Bearcats begin ‘second season’

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Sherman’s football players.

The first week of the playoffs has arrived, and with it comes the expectation that several more weeks are ahead for the Bearcats.

“We’re just excited to get another week of football,” senior quarterback Dru Smith said. “Hopefully, five more after this week. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

In the last 19 seasons counting this one, Sherman has missed the playoffs only three times. But playoff success was rare until last year, when the Bearcats got on a roll and made it to the Class 4A Division I state quarterfinals. It took a near-perfect performance by Tyler John Tyler quarterback Greg Ward to deny Sherman an even deeper advance.

The first step toward matching last season’s run is Friday night at Paris, when the Bearcats (8-2) will take on former District 13-4A colleague Texarkana Texas High at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re going to have a good time and try to get us a win,” Bearcat senior linebacker Kahlee Woods said.

The bad news is that the Bearcats won’t be able to claim a share of another 13-4A championship after Lovejoy won the title outright last week. But the good news is that the Bearcats are almost completely healthy for the first time in more than a month.

Four starters were held out of last Friday’s 27-14 win at Greenville in order to completely heal assorted injuries. It showed as the Bearcats sputtered, but the move could pay off handsomely down the playoff road.

“That game was pretty bad, but we won, and that’s the main thing,” said Woods, who scored the first points of his three-year varsity career last week on a 2-point conversion catch. “We wanted to go in there and take care of business.”

This week, everyone will suit up, and that excites Smith as he resumes his chase of the school single-season yardage record. Smith needs only 20 passing yards on Friday to take the top spot, and if Sherman advances far enough, Smith could assault the career passing records despite having played only one year for the Bearcats.

All Smith worries about is how the team performs.

“As much as we can keep our guys out there, we’ll be fine,” Smith said. “It definitely shows when we’re out there, what we can and can’t do. It’s going to be exciting to see our whole team back together and see what we can do as a team.”

Sherman won both of its recent meetings with the Tigers in the former far-flung 13-4A alignment, taking a 39-36 thriller on the road in 2010 and grabbing an emotional 30-17 triumph at Bearcat Stadium last year which launched their postseason roll.

“They always bring the crowd, and they always bring the excitement,” Woods said. “It’s always electric wherever we play them, and it’s always a good game. We plan on having a good game.”

Under longtime coach Barry Norton, Texas High (3-6) hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2000 and won the 2002 state championship in 4A Division I.

This fall, the Tigers only won two games in the six-team District 14-4A, but won the one they had to, beating Marshall, 20-6, on Nov. 2 to clinch another playoff berth.

Texas High battled Hallsville last week, cutting the margin to 13-7 on junior quarterback Dakota Hunter’s 23-yard pass to Ben Adams in the third quarter before Hallsville held on for a 19-7 decision. Treveon Walker rushed for 93 yards for the Tigers.

If last week’s closer-than-expected win at winless Greenville has a benefit, it teaches the Bearcats never to overlook an opponent. Now that every game could mean it’s time to break out the basketballs, that message rings even louder.

“It’s the playoffs,” Smith said. “You can’t take anybody lightly. It’s like the movie ‘Any Given Sunday,’ except it’s Friday. They’re in the playoffs for a reason, despite their record. They did something right to get there. They know it could be their last game, just like we do. We’re going to get everybody’s best game from here on out.”