If there was a message to be taken from Thursday night’s 9-0 blowout of Burkburnett, it might be that the Stephenville Honeybees are once again a hurricane-strength force to be reckoned with as they started their 2018 playoff campaign.

Coach Casey Weil’s Honeybees, the defending Class 4A state champions and ranked among the state’s top five this season, wiped out Burkburnett in their bi-district playoff game at Graham and still managed to get all 24 players (including four moved up from the junior varsity) into the game to gain experience.

The District 4-4A champion Honeybees improved to 21-3 on the season. Burkburnett was the fourth-place team out of the District 3-4A alignment.

The next playoff test for the Honeybees will be in the area round against Lubbock Estacado. That playoff game will be at Bulldog Stadium at Abilene Wylie High School, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Honeybees scored five of their goals in the first half, starting about six minutes into the game. The resistance from the Lady Bulldogs was obviously futile, and the Honeybees added their four other scores in the second half.

“To put nine on somebody, it kind of sends a message,” Weil said, noting that he also avoided running up the score even higher with the substitutions. “We knew (the Lady Bulldogs) were going to play hard. We got some good playoff experience (for the non-starters). I was extremely proud of them.”

Among the offensive highlights against Burkburnett, Ciara Johnston scored three goals and Gracie Bales had two. The other goals were scored by Claire Choate, Haleigh Beam, Tanja Pederson and Alexis De Los Santos.

Beam and Emily Kirbo recorded two assists each, while Madelyn Heupel, Cody Hawks and Bailie Atchley contributed one assist each. Beam’s goal was an unassisted corner kick, and Pederson’s score was also unassisted.

The Honeybees has stumbled in their final district game, 4-3 in a shootout against rival Brownwood, but quickly regained their momentum. They have now won 15 of their last 16 games, and have posted shutouts in 14 of those outings.

But Weil knows that one slip-up in the playoffs will destroy Stephenville’s goal of winning back-to-back state titles.

“We’ve got six games left to win it all. We can’t take anybody lightly. Anybody can beat anybody,” Weil said. “If we have a bad day, it can be the end of it. I think we’re peaking at the right time. I think the girls are fresh, so I expect us to make another good run at it.”

One thing the Honeybees didn’t have to do was build up their confidence this season, since the majority of the key players last season were all back, including a large group of high-performing freshmen who are now sophomores.

“We have team chemistry, and we believed we could do that,” Weil said of winning the 2017 state crown. “We are pretty confident, and I think we’ll play well.”