Sulphur Springs Wants Even More After Clinching Playoff Berth
Every football team to be hitting its stride going into the playoffs, and Sulphur Springs coach Greg Owens thinks his team is doing just that.
Riding a three-game winning streak that got the Wildcats into the playoffs, they're now focusing on one thing: consistency.
"Our kids have really embraced the idea over the last three weeks that every game at this point is a must-win," Owens said on Wednesday. "We've gained a lot of confidence the last three weeks. We've played really well together. Consistency is now the biggest thing. We've got to keep doing what we're doing."
Sulphur Springs (5-5) will get to host a playoff game in its newly remodeled Gerald Prim Stadium against Lucas Lovejoy, also 5-5 on the season, at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Owen said there's a big buzz around school surrounding this week's game.
"This week of practice has been exciting. We've just got a lot of kids who are great leaders and have the desire to want to put in the hard work, and it's paying off," Owens said.
The Wildcats have been riding the backs of a stout defense to reach the postseason, allowing only 28 points combined over the past three weeks. The anchor, Owens said, has been his team's defensive line.
Senior D'Idrec Dugan leads the group with 61 tackles -- 21 for loss -- and seven sacks in the regular season. Calvin Eckert (36 tackles, 9 for loss, 9 QB hurries) and Jose Rodriguez (28 tackles, 4 for loss) have been heavily involved as well.
"Our defensive front has just been exceptional. They're been warriors for us," Owens said. "They're getting into the backfield, pressuring the quarterback and getting sacks and tackles for loss. And the linebacker corps has stepped in and fit right in behind those guys. They're playing with a motor right now."
Sulphur Springs is facing a Lucas Lovejoy team in a similar position. After dropping its first five games of the season, the Leopards won five in a row to take third in District 13-5A. Quarterback Carson Collins (2,458 yards, 20 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) leads the offense, with TCU commit (53 catches, 824 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Jacob Terwillinger (57 catches, 767 yards, 8 touchdowns) having big seasons at wideout.
That means even more pressure on the Wildcats' defense to make stops and the offense to not settle for field goals, Owens said.
"They're explosive, that's for sure. Their line does a great job of covering you up and executing their game plan," Owens said. "It's going to be big for our defense to get those three-and-outs and our offense has to finish the drives with touchdowns and put sevens on the board."
Owens said much of his team's success rides on the shoulders of 26 seniors who have worked to get Sulphur Springs back into the conversation among the best teams in East Texas. Now in his 12th year, Owens has seen the highs and lows of his program. Now he hopes it's on the way back up and can notch its first playoff win since 2013.
"We're definitely right there. I didn't want to go through that five-game losing streak earlier in the season -- we had some tough games -- but we've played better than our record, I think, since then and our hard work is paying off right now," Owens said. "You just have to keep preaching the leadership and hard work and instill that into your best athletes and leaders and the rest will follow."