Sherman get to make up for lost time with Longview

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman's Anthony Gionfriddo tackles Highland Park's Christian Reeves in the Bearcats' last game before having a bye last week. SHS plays at Longview on Friday night.

While the entire state was dealing with COVID-19 during last season, some districts had much tougher times getting games played compared to others. One of the few that went relatively unscathed was District 7-5A (I) – all but one of the match-ups was able to be decided on the field.

The one which ended up being declared a no contest was Longview’s trip to Sherman right in the middle of the district schedule. Issues within the Sherman ISD forced all athletics to be shut down and the Bearcats, who were coming off their bye, had to wait another week before returning to the field.

When the regular season ended, both Longview and Sherman were tied in the district standings at 4-1 with both losing against 7-5A (I) champ Highland Park. Had the game between the Lobos and Cats been played, the winner would have been in second place by themselves and the loser alone in third.

Sherman ended up getting the third seed and finished 5-5 with a bi-district loss to College Station and Longview took the second seed after the COVID-19 tie-breaking procedure and ended 9-3 with a loss against eventual state champion Denton Ryan in the region semifinals.

But there was always the nagging feeling about who would have won if the game had taken place at Bearcat Stadium.

“For me, every week’s like that because it wasn’t me playing them last year – everybody’s new for a lot of the coaches,” Sherman head coach Cory Cain said. “To the kids I don’t know if it matters as much. I actually don’t think it hurts.

“As a coach you’re always going to use what works. If we’d beaten them last year, we’d talk about that. If we had lost and played them tough, that’s what we would highlight. But it’s the next game on the schedule. The biggest game is the next game.”

The two teams will get to meet as Sherman (3-3, 1-1) travels to Longview (5-2, 2-1) for what could again turn out to be a pivotal District 7-5A (I) contest at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.

Stuck in the middle of its toughest stretch and playing a ranked team for the second straight game, Sherman comes off its bye ready to make a push for the playoffs over the final month of the season, matching the strong finish from 2020 that ended with a third postseason trip in four years.

“Just bumps and bruises to deal with. Sometimes you just need a mental break,” Cain said. “It worked out well for us. I’d rather have it in the middle.”

Both the Bearcats and Lobos have lost to Highland Park, so what they do against their other five district foes will dictate where they end up in the playoff pecking order.

A year ago they both were rooting for someone to knock the other off. Now they get the chance to prove that the second seed belongs to them on the basis of a head-to-head victory.

Longview is coming off a 21-16 loss against Highland Park, snapping a five-game winning streak. It was a match-up of No. 3 and No. 4 in the 5A Division I rankings and the Lobos dropped to No. 7 this week after the close defeat.

“Two really good teams,” Cain said. “Longview’s always been good, strong traditionally. Obviously they have a head coach that’s been there, done that.”

Sherman lost against the Scots, 35-17, in a game where the Bearcats were down only 20-17 late in the third quarter.

“Every team matches up with each other differently,” Cain said. “I don’t like comparing scores. I watch how they block and tackle, how well they execute, how they do things defensively.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Lobos ended up playing from behind the final three quarters. There was a 65-yard interception return for a score by Kaden Brooks to pull with 14-10 late in the third and then Jordan Allen connected with Taylor Tatum for a five-yard TD late with 3:06 remaining to fashion the final score.

Highland Park ran out all but the final five seconds on the clock to seal the win. The Scots did have 242 yards passing as Brennan Storer completed 17-of-25 passes but managed only 53 yards on 25 carries.

Allen completed 11-of-20 passes for 156 yards with the TD and an interception, Jarrett Lewis had 12 carries for 65 yards and Jalen Hale totaled five catches for 55 yards.

Hale is one of the top juniors in the country. He ranks 18th overall, second in Texas and the second-best receiver in the country for the Class of 2023 with offers from just about every major college program.

The Lobos’ only other loss is 40-7 against Denton Ryan in the season-opener, meaning Longview’s defeats have been against the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the statewide rankings.

All but one of the Lobos’ victories have been by at least 14 points, including district wins over West Mesquite (56-28) and Wylie East (56-0).

District 7-5A (I)

What: Sherman at Longview

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Radio: KMAD 102.5 FM