If the season opener was an indication of what type of offense the Stephenville High School football team will have on display the rest of the season, it should be an entertaining campaign.
The Yellow Jackets’ spread offense isn’t meant to grind out long, time-consuming drives.
When working properly, the spread can allow teams to strike quickly and from long distance.
In the Sept. 1 opener, it was working properly.
The Jackets racked up 526 yards in total offense against the Cleburne defense, gaining an average of 10.5 yards per snap in a 53-20 victory at home.
Six of the Jackets’ seven touchdowns were from 24 yards or more away in topping the Class 5A foe.
Among the four rushing touchdowns scored by SHS running back Krece Nowak, the three longest went for an average of 53 yards — runs of 73, 32 and 54 yards.
Overall, Nowak had 291 yards on just 16 carries — an incredible average of 18.2 yards per carry. Nowak’s first TD, which got the Jackets started on their 22-point first quarter, was a more pedestrian stroll of 15 yards.
With senior Easton Jones — a highly successful two-year starter for the Jackets — sidelined by an offseason elbow injury, junior Tyler Schouten and sophomore Cole Stanley are sharing the quarterback duties. They each had one TD pass against Cleburne, for an average of almost 30 yards.
“We had big plays because our young men stepped up. It always goes back to the offensive line,” Winder said Thursday, one day before the Jackets were going to Springtown (0-1 after a 69-35 loss to Decatur to open their season) for their second contest. “We had a good game Friday night, and we executed well. But, boy, we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to prepare for each game.”
Schouten completed 13 of 17 attempts for 161 yards with two interceptions. Stanley attempted three passes and completed two of them.
Six different receivers caught passes, led by wideout Kyle Lindsey with four for 74 yards and a score, slot receiver Clay Krause with four for 56 yards and Blake Aragon with three for 22 yards. Kade Averhoff had one catch for 32 yards, and that was a TD.
Both Lindsey and Nowak are juniors, but picked up a great deal of varsity experience as sophomores.
Aragon is a senior, but missed seven weeks during the 2016 season after suffering an injury in the second week. Krause is also a senior, but hadn’t played football since his freshman year.
“They have big-play potential — all of them do,” Winder said. “We try to get the ball to them in open space.”
Last season, Stephenville fans got used to seeing opponents grasping for air while Nowak blew past them toward the end zone. He led the team in rushing with 1,230 yards and nine TDs.
“He outran people,” Winder said of Nowak’s performance against Cleburne. “People were there, but he outran them.”
Nowak always had speed (timed at 4.56 seconds in the 40), but has added more size and strength this season, working hard in the weight room and also improved his overall conditioning. The 5-8 Nowak is up to 145 pounds.
“He understands our offense, and he’s put on some weight,” Winder said of Nowak. “He’s a strong kid. He’s in good shape.”
Winder said the receivers have great hands, plus they “run good routes and have breakaway speed. They’re hard to bring down.”
Two SHS players who have been sidelined with injuries are expected to start practicing again next week, Winder said. They are senior offensive lineman Ty’Von Robison-Anderson, and junior running back/linebacker Victor Moreno.
The next game for the Jackets will be at home for the Heart of Gold Game, Friday, Sept. 15, against Everman (7:30 p.m.).