Fans are always welcome to bring a lawn chair or just stand and watch Stephenville High School football practice, but for most, tonight is the first opportunity to catch the 2011 Yellow Jackets in action.
Stephenville hosts Granbury in scrimmages beginning with freshmen at 6 p.m., followed by the JV at 7 and the varsity at 8, all at Tarleton Memorial Stadium. The original start times were pushed back by an hour due to heat.
It's the Jackets' only public preseason appearance because last week's annual intra-squad scrimmages were rained out. The regular season begins next week when Stephenville hosts two-time defending 4A Division II champ Aledo.
The Yellow Jackets, who have been practicing since Aug. 8, are coming off an 8-6 season that included a run to the state quarterfinals. Stephenville began the year 1-4, but bounced back by winning seven of its next eight before running into Aledo in round four of the playoffs.
The Jackets have all their primary offensive skill players returning, led by quarterback Connor Washington and running back Aiavion Edwards. Defensively, all-state picks Padyn Giebler and Holton Westbrook are back. Five offensive and five defensive starters return in all.
Stephenville's most inexperienced areas are in the trenches, as there are all new starters on the offensive and defensive lines. The only returning lettermen among those groups are Kody Josserand on offense and Cody Ferguson on defense.
Granbury turned a major corner in its third season under Scotty Pugh last fall, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1977. The turnaround really began when the Pirates broke a 24-game losing streak in a 13-9 victory over Joshua late in the 2009 season.
Seven offensive and six defensive starters return for the Pirates, led by speedy running back Brandon Allen. He'll run behind a large offensive line that includes 290-pound Jason Shepard and six-foot, six-inch 250-pound Micah Smith, who Texas Football Magazine reports runs a 4.8 in the 40.
Granbury entered the preseason with a big question mark at quarterback, where Justice Love is expected to get most of the first-team snaps.
The less experienced Pirate defense is led by linebacker Jonas Gutierrez, who made 65 stops last fall, and cornerback Ulysses Wideman, who had a pair of interceptions.