Too close for comfort: Cats will try to avoid another thrilling finish

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman receiver Zavery Miller and the Bearcats go for their second straight victory when they travel to Saginaw on Friday night.

It is the type of finish which can alter a season’s trajectory and the Sherman Bearcats are glad they had the playmakers at the end to be the ones who came away with the last-second victory.

For all but just a few minutes during a single possession, the gap between the Cats and Mount Pleasant was never more than seven points. Two teams looking to erase opening losses battled to match drive for drive, score for score.

The difference ended up being decided by only four seconds. To that point each side had come up with big plays on both sides of the ball. The biggest play was yet to come.

And when Phoenix Grant’s bomb to the end zone was caught by Elijah Chapman, who got behind three defenders, with no time on the clock, it provided more than an exciting end to a 36-35 comeback victory. It could be the start of something bigger.

"It was fun. It was crazy. Those are the two words that come to mind," Cory Cain said about his first win as a head coach. "We never felt out of it. As a coach, you don't have time to be nervous because you're always planning. Looking ahead a couple plays or the next series what we need to do. It worked out."

Sherman (1-1) will look to ride that momentum when it travels to Saginaw (1-1) for a non-district match-up at 7 p.m. on Friday.

"It helps with belief. It helps with buy-in. It helps with morale," Cain said. "It can't not help your program."

The wild finish capped Grant’s hand in all five touchdowns. He threw for 248 yards and two scores and led Sherman with 22 carries for 121 yards and three TDs. Chapman had 93 yards and the 48-yard game-winner on four catches, J.D. Parker added four catches for 75 yards and a score and Cats forced four turnovers and made a fourth-down stop in the red zone with a minute left to give Sherman a chance to go and win the game.

Eighty-seven yards and a minute later, the rally had been completed.

"Our kids are playing so hard. There's no doubt about that. I'm really proud of that," Cain said. "There's things we've still got to eliminate. They've done a good job of putting our last game to bed. The focus has been all about Saginaw."

After opening the season with a 24-21 victory against Fort Worth Southwest, the Rough Riders dropped a 62-21 contest against Frisco Heritage.

Kyle Kennard had 13 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns, Samuel Johnson completed 15-of-27 passes for 128 yards and a TD with two interceptions and Cooper Faulkner totaled six catches for 83 yards and a score in the loss.

Saginaw did not win any of its nine games last season — a major step back from a 7-4 mark in 2019 — and that included Sherman earning a blowout 62-0 victory which was not the Rough Riders’ worst defeat of the season and only the third-highest point total they allowed.

Of course a majority of those points came from Bearcats who have graduated — Andrew Nehrbass had 120 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries and returned a kickoff for a score, Tate Bethel ran for a TD and threw another and Benji Omayebu also scored.

There are still those around who shined in that contest — Connor Clark returned an interception for a touchdown, Chapman caught the TD pass and Caleb Thompson scored on the ground.

"To our kids' credit, they haven't mentioned last year. We haven't brought it up as coaches," Cain said.

It was the most points for the program since a 63-14 win over Mount Pleasant in 2011, its biggest shutout win since 64-0 against Trimble Tech in 1994 and the largest margin of victory since a 69-7 win over Trimble Tech in 1995.

Saginaw managed only four first downs and 93 yards, including 18 yards on 26 carries. Out of 46 snaps, 22 of them either gained no yardage or went backward.

Anything resembling a repeat performance would put the Bearcats in position to finish non-district play with a winning record should they be successful against McKinney next week.

"I do think they're better — their running back, he's a pretty good player. The quarterback has shown he can do some things," Cain said. "I think they are improved over last year. It's about us being better than last week."

Non-district

What: Sherman at Saginaw

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Radio: KMAD 102.5 FM