MINERAL WELLS - Tyler Jones put himself in a class all his own at Ram Stadium Friday.
One of the benchmarks of Stephenville football during the program's 24-year run of playoff success has been outstanding quarterback play. Among the great field generals were state champions Branndon Stewart, Glenn O'Dell, Kelan Luker and Kendall Briles, All-American Jevan Snead and current Arizona Cardinal Kevin Kolb.
But none of them matched the performance of Texas State pledge Jones when he passed for eight touchdowns and 486 yards - both school records - to lead No. 3 Stephenville (10-1) to a 56-24 rout of Kennedale (9-3) in a 3A Division I regional semifinal.
Jones also rushed 10 times for 114 yards, giving him a hand in 600 of Stephenville's 700 yards of offense.
"We knew we could get a lot of short-game stuff on them, and once you've been nickel-and-diming them and they start to come up; that's when we hit the long balls," said Jones, who has passed for 2,900 yards and 34 touchdowns with just four interceptions on the year. "I think we're peaking at the right time, but we're not satisfied or complacent. There's still work to be done."
Stephenville's long-anticipated state quarterfinal showdown with No. 2 Abilene Wylie is set for 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls. Wylie did it's part to set the stage with a 56-0 shutout of Andrews Friday.
The Yellow Jackets are a perfect 13-0 in round three playoff games. They improved to 13-8 since 1989 in second-round games and to 13-4 in the playoffs under fifth-year head coach Joe Gillespie.
Brice Gunter hauled in four of Jones' touchdown passes covering 13, 95, 33 and 10 yards, all before halftime. Gunter finished with 10 catches for 224 yards, third most in school history. The 95-yard play came on a post pattern through the middle of the field and made it 14-0 late in the first.
"Right about then I knew we were rolling," said Jones. "It's just been great because at the start of the year we all had our flaws, but our offense and defense have both improved so much at the same time."
Gunter now has 66 receptions for 1,034 yards and 14 scores.
"Playmakers have to be playmakers and leaders have to be leaders," Gillespie said of Jones and Gunter. "Those guys were a great example of that, and they have been all year."
Jones also threw scoring passes to Jarrett Stidham for 13 and 35 yards, Witt Westbrook for 60 yards and Brock Morrison for 2 yards. The Jackets also had three different runners top 50 yards - Westbrook rushed for 56 and Dylan White gained 50 - on their way to 214 yards on the ground.
"This is about as efficient as we've been in a long time," said Gillespie. "We feel like the only things that can stop us offensively are turnovers and penalties; things where you shoot yourself in the foot. If we avoid those, opponents will stop us here and there but it will be tough to do consistently.
Kennedale's only answer to the aerial assault came in the form of sophomore running back Juwan Washington with 26 carries for 153 yards. He also returned a kickoff 98 yards from the middle of his own end zone to the Stephenville seven.
The Wildcats, who outscored their previous five opponents 327-28, finished with 341 yards on the ground and 352 yards of offense. Their longest offensive play - a 90 yard TD sprint by Donny Darville - came with less than four minutes left and Stephenville's starters out of the game.
The biggest defensive stand came after Washington's big kick return with Stephenville leading 42-17 midway through the third. Kennedale ran the ball twice but not with Washington, committed a false start and fired a pair of incomplete passes.
"That was a big stop by our defense, because if they score right there things could have gotten interesting," Gillespie said.
The Yellow Jackets had 13 plays of 20 yards or more and topped 50 points for the fourth consecutive game. They have won 10 straight since their season opener.
"Our offense continues to answer the challenge week-in, week-out, but you know what, our defense does, too," Gillespie said. "I couldn't be more proud of our kids. They continue to come out and fight every day, every practice and every game."
-The school records were confirmed by Cody Derrick, Yellow Jacket football historian and operator of stephenvilleyellowjackets.com, a site featuring Stephenville records and stats as well as a popular message board.