Cade Pearson + Dynamic Offense Carrying Texas High to 3-0 Start
Texas High coach Barry Norton is hesitant to refer to his Tigers as a "good" football team.
Really? A team that's 3-0, has scored 129 points through three games and is ranked No. 9 in the state isn't "good."
For Norton, you can't make that assumption until the season is over, but this year's Texas High squad is well on its way to being good ... or better.
"We're not a bad football team and we're not a great football team. You've got to be honest with yourself about how you're playing and evaluate everything," Norton said. "You have to ask yourself, 'Are you getting everything you can out of your team you possibly can?' If the answer is yes and you're 6-4, then you did a great job."
Norton has been largely pleased with what he's seen out of his team through three games. Unbeaten Texas High is coming off consecutive wins over in-town rivals Liberty-Eylau and Arkansas High, with a 30-point win over Arkansas High being a huge boost of pride for the Tigers side of Texarkana.
But as all coaches preach -- and with only one more non-district game to go for Texas High -- there's always room to get better.
"Obviously when you win, everybody's happy. What you can do when you're winning is disguise some problems and as coaches we have to identify those and work on them," Norton said. "We're doing some things really well and some things we're not. We have to work on getting better and better and not lose sight of that. We've played two in-town ballgames that have been highly emotional games. We have to make sure we have a lot of juice left for the next one."
One thing the Tigers are definitely doing right is putting up enough points to win, averaging 43 points per game so far this season. Quarterback and North Texas commit Cade Pearson has been at the forefront, throwing five touchdown passes over the last two games.
"Cade is doing his job and is doing the things we're asking him to do. He's in his third year as a starter and he's just gotten better each year," Norton said. "He's getting into his second and third reads and understands what he's doing. The game moves slower for him now."
Pearson, following in the footsteps of names such as Ryan Mallett, Chris Marshall and Nathan Sorenson at Texas High, has improved in multiple areas during his time under center, but it's the mental aspect of his game that has meant the most, Norton said.
"As far as the mental part goes, he's better than he's ever been. We've put more on him this year as he's gotten older," Norton said. "I think everybody's different, but he's really grown in that area."
And with weapons like Pearson, Quan Hampton, Markese Martin on offense, the best thing Texas High can do defensively is keep them on the field -- which, according to Norton, has been a work in progress and he hopes to see that improve.
"We played 17 snaps on offense and 50 on defense against Liberty-Eylau, and we were up 27-12 at halftime, but our defense was worn out," Norton said. "We need to be on the field as much as we can offensively. Obviously we're not going to slow down scoring -- if we can score fast we're going to -- but our defense's job is to get it back."
That will be the team's biggest test against Kilgore, which lives by grinding it out on the ground and owning the clock. These teams have been in close games the past two years -- Kilgore won 21-17 after being down 14-0 early last year and Texas High won in 2014 in triple overtime, 19-13.
"We scored on the first play of the game last year, went up 14-0 and then got as flat as we could possibly be. They gave us a flipping. They kept pounding on us and scored late to beat us," Norton said. "When you play Kilgore you know it's going to be a rough, tough football game. They want to run the football down hill and wear you out. We're going to have to keep our offense on the field in this one."
With District 16-5A play on the horizon, Norton talked about all the things every coach talks about, but what he really wants his team to focus on is ... well, staying focused.
"My challenge to them is mental preparation more than anything. They get tired of hearing me talk about it, but we have to stay focused the whole time," Norton said. "The other night (New England Patriots wide receiver) Julian Edelman said having perfect practices allowed them to play well and beat Arizona." It's one thing to practice. It's another thing to practicing perfectly, and that's how you approach it mentally."