It's no secret Joe Gillespie likes a tough pre-district schedule. It's why the likes of 4A giants Beaumont Ozen and Amarillo, three-time defending 4A Division II champ Aledo and top tier 3A power Waco La Vega join Monterrey Tec on Stephenville's pre-7-3A slate this fall.

It's also why the Jackets are facing 5A Haltom City Haltom and large 4A The Colony in their opening scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Birdville Fine Arts and Athletics Complex.

"Obviously these are much larger schools than us and I'm sure they have larger numbers to choose from, big guys all through the trenches and talented skill players," Gillespie said. "That sounds tough, but I'm excited."

Gillespie is excited because he feels it's exactly the challenge needed by the Yellow Jackets, who have fallen a class and are ranked No. 1 in 3A by Texas Football Magazine.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us because of the size of the schools and because of the offensive schemes we will see," he said. "Both The Colony and Haltom run offenses we don't see very much, and that's good."

Haltom prides itself on the misdirection running game.

"They'll line up with two slots and run a lot of option, veer and midline. It's a lot like a Georgia Tech or Navy offense," Gillespie said. "I like it because we have young, green linebackers and this will force them to really read and trust their keys because if they get caught looking in the backfield they're going to look silly. We want to see our linebackers running to the football and making plays."

The Colony runs more of a prostyle offense, using a lot of two tight end and two back sets.

"We don't see a lot of that either, so it's exciting to work against some different things," Gillespie said. "The Colony runs a lot of old school football plays - power, iso, toss sweep. I'm sure they are huge up front and will ground and pound then throw the ball enough to keep you honest."

Both Haltom and The Colony typically come out of 4-3 defenses, Gillespie says, but he believes the Jackets' spread offense will draw more of a 4-2-5 look.

"I'm sure we're going to see them in some form of a 4-2-5 with two high safeties," he said. "That's generally what a 4-3 team will line up in against us."

Haltom returns eight starters on its defense, according to Friday Night Football Texas magazine, while The Colony returns six. They have three and five back, respectively, on offense.

Stephenville's plan is to keep it simple.

"Obviously we're not going to put in game plans offensively and defensively," he said. "Doing that for two different opponents would be detrimental to the raw intensity you hope to see. The bottom line is, defensively we want to see guys get lined up and not be beat pre-snap, then we want them to trust their reads and tackle. That's defense - cover, tackle and get 11 hats to the football.

"Offensively, with the skill kids we have I think we could put in our whole playbook and go to game planning and scheming right now, but our offensive line is still young and green," he continued. "This scrimmage will give us a real good idea where we're at, and it will show us our deficiencies so we know what we need to work on and how fast we can progress from here."

Game planning will come in time, he says. Tonight is all about letting loose and being football players.

"We'll coach x's and o's, game plans, schemes, all that stuff later," he said. "Right now, we want to see the kids play football. We want to see them block and tackle full speed, and we want to see them go out and have fun doing it."

Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports