‘State playoffs’ and ‘Stephenville football’ are two phrases that most would agree go hand-in-hand with one another and despite an up and down season, the Yellow Jackets control their destiny once again starting Friday night against Decatur.
“It feels good to be back in the playoffs. There’s a different type of enthusiasm and attitude this week going into Friday,” said Stephenville head coach Greg Winder. “These young men have fought hard and we’re here so now we need to get on a roll and win some ball games.”
The last time the teams met was two months ago. The Eagles dominated the scoreboard in a rain shortened 61-35 shoot-out which sent the Yellow Jackets to 0-4 on the season.
Since then Stephenville has improved drastically and is playing with a much improved defensive unit.
“The first time we played them it was early in the season and we were still finding some stuff out personal and scheme wise. There have been some changes sine the last time we saw them,” Winder said. “I think we’re playing much better than back in September and I think it’s going to be a really good football game Friday night.”
One area that Stephenville will certainly need to prove they’ve improved upon is defense.
The Eagles torched the Yellow Jacket defense for 615 total yards, including five plays that went 60-plus yards in the game that was called final with close to nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I think we’ve gotten better and we’re doing a lot of things different than we were then. Is stopping their offense something that’s going to be easy? No,” Winder said. “They have some good athletes and a good quarterback, but we’ve improved, especially our tackling. They’re going to get their yards, we just have to limit the big plays.”
One thing Stephenville did do well in the first matchup was move the ball themselves.
Running back Krece Nowak rushed 26 times for 163 yards, while quarterback Easton Jones finished the game with 234 passing yards. The offensive possibilities are there, it will be up to the execution as to whether or not Stephenville takes advantage.
“We’re going to try and control the ball to keep it away from their offense. We have to dominate the time of possession. We need to do well up front on both sides of the ball and make some big plays. Hopefully we can do that,” added Winder.
Friday will mark the third time Decatur and Stephenville have played each other in the last year. The first was in 2015 in the bi-district round when Decatur, who entered as a district champion, were upset by the Yellow Jackets 49-28.
Stephenville and Decatur will kick off their bi-district championship in Springtown on Friday night at 7 p.m.