The Stephenville Yellow Jackets are almost back to full strength in the injury department, thanks in part to their open date last week — and it’s coming just in time for their clash with rival Brownwood.
Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood will be the District 3-4A, Div. I opener for coach Greg Winder’s 4-2 Yellow Jackets.
Brownwood (3-3) opened district play last Friday with a 45-38 road loss to Abilene Wylie. It was Wylie’s eighth consecutive win over the Lions.
The Lions lead the all-time series — dubbed “The Battle of 377” — with 46 wins compared to 28 for Stephenville. There have been two ties. Their first meeting was in 1937.
“Our kids know what they’ve got to do, and what is expected,” Winder said. “They definitely will be ready to go.”
Stephenville opened the season winning its first four games, but lost its last two outings to Graham and Lubbock Monterey.
The Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher and scorer, running back Krece Nowak, is expected to return to action after missing the Monterey game and more than half of the Graham game with a rib injury.
Senior slot receiver Clay Krause, however, is expected to be sidelined a while longer with a knee problem suffered in the Monterey game.
The Lions, coached by Kyle Maxfield, dropped two of their first three games this season before beating Alvarado and Giddings leading up to the Wylie contest.
“Defensively they’re solid,” Winder noted first. “They’re a good football team all over.
“Their secondary is real fast. They run to the football and tackle well. They have a lot of speed. Their scheme’s good offensively. They load a lot of people in the box.”
Marcus Mosley, a 6-1, 160-pound senior defensive back, is one athlete in particular that caught Winder’s eye.
Brownwood quarterback Tommy Bowden entered the Wylie game with 1,142 yards passing, throwing for 13 touchdowns. He is also a running threat, going into last week’s game with a team-leading five TD runs.
“He’ll run around and find receivers, and he’s fast also,” Winder said of Bowden.
Winder also noted that Gavin Jefferson, who leads the Lions in rushing, and Cain Kittrell provide speed as running backs.
Brownwood’s top receivers are A.J. McCarty, Nick Salazar and Braden Jetton.
Winder said he thinks this year’s version of the Lions is improved over the 2016 crew in the defensive secondary — and in some of the skill positions.
Winder said the play on special teams could be a major factor.
“Special teams is going to be a big factor,” he said. “If we do the things we’re capable of doing, it should be a great football game.”
Last year, the Jackets lost a 28-13 decision to Brownwood.
Nowak, a junior, leads SHS in rushing with 861 yards, averaging 9.9 yards per carry. He has scored 11 touchdowns, including three as a receiver coming out of the backfield.
Senior quarterback Easton Jones has thrown for 735 yards and 7 TDs, completing 54 of 101 attempts with 2 interceptions.
The Jackets will miss the presence of Krause, who has the most receiving yards and catches so far for the Jackets, with 323 on 23 catches. He is also tied for the team lead in receiving TDs, with 3.
Next is senior wideout Blake Aragon with 18 catches for 244 yards and 2 TDs.
Stephenville’s offense has averaged almost 400 yards (393.3) yards per game
Defensive leaders through six games for Stephenville are Gage Graham with 40 tackles, Blue Caylor with 38, Zane Walker with 28 and Chase Carrillo with 27. Also for the Jackets’ defense, Cole Pettit has a team-leading 4 interceptions and Pacen Parker leads in quarterback sacks, with 6.