Don't blame your favorite Yellow Jacket if he didn't stick around for long after Monday's game accepting your hugs, high fives and congratulations. The team didn't exactly have time for dwelling on their latest regional championship.
Stephenville won its seventh Region I title since 1990 and its second straight in 3A Division I with a 42-28 victory over Lubbock Cooper in a game that was delayed three days and still played in sub-freezing temperatures.
Now Stephenville prepares for a new set of challenges. The reigning state champion and fifth-ranked Jackets have four days to prepare for No. 2 Kilgore, and with SISD closed Tuesday, they will have just three days of full team activities.
Kickoff in the state semifinal is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Corsicana.
"We're going to turn around in five days and play a very stout Kilgore football team that will be on seven or eight days rest," said Gillespie while tightly clenching fistfuls of hand warmers on the Shotwell Stadium sideline following the game in Abilene Monday night. "It just goes to show you never know what will come your way in the playoffs. Any given week, anything can happen, and it might be something you have no control over like the weather."
While his focus quickly turned to Kilgore, Gillespie did take a moment to reflect on everything his club overcame to win the long-delayed quarterfinal.
"This one worried me, I'll be honest. Just delay after delay throwing you out of your rhythm," Gillespie said. "But there's going to be a good story to this. We talked about it today when I saw all my kids for the first time since Thursday, and the kids came out here and got it done."
Stephenville again rolled up and down the field offensively, amassing 550 yards - 327 through the air and 223 on the ground.
Freshman Kaegun Williams broke away for a 77-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage, jumpstarting his 234-yard night. He rushed for 157 yards and three scores and also gained 77 yards receiving.
Stidham was 19-29 passing for 327 yards and a touchdown while rushing for two scores. He hit Ben Martin five times for 98 yards including a 46-yard touchdown that opened up a 35-14 lead midway through the third. Stidham also hit Grayson Sweet four times for 78 yards.
"We were focused," Stidham said. "We came in for our walk-through this morning and we were sharp. Mentally, we were ready to go and it worked out for us."
Lubbock Cooper led 14-7 early on, and its defensive line and pressure up the middle was causing trouble for Stephenville's offense. But as they have in every week of their current 11-game win streak, the Jacket offense adjusted and took over.
"We started doing our hurry-up offense and throwing the ball well," Stidham said. "They were blitzing from the middle, so we starting hitting stuff over the middle and that opened up things to the outside."
Stidham said he was confident after the TD strike to Martin, which came on the first snap following the second straight four-down stand and fifth straight stop overall by the Stephenville defense.
"That was real nice, I was pumped," said Stidham, who is 37-54 passing for 716 yards and five scores in his last two outings. "After that, I knew we had a great chance to win."
The quarterback is also confident in Stephenville's chances at returning to Cowboys Stadium and the state championship. That would mean defeating an unbeaten Kilgore team Saturday.
"The short week is just a mental thing really," Stidham said. "We just have to stay sharp and focused. If we do that, we can turn around in five days and do it again."
The other semifinal is between Carthage and LaGrange. The winners meet in the championship at noon on Friday, Dec. 20, at Cowboys Stadium.