By Sam Waller, Herald Democrat
The Sherman Bearcats kept pounding.
The Denton Broncos finally cracked.
Nathaniel Omayebu rushed for four touchdowns and the Bearcats forced five turnovers in a 35-14 victory over the Broncos at Bearcat Stadium on Friday as Sherman put itself into playoff contention in District 5-5A.
âIâm happy and proud of the way the kids got after it,â Sherman head coach J.D. Martinez said. âWe had a big chip on our shoulder. I know people doubt us. People donât believe in this team or believe in this town, but the team that we have out here stayed with us. Some of the people that doubted this staff and doubted this team, Iâm proud of the way our guys answered all those doubters.â
Denton (2-4, 0-2) suffered its fourth consecutive loss.
Sherman linebacker Brent Wilson, who had a team-high 11 tackles and a forced fumble, said the victory was a complete team effort.
âThe offense was out there competing, giving us chances to stay off the field and come back out refreshed and everything,â he said.
Omayebu rushed for 236 yards on 32 carries â both season highs â and scored on runs of 2, 6, 25 and 40 yards. He had 111 yards and three TDs in the fourth quarter as the Bearcats (3-3, 1-1) pulled away.
âI just want to thank the O-line,â Omayebu said. âThey did an outstanding job. It was a good team victory on both sides of the ball. Iâm proud of my team. We donât give up. All weâve got is all we need. Weâre going to keep on pushing and make a run for the playoffs.â
Despite everything that went right in the end for Sherman, Denton still had a chance down 21-14 when took over at its own 11 following an interception by Hunter Hope.
The Broncos crossed midfield, but a muffed snap led to a fourth-and-14 situation from their own 47 with 3:28 to play. An attempt at trickery, with Kollin Buris taking a short toss from quarterback Landry Kinne and pitching the ball to Isaiah Wofford going the other way, was blown up for an 8-yard loss. Omayebu broke loose for his third touchdown on the next play.
Any chance the Broncos had at coming back ended when Austin Bindel returned an interception to midfield and Omayebu did the rest, scoring his fourth touchdown with 1:18 to go.
âWe knew the match-up and we just came out here ready to ball,â said Bindel, who also had four tackles and a pass breakup. âWe knew what we had to do to stop them and we did it. Weâd be down sometimes, the offense picked us up and we just played our game.â
Sherman finished with a season-high 445 yards, rushing for 346 to break 300 yards on the ground for the third time in four games. Michael Wallace added 95 yards on nine carries. Blaise Bentsen was 10-of-21 passing for 99 yards and a TD to Tylor Jones, who caught six passes for 64 yards.
The Bearcats opened the game with an 11-play, 63-yard drive capped by Bentsenâs 27-yard touchdown pass to Jones, but that was the only score of the first half. Wallace recovered Dentonâs muff of the ensuing kickoff, but Sherman turned the ball over on downs at the Denton 30. The rest of the half saw the Bearcats punt three times, turn the ball over on downs at the Denton 22 and miss a 41-yard field goal as time expired.
âWe were able to drive some, but we just werenât finishing,â Martinez said. âWe just stayed the course and were able to finish.â
Shermanâs defense kept the Broncos under wraps, however, allowing just 67 total yards in the first half. Denton punted twice, lost two turnovers and turned the ball over on downs at the Bearcat 21.
Jalyn Cotton, who had a sack and a fumble recovery, and Ethan Bedgood each had seven tackles for Sherman. Gage Smith had three tackles with a fumble recovery and an interception.
Martinez credited Shermanâs defensive staff for a plan that allowed 269 yards, their second-lowest total of the year.
âIâm telling you, the best-kept secret in Texoma: (Bearcats defensive coordinator) Mark Wilkinson,â Martinez said. âThe job that he does is fantastic. Him and his staff have our kids believing. The kids are getting better every week, and thatâs what you have to have.â
Kinne finished 20 of 32 passing for 202 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice, sacked once and lost a fumble. Cortez Cardenas caught seven passes for 79 yards and a score, while Corbin Shelley rushed for 47 yards on 12 carries. Former Sherman running back Xylohn Posey, who transferred to Denton during the off-season, was limited by injury and finished with 0 net yards on three carries.
Omayebu opened the third quarter with his first score, which was set up by Wallaceâs 60-yard run. Denton got on the board with 2:07 left in the period when Kinne connected with Cardenas from 11 yards out. After Omayebuâs second TD, Smith recovered a fumble near midfield but Bentsenâs incomplete screen pass was ruled a lateral and Hope returned the ball to the Sherman 12. Three plays later, Kinne found Wofford for a 21-yard score to cut the margin to seven with 9:16 to play.
Following Dentonâs failed fourth-down on its next possession, Omayebu sealed the outcome with his third and fourth scores.
âWhen youâre able to do that and impose your will, thatâs a really good sign,â Martinez said. âYou start to wear people out. Itâs been a long time. It wasnât pretty early, it was just a grind, and then we were able to start popping (touchdowns). Those last two were things of beauty.â