Now, it gets real.
The start of District 5-4A Division I competition starts Friday when the Stephenville Yellow Jackets take on China Spring at Memorial Stadium.
The game matches the team predicted to win the five-team district — coach Greg Winder’s Yellow Jackets — against the Cougars, who were picked to finish third.
“We like telling the kids, it’s for real now,” said Winder, whose squad is 3-2, coming off their last game, a 48-8 win over Georgetown at home on Sept. 28. “We can’t have any hiccups. In this district, you better come ready to play every Friday night because this district is so hard.”
Although SHS has not had a large number of injuries, Winder said the fact the Jackets are coming off an off week in the schedule should be beneficial.
After a rugged five-game non-district slate, which included two other 4A Division I teams ranked in the state’s top 10 and three Class 5A schools, the rest was welcome in the middle of the long grind.
Last season, the Jackets ended up playing 15 games as they reached the state semifinals and finished with a 12-3 record.
“You have some bumps and bruises and you get some guys healing up, but the main thing is you get some rest,” Winder said, noting that the players seem excited heading into district play.
SHS dropped out of the Associated Press 4A top 10 rankings last week, but the Jackets received two votes. China Spring was also unranked but had the 11th-most votes, with 12.
But Winder, like many coaches, doesn’t pay much attention to the rankings.
“Right now, they (the Cougars) are No. 1,” Winder said, speaking figuratively and also indicating how the Jackets are approaching the contest.
Last Friday, the Cougars thrashed Houston St. Thomas 63-35, getting five touchdowns and 305 yards rushing (13.3 yards per carry) from running back Erik Hart. China Spring’s freshman quarterback, Brayden Faulkner, threw for 290 yards and three TDs, and added 83 yards and one more score rushing.
That moved the Cougars to 4-2 on the season. Their other wins came over Trinity Christian, Alvarado and Liberty Christian. The Cougars’ losses were to Waco Connally and Lorena.
“What we have to do is execute in all three phases of the game,” Winder said of the matchup. “They are a well-coached team. We have to be focused.
“Defensively, they swarm to the ball, and they tackle well. Offensively, they can run and throw. They probably run the ball better. We’re going to have to be good up front.”
In the Jackets’ blowout win over Georgetown, they recorded five turnovers and scoring twice on defense. The SHS defense has scored at least one TD in every game so far this year.
Quarterback Kade Renfro continued to play well in the absence of injured starter Cole Stanley, who is out with a broken foot bone.
In the win over Georgetown, Renfro threw three TD passes. In three games, Renfro has thrown for 495 yards and five scores, with no interceptions.
Krece Nowak leads the Jackets in rushing, with 453 yards on 82 carries, and has two TDs.
Grayson Traweek, a sophomore wide receiver for SHS who missed several games with an injury, is once again available to play.
HALL OF FAME
The five new members of the Stephenville High School Athletic Hall of Fame will be in the spotlight during halftime of Friday’s game.
The inductees, who were previously announced, are Mandy McGee, Sheridan Stokes, Robert (“Boots”) Elliott, Gary Golden and Justin Monk.
A Hall of Fame luncheon, open to the public, is set for 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at City Limits. Tickets ($20) will be available at the door, in addition to SHS and from Lions Club members and some local businesses.
Plaques of the 2018 inductees will be on display starting at 2:30 p.m., also on Friday.
New inductees are selected every other year by a committee. The SHS Athletic Hall of Fame is co-sponsored by the Stephenville Lions Club and the Stephenville ISD.
This year’s group of five inductees brings the number of SHS Hall of Fame members to 111. It was created in 1991.