This concludes a four-part series taking a look back at the football rivalry between Stephenville and Wichita Falls Rider. The Jackets and Raiders meet for the fifth time at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Northwest ISD Stadium in Justin.
By BRAD KEITH Sports Editor
And then there was one.
Of all the young men who donned the navy and gold on the fateful evening of Nov. 12, 2004, when Stephenville met Wichita Falls Rider for the first time in the bi-district round of the state playoffs, only one who saw action on the field of play remains.
Trey Taylor has no problem recalling memories of the 63-42 season-ending loss the Yellow Jackets suffered that night. After playing on special teams for the Stephenville as a freshman, he remembers it like it was yesterday.
“We were going in there like we were going to dominate,” Taylor said. “We looked past them and didn't think anything of it. Then they whipped us. It was embarrassing. We still owe them for that, big time.”
Cody Davis also remembers that first meeting. Davis was one of the freshmen who were allowed to suit up for that game, but never had the opportunity to get on the field.
Stephenville jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, and for a moment appeared on the way to a three-score advantage before Rider came from behind.
“At the very first it looked like it was going to be a blowout,” Davis said. “It looked like me and some of the other young ones were going to get some playing time, but I guess we just overlooked them. All of a sudden it went downhill fast.”
Taylor and his ankle both remember Stephenville's first win over the Raiders in the 2006 regular season.
“That felt good,” Taylor said of the win. “Except for me because I broke my ankle in the first half, so I kind of have a chip on my shoulder because that ruined the rest of my season. I don't really like them at all.”
Davis remembers the pain of playing on a defense that was brilliant for 59 minutes in a playoff game last year only to allow a touchdown with 29 seconds remaining in a 17-13 season ending loss to Rider.
“It's definitely hard when the defense plays that well and they still figure out a way to beat you,” Davis recalled. “But we failed as a team, not just as a defense or offense.”
Even with the playoff losses, the current group of Jacket leaders are 2-1 against the present list of Rider stars since the beginning of the 2006 season. The only thing separating Stephenville from a 3-0 record against the Raiders over the past two years is the last-minute touchdown in last season's playoff match-up.
“No matter what, we still believe we have the better team,” said Taylor. “We're not looking past them this time. They've been trash talking us, but we're ready for them.”
Davis said the game plan for Stephenville is no different than when the Yellow Jackets dominated Rider in the second half of their week three confrontation this season.
That plan includes getting pressure on Rider quarterback Shavodrick Beaver, and to focus on containing him. It worked in week three, as Stephenville overcame an early 9-0 deficit with 20 consecutive points to pull ahead on the way to a 27-15 win.
Taylor and Davis have gone to battle against Rider more than any other opponent in their high school careers.
On Friday, they put those careers on the line, as Stephenville aims to claim its third win over the Raiders in five meetings - and the first in state playoffs.
Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.