Through the course of any given season, high school football teams will face highs and lows, joys and heartaches.
The teams that find ways to overcome the challenges — turnovers, missed blocks and tackles, injuries, and losses — usually have the best chance to be successful.
One aspect of the 2017 Stephenville Yellow Jackets that has helped carry them through moments of adversity to a 5-2 record so far (1-0 in District 3-4A, Div. I) has been how close they are as a group.
They have become a "band of brothers."
“They overcome it pretty well,” said Greg Winder, who is in his third season as head coach of the Yellow Jackets. “When something goes bad, they get back up and get the job done.”
The Jackets were riding a four-game win streak to start the season when they lost two consecutive games, to Graham and Lubbock Monterey. Both were non-district contests, and the Jackets bounced back last Friday night with a 28-21 triumph over rival Brownwood in their district opener, sending the Lions to an 0-2 district start.
The Jackets entered the season with quarterback Easton Jones — who was coming off of two seasons as the team’s starter — on the sidelines with an offseason elbow injury. In his absence, the Jackets won their first two games with sophomore Cole Stanley and junior Tyler Schouten playing quarterback. Jones returned during the third game of the season.
The Jackets also were faced with the temporary loss of leading rusher and scorer Krece Nowak, who was injured in the sixth game. He is now back in action again, and scored one of the team’s four touchdowns in the Brownwood win.
Winder said that the resilience factor serves student-athletes well, even beyond their school days.
“We try to preach that it’s not just about the game of football, it’s life,” Winder said. “Life’s not a bowl of cherries. You’re going to have bad things happen.”
Sports teams — and people in general — can get through those times of adversity based on how they respond.
“So far, this group has responded well,” said Winder, who has 18 seniors on this year's squad.
Winder said that the varsity unit bonded together from the start of offseason training, and players reinforce that unity by doing things together off the field. And, as a veteran coach, he knows that not every team has that quality.
“The thing about this group is they’re a real close-knit group. That’s what it takes in high school football, and any kind of competitive athletics,” Winder said.
The togetherness promotes more of a desire among the players to show that they have each other’s “back” when things do go wrong on the field, according to Winder.
“You’ve got to have that cohesiveness to establish what you want,” he said. “This group has that. They’ve been like that since the offseason.
“You’ve got to have good leadership from the senior class. If you don’t have that, you’re going to struggle. If you can’t lead, be a good follower.”
Friday night (Oct. 27) the Jackets were at home taking on winless Big Spring. That leaves an Oct. 3 road matchup at Snyder and a regular-season finale on Oct. 10 at home against preseason favorite Abilene Wylie remaining on the schedule.
It may be tempting for the Stephenville players to look past 0-8 Big Spring and 2-5 Snyder to start thinking about winning district and taking on Wylie, which was 5-2 overall and 2-0 in district entering last night’s play.
But Winder sounded confident that the Jackets won’t be guilty of that.
“Not with this group of guys,” Winder said. “They won’t do that. That’s what type of group this is.”