Stephenville is perfect in round three playoff games. The struggle has been getting there.
The Yellow Jackets are 12-8 in 20 area-round playoff games during their current run of 23 playoff appearances in 24 years. They have won second round games each of the last two years, with their last second-round loss coming to Aledo in overtime in 2009.
The opponent this time around is Kennedale, a longtime 3A power that flattened Burkburnett 68-0 in bi-district action last Friday. Stephenville led 42-0 on its way to a 56-27 thrashing of Burnet last week.
"Their offense executes their game plan very well and their defense has two Division I commits at linebacker and really runs to the football well," said fifth-year Stephenville head coach Joe Gillespie of Kennedale. "Anytime a team has beaten its opponents the way they have, it gets your attention."
Kennedale has won eight straight since splitting its first four games of the year with the losses coming to Mansfield Legacy and Argyle. The Wildcats have shut out four of their last five opponents and defeated those five by a combined score of 327-28.
"I know their schedule wasn't like ours, but they are averaging (65.4 points) their last five games and giving up (5.4). You can't fault a team for who they have in their district, you can only say they have done a lot more than just take care of business.
The Wildcats have two of Class 3A's top inside linebackers in Texas A&M pledge Brett Wade and North Texas commit Fred Scott.
"Those two guys are really good in their 3-4 defense," said Gillespie, who is 12-4 in the playoffs. "They read their keys and get to the ball in a hurry, and really it's not just them; that's how their whole defense plays. They have good team speed, especially in the secondary."
The Wildcats passed the ball only 6.1 times per game in the regular season, but that doesn't mean senior quarterback Zac Michener isn't an armful.
"He's a real scrambler, which is what makes their offense a little more versatile than Amarillo's," Gillespie said. "They both run the wing-T, but Amarillo's quarterback was not real mobile so you kind of had one less option to worry about. (Michener) can run, so we have to account for him, not just the guys in the backfield."
Like most wing-T offenses, Kennedale uses a running back-by-committee approach. Gillespie believes the best of the bunch to be sophomore Juwan Washington.
"(Washington) is a tough runner who wants to hit the edge," Gillespie said. "He's tough between the tackles, but he has good speed and his real strength is getting to the edge and getting big chunks of yardage."
When Michener does go to the air, Gillespie says he'll usually be looking for tight end Dalton Vondra.
"(Vondra) is a real good looking kid who blocks well and is a good receiver," Gillespie said. "He's just a good football player; he's one of those guys a team can never have too many off."
Kennedale's offense, by nature, is one that uses a lot of clock. Gillespie says he's sure a big part of the Wildcats' game plan is limiting Stephenville's number of possessions by shortening the game.
"Getting three-and-outs will be huge, just to keep them from leaving our offense on the sideline for a long time," Gillespie said. "If we can come out and get two or three three-and-outs to start the game, we're going to be in the driver's seat regardless what the score is."
He also put particular emphasis on execution by the Jacket offense.
"Our offense is very strong right now; they're executing at a very high level," he said. "I don't think anyone can consistently stop us unless we stop ourselves with things like penalties and turnovers. We have to continue to limit those mistakes the way we have pretty much since we played Alvarado (on Oct. 26)."
Tyler Jones has become a master of protecting the ball, firing 26 touchdown passes and rushing for 12 scores while throwing just four interceptions. The senior was 18-23 passing for 313 yards and four scores while rushing for 70 yards and a fifth TD last week. Two of his scoring passes went to Brice Gunter, who will join Jones at Texas State next fall. Gunter had five catches for 117 yards.
Seven different Yellow Jackets scored a week ago.
"When we can get that many weapons involved, it really puts all the pressure on the defense because they have no idea what we'll do or who we'll go to next," Gillespie said. "That's what you want is to keep defenses guessing."
Friday's winner faces No. 2 Abilene Wylie or Andrew in next week's 3A Division I Region I final, which is also a state quarterfinal.