Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Like a rematch with Big Spring in the Class 4A playoffs.
That’s exactly where Stephenville is this weekend, facing the team that outscored them in an Oct. 24 matchup and helped derail the Yellow Jackets’ plans to go undefeated through their district season and win a 3-4A title.
But Coach Joseph Gillespie is adamant this matchup is what he has wanted since the final seconds ticked off the game clock in Big Spring.
“They certainly played a role in taking something away from us,” Gillespie said of the Steers. “I told the kids after the ball game,’ let’s take care of our business and hope that they take care of theirs. We’ll get to see them a lot sooner than later.’”
That prediction came true as the Yellow Jackets and Steers face off Friday in a 2 p.m. regional semifinal battle at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium.
The Steers outlasted SHS, 64-57, in the first meeting of the two teams. Senior quarterback Jarrett Stidham was knocked out of the game early, replaced by fellow senior Anthony Chavarria, who threw for almost 400 yards and six touchdowns.
Stidham is back for the rematch and Stephenville is coming off back-to-back 60-point offensive outputs creating an uptick in momentum for the ‘Jackets.
“Whether you call it revenge or an opportunity again, we get a second chance,” Gillespie said. “There are not a lot of times in life you get a second chance. Especially as quick as this second chance is coming around. We welcome that opportunity.
“Here we are, we want to be at our best and I want them to be at their best. Let’s see who the best is at the end of the ball game. We certainly believe that we are.”
Gillespie said that playing a good team twice in one season is difficult, at best, and uses last weekend’s win by Big Spring over Andrews to illustrate his point. The Steers lost to the Mustangs 43-42 in a tightly contested non-district tilt. When the rematch came around in the playoffs, Big Spring responded with a 48-34 win.
“This is another one of those scenarios where two good teams squared off for the second time this year,” he said. “There’s some familiar territory for them, without a great deal of time in between the two games.
“That’s a heavy rivalry out there in West Texas, like Stephenville-Brownwood or Stephenville-Aledo,” Gillespie continued. “There’s proof it’s hard for a good team to win twice against another good team.”
Gillespie said a parallel exists between that game, and this week’s Stephenville-Big Spring game.
“Any time two teams of this caliber play each other twice on one season is difficult,” he reiterated. “You know what type of game this is going to be – the physicality, our players know theirs and their players know ours. We know their system and they know our system. And then, if you play them as close in the time frame, makes for even more interesting dynamics.”
It appears, at first blush, that, in similar situations, there is a certain advantage to losing the first of two games in a season, especially in a win-or-go-home atmosphere like the postseason.
“We’ve been in a situation where it was flipped,” Gillespie said. “We played Aledo and blocked a field goal at the end of the game as time expired to win, then go on and face them later on in the playoffs. I’ve been on the other side, where we’ve lost to Aledo and we go into a second game where we’ve got a lot riding on our side.”
In their initial meeting, Big Spring’s rushing attack was the difference in the game. Running back Hunter Hill scored four times and rambled for 257 yards on just 12 carries.
I't’s still very fresh on our minds,” Coach Gillespie said. “We feel certain we have some areas we have corrected. We’re eager to see them put out on the field of play and see how we did it.”
If Friday’s game bears any resemblance to the first one, there’ll be scores galore. A total of 121 points and just an eyelash shy of 1,300 combined yards were amassed.
But, Gillespie said, both teams learned from that game, and those lessons will be integrated into both teams’ strategies.
“They’re still a great football team,” he said, “a bunch of good football players and they’re really well-coached. They believe in their system.
“It’s a chess match. It has been this whole week. They know we’re a good staff and a good football team and we’re doing things to correct our deficiencies, just like they are.”
Even knowing what lay in store – a 9-2 team with an offense that has been tough to stop – Gillespie says this is what he has wanted since the loss to the Steers.
“We want this,” he said. “We’re getting our wish. We’re going to seize the opportunity. We’ve wanted if from the last time we met, when that least second ticked off.
“This is something that was on the back burner. We knew it was going to come around soon. Fortunately we didn’t have to dwell on this for 10, 11 or 12 weeks.”