So much for any possibility of a trap game.
Stephenville scored four touchdowns in the second quarter - three by James Myles - and quickly turned Friday’s District 8-4A contest against Joshua into a laugher, setting the stage for this week’s game against Everman as a showdown of unbeaten league favorites.
Myles rushed for 164 yards and TDs covering 32 and 6 yards and also caught a 9-yard scoring pass from Connor Washington as the Yellow Jackets hammered the Owls 49-13.
Stephenville held its opponent under 300 total yards (263) for the fourth straight week while racking up a season-high 444 yards of offense with a balanced attack.
“I couldn’t have drawn it up much better,” Stephenville head coach Joseph Gillespie said. “We talked all week about not looking ahead to Everman and taking care of the one that was in front of us and we did that tonight.”
Washington, a sophomore, had the best passing night of his young career, going 15-23 for 234 yards and two scores. Much of that damage was done during a second-quarter span when he reeled off seven straight completions for 111 yards. He also rushed for a four-yard score in the third.
Washington’s favorite targets were Cole Stokes (four receptions, 89 yards) and Charlie Riola (4-81), who began the scoring by turning a screen pass into a 29-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
That score was set up by a 53-yard opening kickoff return by Myles, who finished with 24 total touches on offense and special teams for a career-best 249 all-purpose yards.
The Stephenville defense scored for the third time in four weeks when Padyn Giebler made it 28-0 by picking off a screen pass and returning it 25 yards to the house. It’s the fourth consecutive week the Jackets have scored on either defense or special teams.
“I saw trips (three receivers) away from me and was watching the offensive linemen and backs and I thought something was up,” said Giebler, a sophomore linebacker. “Once I caught the ball I got a couple blocks from some guys and just told myself I wasn’t going to go down.”
Stephenville had defensive touchdowns against Brownwood on a Holton Westbrook fumble return, and Mansfield Legacy on an Aiavion Edwards pick-six, then scored in the kicking game last week when Westbrook recovered a bad punt snap in the end zone against Timberview.
“Holton and Aiavion got their’s so I had to get mine,” Giebler said with a wide smile. “I was at the right place at the right time.”
After falling behind 28-0 lead on Riola’s TD in the first and Myles’ first two scores and Giebler’s interception in the second, Joshua tried to show some fight by making it 28-7 on a 21-yard TD sprint by quarterback Jesse Williamson.
But the Jackets would quickly steal back the momentum, thanks to the effective use of a hurry-up, no-huddle offense that covered 59 yards in 2:43 and ended with Washington’s pass to Myles, which the junior running back stretched out to catch before falling just over the front pylon.
The drive included a 24-yard strike from Washington to Stokes on fourth-and-12 to bring up first-and-goal at the nine.
“I like the hurry-up because of the tempo. I like a fast-paced game,” Washington said. “The hurry-up puts the defense in a bind because we can get the play off before they get set. It also helps because it keeps me on the run and I don’t think too much.”
Gillespie was also excited to see the hurry-up work so efficiently.
“I thought it changed up the tempo real well and gave us a spark offensively,” Gillespie said. “Coach (Greg) Winder (offensive coordinator) and his staff have done a great job of implementing it the right way and the kids went out and executed it.”
Edwards scored the first offensive TD of his career on a four-yard run in the third, and Washington added the final Stephenville points with a four-yard keeper that made it 49-7 entering the fourth.
Joshua finally revisited the end zone on a 31-yard pass from Williamson to Zack Maxey in the waning moments.
Following the game, Gillespie seemed relieved to finally be able to officially focus on Everman, a game Stephenville fans have had circled on their calendars ever since the 4A Division II quarterfinals last year.
“Anytime you get the chance to play in a big game against a team like Everman it’s exciting,” Gillespie said. “It’s great to get them at home for the first time in three years, and I think it will be a great atmosphere for what should be a great football game.”
After falling to Everman 56-3 in the regular season, Stephenville won six straight games to earn a playoff rematch with the Region I championship on the line. The Jackets built a 17-0 lead before Everman scored 21 unanswered points and held on for a 27-24 win.
Beginning with an upset in Stephenville in 2006, the Bulldogs have won four straight against the Jackets, the most by any team since 1988.