In going through their first four football games this season unbeaten, the Stephenville Yellow Jackets featured a hustling defense with a knack for forcing timely turnovers, and a rushing attack that averaged almost 8 yards per carry.
As if opponents didn’t have enough to worry about, the Yellow Jackets’ passing attack showed how dangerous it can be, producing all six of the team’s touchdowns in Stephenville’s 41-20 non-district victory at Decatur.
Going into last night’s game at Graham, the Jackets were averaging 462 yards in total offense per outing.
Senior Easton Jones was the team’s quarterback for both his sophomore and junior years. However, he had been sidelined by an offseason elbow injury until he entered the Everman game the previous week, late in the first quarter.
Jones threw for one TD and ran for another in that 34-21 win over the Bulldogs on Sept. 15. He made an even bigger impact in the Decatur contest, connecting for five TD passes and throwing for 303 yards in all.
Running back Krece Nowak hauled in two of the TD tosses against Decatur, but the other three offensive scores went to wide receivers Blake Aragon (2) and Kyle Lindsey (1).
Aragon led the Jackets with 7 receptions for 106 yards that night, and Nowak picked up 134 yards on 6 catches. Slotback Clay Krause added 4 catches for 36 yards.
Krause leads all SHS receivers on the season in yardage, with 276 on 17 receptions. Nowak is second with 188 yards on 13 catches, followed by Kyle Lindsey with 129 yards on 7 receptions, and Aragon with 128 on 10 catches.
That production from the “good hands” crew — mixed with Nowak’s typical rushing threat (200 yards on 20 carries that night), makes it tough to anticipate what head coach Greg Winder’s spread offense might be up to next.
Entering last night’s Graham game, Nowak needed just 4 yards in total offense to reach the 1,000-yard mark this season. Most of that came from his 808 yards rushing this season, averaging 10.4 yards a pop. As a sophomore in 2016, Nowak scored 9 TDs and led the Jackets in rushing with 1,230 yards.
Winder had mentioned before the season started that the receivers had excellent height and wingspan — potentially making them much more than a handful to cover. Aragon stands about 6-6 at one of the wideout positions, while Kyle Lindsey at the other wideout spot is 6-2, and slotback Clay Krause is 6-1. Tight end Kade Averhoff is 6-0.
“Our receiving corps, they do a good job of catching the ball, and they are getting better at running routes,” Winder said. “Krece is getting a lot of yards (receiving as well as rushing), and a lot of time the receivers are making good blocks downfield. The receivers are taking pride in blocking as much as they are in catching passes.”
Winder emphasized that none of the offensive magic would be working if not for the offensive line’s effective blocking.
“As long as they do that, then we have options,” Winder said. “It all starts up front, and these kids know that.”
Because he was unable to throw for several months before starting his physical rehab work, Jones still is a little rusty at times, Winder noted. But his game experience from the two previous years as the starting quarterback gives Jones an edge many high school quarterbacks don’t have.
“As a two-year starter returning, he’s been there before so he knows what to do, reading defenses and being a leader on the field,” Winder said.
On the field after the Decatur victory, Aragon had remarked that the Jackets are “on a mission” stacking up wins. He said he had “missed the way” Jones threw the ball while he was sidelined with the injury.
“Before the play starts, (Jones) surveys the field. He sees the field,” Aragon said on Thursday. “Me and him have good chemistry. He knows I’m very physical, so for a 50-50 ball, I’ll go get it. We just have a really good connection with each other.”
Confidence has been a frequently-used word at SHS this season, despite the fact the Jackets are coming off a 3-8 campaign in which the Jackets didn’t notch their fourth win until the ninth game of the season.
“I know I’m more confident in my play than ever before,” Aragon said. “Me, being a senior, and the group we have now, the bond we have is really great.
“We all have confidence in each other. We didn’t spend countless hours in the weight room and on the field just trying to be average. We were trying to be great.”
But, Aragon noted that the end goal is still not quite at hand.
“We don’t want to be great in week 1. We want to keep making progress so we can be great in week 16,” said Aragon, who was the Class 4A state high jump champion last spring.
Krause, a 6-1 senior, had elected not to play football since his eighth grade year, focusing instead on playing basketball and baseball for SHS. He did, however, play during the 7-on-7 season this summer.
“He has great hands, and his work ethic is good,” Winder said of Krause. “He’s trying to grasp all this at a fast pace, and he’s doing a tremendous job for us.”
Aragon said the Jackets need to stay hungry for wins every week.
“We still play like we’re 0-4 — play like our backs are against the wall, and come out swinging hard,” Aragon said. “We’re having a lot of fun, but at the same time it’s all business.”
The Yellow Jackets’ homecoming game will be Friday, Oct. 6 versus Lubbock Monterey. They will have an open date the week of Oct. 13 before opening District 3-4A, Div. I play at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 at Brownwood.