The Wildcats enter the 2013 season loaded at almost every skill position, but there are still some spots that head coach Greg Owens will need to fill.
“Jenner Jackson was tremendous for us as an offensive lineman…we’re going to miss him,” Owens said. “Heath Howard brought some tremendous size to us on [defense], Antun Walton was an explosive player, Jordan Jackson and Cole Hill made terrific plays for us at the receiver position, Brad Macek had a great year at quarterback and Buddy Ivery did a great job pounding the football; and I’m probably leaving somebody out.”
Even though Owens has lost quite a few players, he isn’t too worried about this year, with Derick Ingram coming in at quarterback with lots of varsity experience backing up Macek, and Willy Ivery returning to try to get more than 1500-plus all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Owens also has four offensive linemen returning who played on varsity as sophomores, and six wide receivers with varsity experience.
On defense, expect big performances from free safety Larry Pryor, one of the top defensive backs in the state. Pryor (118 tackles, 1 interception, 10 pass deflections, 2 caused fumbles) can take over a game defensively and looks like one of the University of Texas’ top overall prospects for the class of 2015. Other key players on defense include defensive back Zach Spigner (89 tackles, 6 pass deflections), linebacker Blake Doughtie (57 tackles, 2 interceptions), linebacker DeKeistan Mosley (46 tackles, 2 sacks) and defensive lineman Bryton Wood (56 tackles, 3 sacks).
“The kids that are coming back have a lot of experience, and we really feel good about them,” Owens said. “Kids are starting to mature and grow, and we think we’ve got some dynamic playmakers in our key positions that will put pressure on defenses, and we feel like we’ve got some pretty good depth on defense too.”
The Wildcats have a tough 2013 schedule, with games against 5A Tyler Lee, Sherman (9-3 area finalist 13-4A), Whitehouse (10-2 area finalist 16-4A), Paris (8-4 regional semi-finalist in 13-3A), and Corsicana (bi-district finalist 16-4A). That’s not even including a district schedule that includes games against Mount Pleasant (and Dave Campbell’s 2013 Texas Football Super Team member Kaddarrius Cannon), at Texas High (only missed the playoffs once in the past decade), and against Hallsville (7-4 bi-district finalist 14-4A).
“East Texas football is tough,” Owens said. “People are going to say that about everybody’s region, but we’ve got some athletes out here and some tremendous programs that they’ll battle-test you. If you can survive that kind of a district, it’s a benefit for you once you get into the playoffs; the experience you gain from all of that is tremendous.”
With coach Owens at the helm — he’s only missed the playoffs once in his career at Sulphur Springs, his first season in 2006 — Sulphur Springs has grown used to at least eight wins a season and a playoff appearance. This year shouldn’t be too different, as they are almost a unanimous pick to win District 14-4A. The question is how far the Wildcats can go once they make it into the playoffs.
Hear a previously-recorded interview with Owens here.
Head Coach: Greg Owens 2012 Results: 8-3 bi-district finalist, 5-0 in District 14-4A Top Players: RB Willy Ivery, Sr., 5-10, 180; Rushing 86-914 yards, 22 TD; Receiving 54-674 yards, 6 TD; 509 kick return yards. FS Larry Pryor, Jr., 6-1, 195; 118 tackles, 1 INT, 10 pass deflections, 2 fumbles caused. OL Jess Jenkins, Jr., 6-3, 290; 41 pancake blocks. FS Zach Spigner, Jr., 6-1, 185; 89 tackles, 6 pass deflections. OL Landon Watkins, Jr., 6-0, 250; 80 pancake blocks.