By Jason Della Rosa, Democratic Herald
There were times last season the Sherman Bearcats seemed to have found a sense of consistency, that turning the corner was right around the corner, and the program had a chance of making the playoffs for the fourth times in five seasons.
Sherman had moments where he showed what it could be at the end of Cory Cain’s first year in charge of the program, but SHS finished one playoff spot with a 4-6 overall record and a mark. 2-4 at 7-5A(I) for fifth in the district standings – two games behind the three-way tie between Longview, Tyler and McKinney North for second place.
“You don’t want to be on that roller coaster. We want to be consistent,” Cain said. “The children work hard, it has never been an effort. They are improving day by day. »
It was a step back from a group that had a winning record and tied for second in the district and as the Cats try to regroup and prepare for a playoff return, they are also pursuing a playoff win and battle win. of the Axis, for the first time in a decade.
For all of this to be accomplished, it will require filling some key holes on both sides of the ball and relying on young talent adapting to college level.
“Our kids have really bought into the weight room and it’s very evident in their looks,” Cain said. “The biggest thing I learned was communication in all areas. Last year we got to know the kids, getting to know them as we played. After an offseason together, we feel like we’re in a better position to maximize where we put them.
Among those who lost their diploma from a big senior class were first-team all-district corner Josiah Banks and second-team all-district picks Tavian Scruggs on the offensive line and Armando Chavez on the defensive line.
The Bearcats will try to improve the efficiency of an offense that has scored more than 28 points only three times and struggled to control the ground game.
It looked like there would be a change at quarterback when senior Phoenix Grant, who committed to Yale as an athlete, was traded to Gunter in the early spring when his dad got a job as assistant coach with the Tigers.
But he is back after the Interscholastic University League refused this decision.
In his first season as Sherman’s starting QB, Grant completed 154 of 295 passes for 2,031 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions to go with 155 carries for 657 yards and nine touchdowns. Sophomore Caleb Orr was his backup and didn’t throw a varsity pass, while junior Cooper Morgan is also trying to get into the mix.
“Phoenix is our quarterback, but there are guys who are fighting for Reps to be our quarterback,” Cain said. “We have several guys who play quarterback.”
Grant was Sherman’s top rusher and the Bearcats are hoping senior Caleb Thompson and second Kane Bowen can improve their 2021 seasons.
Thompson had 303 yards and five touchdowns on 72 carries and was honored in all districts while Bowen had 230 yards and three touchdowns on 58 carries. Senior Jesse Taylor also remains an option.
Sherman brings back three of his top four receivers, losing honorable mention to all-district pick Elijah Chapman, who had been a starter for three years.
Vontrelle Sanders earned second-team all-district honors in his first season playing football after spending the first two years of his high school career on the basketball court and had 25 catches for 443 yards and five affected.
He enters his final season with offers from the Army, Navy, Pittsburgh and Sam Houston, among others.
Senior Aries Jones led the team with 46 receptions for 598 yards and five touchdowns.
Rounding out the returns was senior JD Parker, who had 17 catches for 191 yards and a score.
Sophomore Vonte Sanders is expected to be a tall target, standing 6ft 4in, while classmates Mikah Hunt and Major Thornhill will also be options.
“They are all going to play. It’s an athletic group,” Cain said. “The youngsters are playing well.”
The offensive line lost all five starters, in addition to Scruggs, Nolbert Sibrian and Daniel Clark were honored in all districts, and will look to rebuild unity around junior center Kasen Debose, who got important snaps as Clark’s replacement a year ago. .
For the other four spots, the Bearcats are considering a host of juniors — Corey Pate, Nate Kumler, Levi Schmitz, Levi Ullah and Darrion Minar — as well as senior Ricky Rodriguez.
“Experience is where the competent guys are,” Cain said. “They will have to carry the load while o-line takes care of it. I don’t think it’s going to take long because the offensive line, for me, is the first group that freezes.
Along the defensive line, senior Chaz Brown is hard to miss as he enters his second year as a starter and will look to continue clogging the middle of the trenches. Senior Tim Lancaster and junior Bryceson Bedford are trying to join the roster, while seniors Letarian Sims and Logan Taylor and junior Je’Daron Holland work on defense.
Junior Joe Gionfriddo was named an All-District Honorable at linebacker and leads a group that includes Bowen and Thornhill.
“These guys can play,” Cain said. “Those three cats could be playing Allen right now and I know that because I coached linebackers at Allen.”
Senior Connor Clark is the only one returning to high school after making the second-team all-district, but senior Julian Nandin and second Colby Ray Short have significant experience.
Nandin and Clark will be paired up while Short appears to be used in a utility role at the back of the defense levels.
Seniors Joevon Sherman and Jayton Hooper should be the corners.
Senior Jace Comola, who transferred from Whitewright a year ago, is moving from linebacker to safety and could see some cliches there.
Dane Castleberry was named All District Honorable Mention as a junior after scoring six field goals. Grant will serve as the punter.
The Bearcats were placed in an oversized 6-5A(I) district as the only non-Frisco ISD school in the latest realignment along with Frisco Centennial, Frisco Lebanon Trail, Frisco, Frisco Heritage, Frisco Reedy, Frisco Lone Star, Frisco Wakeland and Frisco. Freedom.
Sherman has just two games — Denison and Princeton — in out-of-district action.
“In a perfect world, you would have four games to prepare for the district. It’s not the hand that’s dealt to us,” Cain said. “There were good teams in our last district and we have very good teams in this one. You have to go out there and play well. »