Stephenville Head Football Coach Chad Morris hopes the Yellow Jackets can get away with a little less scratching and clawing this time around than what was necessary against Alvarado last year.

The Indians visit Stephenville at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Tarleton Memorial Stadium in the annual homecoming contest for the Jackets. No. 2 Stephenville (4-0, 1-0) enters the contest on the heels of a 31-28 win over then No. 6 Aledo (now No. 10) in its District 8-4A opener last week, while Alvarado (1-3, 0-1) comes in off a 28-9 loss to Crowley.

The Jackets are the heavy favorites, but that was the case last year as well. When Stephenville made its trip to Alvarado on Oct. 6 last fall, both teams were eerily similar to their current status - Stephenville was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in Class 4A by the Associated Press, while Alvarado was 1-3.

The Indians proved to be a pesky group to fight off. A 95-yard intereception return by Cody Davis tied the score at 7-7 on the final play of the first half. In the fourth, Kody Spano ran for a 63-yard touchdown. Those two plays proved to be just enough for Stephenville in a 26-15 win.

“Last year we beat Aledo in a big game and then had to scratch and pull to beat Alvarado at their place, Morris said. “Our kids understand that Alvarado is coming in with their backs against the wall and they're going to give us their best shot, just like everybody else will.

The meeting tonight features two of the area's premier running backs. Thomas Head has carried the ball 88 times for 523 yards for Alvarado, while Brad Mills has rushed for 488 yards on 52 attempts for Stephenville. Mills is averaging 9.4 yards per run, while Head picks up 5.9. Head, however, has yet to find the end zone while Mills has scored nine times.

Third-year Alvarado Head Coach Jeff Dixon is a former Katy assistant and has earned the respect of Morris and his staff.

“They have a very sound scheme, Morris said while discussing the Indians' zone-rushing attack and the bootleg plays they run off the zone. “They don't run a whole lot of plays, but they don't have to. They just execute and let their running back make plays. We've been very impressed with their scheme the last few years.

Alvarado has changed up its defense this fall, going from a 4-2-5 look to a 3-4.

“We're going to see a team that tries to bring a lot of pressure, Morris said. “When they get you, they can get you for a loss of yards. But you can also catch them with a big play. It's a high-risk, high-reward style of defense.

Morris commended Alvarado based on the effort he has seen from the Indians on film and in past meetings, saying, “They're not real big, but they play with a lot of heart.

The coaching staff and players at Stephenville have had to deal with the usual array of potential distractions associated with homecoming this week, but Morris doesn't foresee that causing any problems come game time.

“It's the inevitable. It's going to happen. Homecoming is just part of football season, Morris said. “We've talked to the kids, and they're fairly mature about this kind of stuff. When it's all said and done, they know we have a football game to play.

Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at brad.keith@empiretribune.com.