Back to practice, back to scrimmage play, back in all the class 4A top 10 polls. And now, finally, back to game time.
The Yellow Jackets are officially back today, with the 2007 season-opener against Hewitt (Waco) Midway being set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Waco ISD Stadium. It’s the first game of the weekend-long H-E-B Heart of Texas Kickoff Classic.
Stephenville will be looking for its sixth consecutive season-opening win. The Jackets have not dropped an opener since 2001, when they played then-powerful class 5A Midland Lee, and fell 25-7.
Stephenville and Midway have never met on the gridiron. The Yellow Jackets competed in the classic last fall, but were pitted against Waco University in a battle SHS dominated, 56-14.
Midway returns only six starters from a squad that posted a 4-6 record in 2006. The Panthers were 2-3 in District 16-4A, widely regarded as the toughest league in the state.
The pre-season Associated Press poll ranks 16-4A members Copperas Cove and Waco at No. 1 and two statewide, respectively. Another district foe, Brownwood, is ranked No. 10.
If losses to these three teams were removed from the Panthers’ 2006 record, they would have gone 4-3, reason enough to believe they are much better than numbers indicate. Coach Ken Bachtel is a veteran of the high school sideline, spending most of his career with Midway.
"They have a good program, and Coach Bachtel’s been there for what seems like forever," Stephenville Head Football Coach Chad Morris said.
Midway may be short on experience, but the Panthers have a handful of individuals who are long on talent.
Defensive back Germain Gilbert (6-0, 175, 4.5) is a prospect to play at the collegiate level after recording five interceptions last fall. Bachtel claims Gilbert has all the tools to be a great one in the secondary. Gilbert will be joined at DB by Patrick Watkins, who tallied 84 tackles last season.
Matt Davis (6-0, 175, 4.5) returns at wide receiver, where he was an all-district selection in 2006, catching 41 passes for 589 yards and seven touchdowns.
The biggest question mark for the Panthers is the offensive backfield.
At quarterback, Todd Glaesmann (6-4, 185, 4.6) is the starter. He saw limited action as the back-up last year, attempting only 10 passes and completing four. With only 64 rushing yards, he is the leader among returning runners.
At running back, John Hubert has been fighting for a starting role. He scored 27 touchdowns for Midway’s JV squad last year, but will be making his varsity debut against the Jackets’ War Dog Defense.
The Panthers’ backfield cupboard may not be as bare as it looks on paper. A transfer from Waco High School who reportedly brings with him the danger of breakaway speed, could figure into the Midway rushing attack, according to Morris.
Stephenville is a formidable favorite heading into tonight’s battle. The Jackets are ranked No. 3 by the AP, No. 2 in the Texas Football Magazine poll, and No. 9 in the coach’s poll printed in the same publication.
Another season, another opener, another team hoping to upset the highly-touted Yellow Jackets.
It’s that time again. Beginning tonight, Yellow Jacket football is back indeed.