by Butch Burney
FORNEY — A quirky first half turned into an irksome second half for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats Friday night against the North Forney Falcons, but it won’t keep the Wildcats at home next week.
Sulphur Springs saw a 17-17 halftime tie turn into a 39-24 loss to North Forney on a cold, blustery night in the regular season finale for both teams. But, while North Forney won the battle, Sulphur Springs won the war because it is the Wildcats who will advance to the bi-district playoffs next week. The Wildcats (6-3 overall, 5-3 in District 8-5A) had already secured a playoff berth before the game and will now enter the postseason as the third place team in the district.
They will travel to Frisco for the first round game to play Frisco High, the second-place team in District 7-5A. The game will be played Thursday night, November 15th at The Ford Center at the Star in Frisco. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The game against North Forney was a strange one for a half as the Wildcats scored a safety on a kickoff, had a penalty against North Forney keep a touchdown drive alive following a missed field goal, and scored a two-point conversion off a mishandled PAT snap. Each team registered first downs on each of their four offensive plays and at the end of the half, there was only 3 yards difference in total yardage for each team.
The second half started as weirdly as the first half ended as Sulphur Springs fumbled on the kickoff return, but North Forney fumbled the ball right back to the Wildcats on the first play from scrimmage. From there, though things turned from quirky to sour.
North Forney, which scored the final 10 points of the first half, scored 15 more in the third quarter on a 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Tre Barksdale and a 32-yard touchdown pass to take a 32-17 lead.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, had their first five possessions of the second half end in three punts, a fumble and on downs. They finally got the offense in early in the fourth quarter with a 39-yard TD drive following a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Michael Arrington. Colton Allen’s 9-yard touchdown run and Brandon Zavala’s PAT cut the North Forney lead to 32-24. But, the Falcons responded with a 65-yard TD drive of their own, capped by a 43-yard run by Ty Collins.
The Wildcats’ final two possessions ended with a lost fumble and on downs.
North Forney took a 7-0 first quarter lead on a 3-yard pass from Jacob Acuna to Cory Johnson. Acuna finished the game by hitting 9-of-13 passes for 194 yards and three TDs. Two of his touchdowns went to Johnson, who caught four passes for 70 yards.
Sulphur Springs, though came back with 17 straight first quarter points as they tied the game on a Caden Davis 2-yard run and a Zavala PAT. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball tipped off the hands of an intermediate return man and dribbled down to the 1-yard line, where a Forney player picked it up and stepped back into the endzone, where he was tackled by Wildcat Kylan Wade for a safety.
The Wildcats then added another TD after receiving the kickoff. The drive looked like it would end with a missed 31-yard field goal, but the Falcons were flagged for being offside, giving SSHS a first down, which they capitalized on when Da’Korian Sims scored two plays later from 9 yards out. Sims led the Wildcats in rushing with 106 yards on 13 carries, the second time this season he has gone over the 100-yard mark.
Noe Ponce, the holder on extra points, bulled his way into the endzone following a mishandled snap for a 2-point conversion.
Though the Wildcats were up 17-7, North Forney tied the game in the second quarter on a 23-yard field goal by Carlos Rodriguez and a 41-yard pass from Acuna to Johnson.
Sulphur Springs actually outgained the Falcons 392 yards to 375, but the Wildcats turned the ball over four times on three lost fumbles (one returned for a TD) and an interception. SSHS averaged more than 5 yards per carry (39 carries for 214 yards), but completed just barely more than 50 percent of its passes (17-of-30).
NOTES: This was the first meeting between the Wildcats and Falcons in football. North Forney did not play varsity sports until 2010-11 and did not have a graduating class until 2012. … North Forney scored 39 points with less than 400 yards of total offense because (1) they scored on a fumble return, and (2) they had drives start at their own 42, 43 and 49 yard lines and the Wildcats’ 22, 41 and 40 yard lines. … The Wildcats took the ball away four times as well, with fumble recoveries from Kylan Wade, Austin Dodd and Michael Arrington and an interception by Detrick Clayton. Andy Eddins appeared to have a first-half interception, but a pass interference penalty negated the turnover.
AROUND THE DISTRICT: Corsicana was idle Friday night, giving them a week to prepare for Lake Dallas, their first-round opponent. Kaufman, a 28-26 winner over Forney, will play Lucas Lovejoy in bi-district, and Ennis (a 35-14 winner over Greenville), will face ninth-ranked Frisco Reedy in the first round of the playoffs. Royse City was a 22-7 victor over Terrell.
Sulphur Springs 17 0 0 7 –24
North Forney 7 10 15 7 –39
North Forney — Cory Johnson 3 pass from Jacob Acuna (Carlos Rodriguez kick), 10:45.
Sulphur Springs — Caden Davis 2 run (Brandon Zavala kick), 8:05.
Sulphur Springs — Safety, Kylan Wade tackles kick returner in endzone, 7:55.
Sulphur Springs — Da’Korian Sims 9 run (Noe Ponce run), 5:09.
North Forney — Rodriguez 23 field goal, 8:17.
North Forney — Johnson 41 pass from Acuna (Rodriguez kick), 6:13.
North Forney — Tre Barksdale 53 fumble return (Jaylin Smith run), 10:11.
North Forney — Chris Bellamy 32 pass from Acuna (Rodriguez kick), 1:59.
Sulphur Springs — Colton Allen 9 run (Zavala kick), 10:29.
North Forney — Ty Collins 43 run (Rodriguez kick), 8:38.
Sulphur Springs, 39-214 — Da’Korian Sims 13-106, Caden Davis 11-54, Colton Allen 12-72, Austin Dodd 2-5, D’Corian Young 1-(-23).
North Forney, 36-182 — Aalarieake Branch 18-87, Ty Collins 9-77, Jacob Soto 2-14, Jacob Acuna 5-12, Chris Bellamy 1-0, Jaylin Smith 1-(-8).
Sulphur Springs, 17-30-1-178 — D’Corian Young 17-30-1-178.
North Forney, 9-13-1-194 — Jacob Acuna 9-13-1-194
Sulphur Springs 17-178 — Landry Tyson 5-81, Jermond Bryant-Amos 3-35, Austin Dodd 3-3, Damiyon Dugan 2-16, .Caden Davis 1-16, Da’Korian Sims 1-7, Bryce McQueen 1-17, Connor Burgin 1-3.
North Forney, 9-194 — Cory Johson 4-70, Chris Bellamy 3-57, Anthony MaQuar 1-12, DeJuan Johnson 1-45.
Sulphur Springs, 2 — Kylan Wade 1, Austin Dodd 1, Michael Arrington 1.
North Forney, 3 — Tre Barksdale 2, Antorius Hambric 1.
Sulphur Springs, 1 — Detrick Clayton 1.
North Forney, 1 — Antorius Hambric 1.
Sulphur Springs, 6-149 — Jermond Bryant-Amos 6-149 (24.8 average).
North Forney, 4-125 — Corbin Thompson 4-125 (31.3 average).
Sulphur Springs, 6-97 — Caden Davis 4- 67, Damiyon Dugan 2-30.
North Forney, 2-21 — Ty Collins 2-21.
Sulphur Springs — none.
North Forney, none.
FUMBLES-LOST: Sulphur Springs 5-2. North Forney 5-3.
PENALTIES: Sulphur Springs 6-40. North Forney 5-45.
FIRST DOWNS: Sulphur Springs 20. North Forney 18.