WEATHERFORD - Stephenville (6-5) made it through the first round of the state playoffs for the 19th time in 21 years Friday, rolling over Crowley (5-6) 28-7 in a 4A Division II bi-district contest at Kangaroo Stadium.
"It's always good to get the first one out of the way," said third-year Stephenville head coach Joseph Gillespie, who played for the 1989 Yellow Jacket team that began the school's current run of 21 playoff appearances in 22 years and has been on the coaching staff there since 1995. "We're excited about going on to the next level and excited to still be playing football at this time of year."
Stephenville advances to face Fort Worth Southwest in the area round next Friday at Mineral Wells.
Aiavion Edwards rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns, scoring on runs of 7, 30 and 14 yards. The junior, who now has 1,526 rushing yards on the year, also had a 53-yard sprint to the one to set up Stephenville's final touchdown, a one-yard sneak by quarterback Connor Washington to seal the win with 3:26 left to play.
Edwards' first two scores gave Stephenville a 14-0 first-quarter lead and the score remained the same until halftime.
Crowley, which was in the postseason for the first time since 2001, made it a one-possession game midway through the third when Kaylan Hughes-Stanton blocked a Stephenville punt and Kyron Minter picked up the ball at the 10-yard line and raced to the end zone.
But Edwards' big night continued as he averaged over nine yards per carry on his way to his second 200-yard rushing performance. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 273 yards as a team and finished with 412 yards of total offense.
"It was another great job by Aiavion, and a great job by everyone on our offense. We kept doing what we needed to move the sticks, and we have to continue to do those things," Gillespie said.
It was the third time this season Stephenville's first-team defense has not allowed a touchdown. Dominick Jokel had two interceptions and the unit made four fourth-down stands.
"I thought our defense bowed their necks up when they had to," Gillespie said. "They had some runs on us, but we made big plays at the right time."
Cornerback Keaton Trinkle limited the production of leading Crowley receiver LaBradford Harold who accounted for only 19 receiving yards on five catches. Trinkle was especially big in the second half, breaking up three passes and stopping receiver James Harper a yard short of converting a fourth down. He also stopped Harold for no gain on a third-down play near midfield on Crowley's second possession.
Crowley went four-and-out twice and tossed an interception on its final three possessions. Jared Slemmons and Alex Chavez teamed up to stop Flynn a yard short on a fourth-down rush with just over nine minutes left and Crowley failed on another fourth-down when a pass fell incomplete with just under five minutes remaining.
Jokel then stepped in the path of a Flynn pass for his second pick, allowing Stephenville to run off the final 1:10.
The Eagles managed only 268 yards of offense, 194 of it coming on the round. Larry Cheeks rushed for 79 yards while quarterback Sean Flynn added 71 on the ground to go with 74 passing yards.
Stephenville stood its ground after the big play, stopping that drive then picking up momentum when Crowley failed to take an early lead because of a bad snap on what would have been a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Stephenville took over from there, with Edwards beginning his scoring parade on the next drive.
"They just get tougher from here on," Gillespie said of advancing in the playoffs. "But we'll get tougher, too."