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No Spring Football, But Sulphur Springs Coach Optimistic About 2013 Season

Sulphur Springs’ Brennan Brock wraps up Tyler Lee’s Marquiston Williams as Blake Doughtie (40) looks on during Sulphur Springs’ 35-34 season-opening overtime win in Tyler last September. Brock and Doughtie are two of several returning defenders for coach Greg Owens in 2013. (Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Greg Owens does not conduct spring football, opting for the extra week of practice at the beginning of fall drills in August.

But that doesn’t mean Sulphur Springs isn’t hard at work during the daily athletic period with an eye toward the 2013 season.

ETSN.fm talked with the Wildcats’ boss Thursday afternoon and he repeatedly mentioned one aspect that excites him about his team: depth.

“We played a lot of young kids last year. We had a good year last year. We got beat by a very good Wylie East team (in the first round),” said Owens, a Sulphur Springs native who is 60-26 with a 2008 Class 4A Division II state championship ring in his seven years with the ‘Cats. “We gave up quite a bit of yards, but the kids got a ton of experience and we feel like we’ve got great depth on both sides of the ball.”

Sulphur Springs won the District 14-4A championship and finished 8-3. A lot of talent is back from that squad, and two position groups stand out in the depth discussion: offensive line and secondary.

Owens welcomes back several young but proven offensive linemen, including Jess Jenkins (6-3, 270), Austan Davis (6-4, 225), and Landon Watkins (6-0, 245), all of whom are in the Wildcats’ 2015 class. That grade also includes two on-the-rise safety prospects — Larry Pryor (6-1, 185) and Zach Spigner (6-0, 180) — who combined for 207 tackles in 2012.

Pryor already holds three offers, Owens said — TCU, Texas, and Texas Tech.

“In the secondary we’ve got four, five, six kids we feel really good with back there. I think the No. 1 strength we’ve got is depth,” Owens said. “We’ll probably share more kids offensively and defensively than we have in the past. Those two safeties are a key strong point in our defense and our football team. They would probably be right behind our offensive line that’s gonna have four or five juniors starting and all with playing experience.”

That line will pave the way for one of East Texas’ most dynamic playmakers. Willy Ivery accumulated more than 1,600 yards from scrimmage and scored 29 total touchdowns in 2012, when he terrorized opponents from the slot, backfield, and kick returner roles.

Ivery is also a Division I FBS recruiting target with four offers in hand, according to Owens — Colorado State, New Mexico, Texas State, and Toledo.

“Just getting the ball in Willy Ivery’s hands is a big key,” Owens said. “Hopefully we can get it to him 25 or 30 times a game in several different ways. We’re also looking at Larry Pryor at getting quarterback reps. We’re looking at having both of those guys at quarterback at various times in the ball game.”

Sulphur Springs used two quarterbacks to significant success in 2012. Owens said the Wildcat coaching staff will not hesitate to do that once again.

“Our philosophy is we’ll probably use another two-quarterback system again this year,” he said. “We also are gonna play those kids on defense, too.”

In other words, Owens is subscribing to the old coaching adage of putting your best 11 on the field at all times.

Sulphur Springs may not be conducting typical 4A/5A after-school spring football practices like other schools of its size, but the Wildcats will do the usual 7-on-7 this summer while working during their class period in the meantime.

Improving on a defense that allowed 39.4 points per game is a high priority, but the Wildcats have several key pieces returning from an offense that averaged a staggering 46.8 points. That total included three games of at least 62 points, two of which were 70 and 71, respectively.

Owens likes his offensive front, his primary playmaker in Ivery, and his back seven on defense, so the Wildcats could be poised for another 14-4A title run this fall.

“I’m really excited about the depth we’ve got and the passion and energy that we train in the athletic period with,” Owens said.

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