STEPHENVILLE - In the wake of adversity, it’s step up or get knocked down.

No. 1 Stephenville (7-0, 4-0) stepped up on the District 8-4A gridiron Friday, knocking off Cleburne 41-7.

Stephenville was forced to play the entire second half without senior quarterback Kody Spano, who was 2-3 passing for 29 yards in the first quarter. He played in the second, but did not attempt a pass.

An injury to his throwing shoulder sidelined Spano in the second half, and initial reports are that he will not play next week when Stephenville visits Mineral Wells.

Morris was quick to verify that junior varsity quarterback Brad Picha will be called up this week. Morris once referred to Picha as a varsity football player playing JV football.

“Brad Picha’s going to play,”said Morris, “and we’re also going to take a look at Trey Taylor.”

Taylor, a running back and defensive back by trade, took most of the snaps for Stephenville in the third and fourth quarters, leading the Jackets on three touchdown drives.

Taylor finished with 127 yards rushing, second behind Brad Mills’ 153. The Jackets ran for 370 yards as a team.

“Trey did a great job of coming in and running our offense,” Morris said. We didn’t get to throw it as much as I would like to, but we did a great job. “

Cleburne made its final push at keeping it close by recovering a Stephenville fumble on the opening possession of the second half.

The SHS defense answered the call to arms, posting a quick three-and-out.

Cody Davis returned a short punt 17 yards to the Cleburne 26. Davis then took the first three snaps on Stephenville’s ensuing drive and rushed three times for a first down.

Taylor returned at quarterback and completed a six-yard pass to Dakota Mathis to set Mills up for a six-yard touchdown run. The PAT gave SHS some breathing romm with a 28-7 lead.

Two drives later, Taylor put the icing on the cake with a 27-yard touchdown run with 10:50 remaining in the game.

Colby Lozano took over at running back the last eight minutes and scored as the pitch man on an option from five yards out to give the game its final score.

The “War Dogs” kept Cleburne at bay all night, surrendering only 137 yards of total offense.

Cleburne quarterback Scotty Walden completed 11 of 23 pass attemts for 128 yards, but was sacked five times.

Seth Reding recovered a fumble for the Stephenville defense, and recorded two sacks on back-to-back plays.

Chris Malone also created a turnover by snagging the only interception thrown by Walden.

Most of Walden’s passing yards came on one play when he launched a 62-yard touchdown strike.

Stephenville was at its best against the run, holding Cleburne to a grand total of nine yards on 24 rush attempts. Jabar Greely ran for 37 yards, but the rest of the CHS ball carriers were shifted into reverse by the “War Dogs.”

Cleburne did manage to move the chains with early first downs in an effort to play keep away from the Stepenville offense.

It took SHS almost entire first quarter to find the end zone.

Spano finally carried it across from one yard out to cap a 10-play, 66-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 with 21 seconds on the opening period clock.

Reding’s fumble recovery at the Cleburne six set up the next score, as Davis rushed for his first offensive touchdown of the season on the next play.

On its next possession, Stephenville needed only five plays to march 78 yards.

From the Cleburne 44, Mills started left, then bounced his way all the way across the field before racing down the Cleburne sideline for a touchdown. The extra point made it 21-0.

Cleburne finally showed some fight with Walden’s long pass that cut the deficit to 21-7 at the half.

Stephenville had a scary moment in the first half when …….was taken from the field by ambulance. It was later reported that he suffered a concussion. …….is a starter on the offensive line for SHS.

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.