Stephenville High School football coach Greg Winder liked what he saw as his players wrapped up their offseason training.
The returning players — minus the 17 graduating seniors — used the 45 minutes they had this spring during sixth-period athletics class at noon each day to work on their fitness and even learned some new plays.
“We feel good going into two-a-days,” said Winder, who led the Jackets to a 12-3 season record in 2017, when they reached the Class 4A, Division I state semifinals before falling to Kennedale.
Like other Class 4A schools, Stephenville followed UIL spring guidelines, which state that offseason workouts involving “calisthenics, individual football skills, strength training or conditioning exercises” may be included during the school term within the school day during a regular class period.
“All the kids had a great attitude going into spring workouts, what we call phase 3,” Winder said. “We got a lot of things accomplished. We added some new wrinkles offensively and defensively. The younger kids got a lot of reps. There was a lot of enthusiasm.
“Our defense up front looked pretty good. We’ve got work to do in the secondary, and we have holes to fill on offense at receiver and quarterback, and both our quarterbacks got a lot of reps.”
Two key cogs on offense that will have to be replaced are seniors Easton Jones at quarterback and Blake Aragon at wide receiver. Other first-team all-district performers lost to graduation were Kade Averhoff at tight end, Ty’Von Anderson-Robison on the offensive line, defensive back Cole Pettit and linebacker Kasee Bouchey.
A junior class that includes District 3-4A’s overall Most Valuable Player Gage Graham in the secondary, along with the district’s Defensive MVP, linebacker Blu Caylor, and first-team all-district running back Krece Nowak could make an even bigger impact when they take the field as experienced seniors in the fall.
In addition to Graham, Caylor and Nowak, juniors expected back who were first-team all-district were receiver Kyle Lindsey, center Jacob Poston, offensive lineman Devon Roeming, place-kicker Chase Carrillo, defensive lineman Pacer Parker and linebacker Zane Walker. Graham, Caylor, Poston and Parker earned honorable mention all-state honors from the Associated Press Sports Editors.
“Most of our guys coming back are on the defensive side. We do have some holes to fill,” Winder said. “Those guys will respond. We’ve got good leadership. It (the season) will be here before you know it.”
Two-a-day workouts are scheduled to begin Aug. 6, state-wide.
Winder took note that the 2018 football schedule is expected to be challenging, to say the least.
The five-game non-district slate begins Aug. 31 at home against Argyle for the regular-season opener. The Jackets will then be on the road against Everman (Sept. 7), and Abilene Wylie (Sept. 14). They will be at home Sept. 21 against Midlothian Heritage and Sept. 28 versus Georgetown to close out non-district play.
District realignment moved the Jackets into Region II, to the five-team District 5-4A, Division I.
They will be competing with China Spring (at home, Oct. 12), Waco La Vega (away, Oct. 19), longtime rival Brownwood (away, Oct. 26) and Gatesville (home, Nov. 2).
Winder was unable to find a sixth non-district opponent, so the Jackets have open dates set for Oct. 5 and also for the final weekend of the season, Nov. 9.
China Spring’s 2016 squad reached the state semifinals with a 13-2 record, and La Vega was a regional finalist, losing only one of 14 games. When the Jackets defeated Argyle in the third round of the 2017 playoffs, the Eagles were 12-0.
“We’d better get ready, and get ready quick,” Winder said. “Our (pre-district) schedule is very tough. There won’t be any weeks off. Our district is probably one of the toughest schedules in the state of Texas.”
Winder didn’t want to have two open dates, but couldn’t find a suitable opponent with a matching open date — and willing to take on the stout Yellow Jackets.
“When you have a season like that, it’s tough to find a football game,” Winder noted.
The two scrimmages for SHS will once again be against Glen Rose (at home this year), and Granbury (away).