one score in the fourth quarter.

Had Sherman capitalized in the first half, things might have been different. The Bearcats reached Cougar territory on each of their first three possessions, but were unable to come away with points. Bethel threw two interceptions in the first half.

The Bearcats built momentum going into half-time, however, as Bethel found Zavery Miller on a 37-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left in the second quarter, which cut College Station’s lead to 14-7.

“We’ve got to be able to finish,” Martinez said. “It sure could’ve been a different deal if we were able to capitalize on those.”

College Station opened up a 31-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter on Dawson Schremp’s 32-yard field goal. After Bethel connected with Omayebu on a 23-yard TD catch, the Cougars’ Roderick Brown responded with a 25-yard touchdown run with 4:24 remaining in the game to extend their lead back to 38-20.

Husband had a 43-yard touchdown catch with 1:44 remaining but the Bearcats' onside kick went out of bounds and the Cougars ran out the clock on the win.

“To be able to move the chains and do it with pace I think got the kids’ confidence back. We got back into a rhythm,” College Station coach Steve Huff said. “The way they were playing back today, things just weren’t going to be there down the field. So, it was more like, ‘Hey, let’s get the running game and tighten up the box a little bit.’ The kids stayed after it right there and I think getting first downs was huge.”

Much of the Cougars success came from the tandem of Brown and Marquise Collins. Brown carried the load in the first half with Collins coming in during the second half with fresh legs. Brown led the way with 223 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. Collins collected 104 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown in the second half. Jett Huff also completed 20-of-22 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown and an interception and Traylen Suel had 11 catches for 117 yards and a TD.

“They’ve got all kinds of different ways they can beat you,” Martinez said. “They like to run it, they like to throw it, they like to throw it a lot, they’re really fast, really fast tempo.”

The Cougars were up by seven at the break on Huff's 14-yard TD pass to Suel in the first quarter — which was the only scoring in the opening frame — and then Brown had a 40-yard scoring run late in the second quarter before Miller's TD grab in the final seconds of the first half.

Brown and Collins had touchdown runs around a Bethel six-yard scoring run in the final half of the third quarter to give College Station the 28-14 advantage.

Martinez said he will remember this Sherman team as resilient.

“It’s a crappy year for everybody, but one thing we always talk about is, ‘Life isn’t fair,’” Martinez said. “We talk about it a lot, it’s never fair, but the way you attack it is you’ve got to be a coffee bean. We had Damon West come and talk to us and you can either become hard like an egg or soft like a carrot or you can change the environment like a coffee bean. We tried to go in and change our environment.”

Bi-district

Class 5A Division I Region II

College Station              38

Sherman                        26