Two historic football programs will meet once again tonight in what has become a new rivalry that many keep an eye on in 4A, Region 1.
Since Stephenville's drop from the now 5A ranks to 4A heading into the 2012 season, the two teams have played each other three times, once in the playoffs in 2012 and twice over the last two seasons in district play with the Bulldogs currently on a two-game win streak.
To make Friday even more appealing, Wylie, Stephenville and longtime rival Brownwood all have possibilities of claiming a district title.
"When you look at Wylie they're a solid football team and have been for a long time now. They've had a solid coaching staff for a good while as well," said Stephenville head coach Greg Winder. "But that doesn't mean that we can't go there Friday night and come away with a win. There's a good chance that Brownwood, Wylie and us finish in the top three. If so that would be fitting, I think that's what all the preseason picks had us finishing."
If Stephenville is to go into Abilene Friday night and come away with a victory, it won't be easy.
The Bulldogs are 6-1 on the year and a perfect 3-0 in district 3-4A play. Their only loss on the season came back in non-district to Lubbock Monterey, 37-23, a team Stephenville also lost to.
Scheme wise, Wylie hasn't ever changed much on either side of the ball.
"Deffensively we expect them to run a three, four-man front. You can't out trick Abilene Wylie either, they're too well coached. We think they'll sit back with two high safeties for the most part and they have great speed and tackle well as a unit," Winder said. "Their running back (Brooks Pepper) is fast and their quarterback (Zach Smith) is a throw first kind of player, but if he sees some open space then he isn't afraid to make a play with his legs. They have talented players all over the field."
Almost 11 weeks into the season the grind on a player's body can start to wear a team down. While practice, especially with the playoffs and a district championship still on the line, is important, maintaining intensity is the biggest key.
"You have to go out there and keep on working on fundamentals for sure," Winder said. "It's about maintaining that intensity through practice. We essentially keep everything the same, other than maybe cutting a period here or there, but we continue to work on what it is that we've been trying to perfect from day one."
One of those aspects is the rushing game. Last week Stephenville struggled to run the ball consistently, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Winder explained that Snyder committed to stopping the run, which allowed some of the team's bigger plays through the air.
"What they did Friday night was they lined eight or nine guys in the box and sometimes you just can't block them all," he said. "When they do that then they have to man up on the outside and our receivers have to win their matchups. We didn't run well last week, but we'll still try to establish the run Friday and if Wylie stacks the box then we'll adjust accordingly."
Regardless what happens tonight despite multiple seeding outcomes for Stephenville, the season which began perhaps a bit on the down side has been shifting over the past couple of weeks and with the playoffs right around the corner, anything can happen.
"This season hasn't gone exactly how we had planned, but this team has had great character and we haven't had anything negative of any kind happen all season," said Winder. "Every one of our young men have been great for our team and if we can find a way to pull out a big victory Friday then it would be a great conclusion to the regular season."
Stephenville and Abilene Wylie are scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Wylie's Bulldog Stadium.