Stephenville’s Yellow Jackets will be on the road this Friday taking on their longtime traditional rival Brownwood, but what’s at stake is much more than pride.
Coach Greg Winder’s Yellow Jackets (4-3 overall, 1-1 in District 5-4A Division I) suffered their first district football loss of the season last Friday night in Waco, falling 32-15 to the La Vega Pirates.
Brownwood’s Lions is tied with La Vega for the district lead, and is 4-2 overall. The Lions won their district opener Friday on the road, 34-14 over Gatesville (1-1, 3-5 overall).
Winder said that the fact that it’s an important district contest coming off a loss is more of a motivational factor for the Yellow Jackets than the rivalry.
Stephenville’s district has five schools, and the top four will qualify for the playoffs. But finishing higher in the final district standings could prove important, with a lower playoff seeding producing a bi-district matchup against a potentially stronger opponent.
The team that finishes second in District 5-4A Division I will play the third-place team out of the seven-team District 6 alignment. The third-place team from Stephenville’s district will be paired against the No. 2 team from District 6. The district champion will face the fourth-place team from District 6.
After last week’s games, Kennedale (7-2) and Benbrook (7-1) are tied for the District 6-4A Division I lead at 4-0, followed by Lake Worth (4-4) at 2-2 and both Fort Worth Dunbar (2-4) and Castleberry (4-3) at 1-2. Kennedale was the team that ended Stephenville’s season last year, with a 54-28 win in AT&T Stadium to reach the state final.
The La Vega matchup marked Stephenville’s third this season against another team ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press 4A state rankings. The Jackets came in ranked ninth while La Vega was fourth. Stephenville’s other two losses were to No. 2 Argyle and No. 6 Midlothian Heritage.
Stephenville fell out of the Associated Press top 10 this week, but was ranked ninth among the state's Class 4A teams entering the La Vega game. La Vega remained ranked No. 4 this week, and had one first-place vote. Carthage, Argyle and Liberty Hill are the top three this week. Midlothian Heritage is No. 6.
The 2018 Lions have a new head coach, Sammy Burnett, but the same quarterback, who threw for 2,200 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
The Lions were idle last week, but in their previous game — a district-opening 34-14 win over Gatesville — Bowden racked up 309 yards in total offense, passing for 155 and running for 154. He completed 8 of 14 passes with one interception.
For the season, Bowden has 1,186 yards and six touchdowns passing, plus 632 yards and 13 TDs rushing. His leading receivers are A.J. McCarty, with 30 catches for 375 yards, and Zach Strong, with 13 for 348 — an amazing average of 26.8 yards per catch.
Gatesville had 206 yards passing against the Lions’ defense, but only 64 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Gatesville will be idle this week before traveling to Stephenville to take on the Jackets. That will be the end of the regular season in the five-team district for the Yellow Jackets, whose open date will be Nov. 7. The top four teams in the final district standings advance to the playoffs.
After the scoreless opening quarter, quarterback Kade Renfro connected with wide receiver Kyle Lindsey for the 21-yard TD pass on the first play of the second quarter. That was set up by Pacen Parker’s fumble recovery for the Jackets at midfield with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. Chase Carrillo’s extra point kick gave SHS a 7-0 lead.
La Vega’s 93-yard interception return for its 14-7 lead put the Pirates ahead to stay. They added an 18-yard TD run later in the quarter, as well as a 60-yard scoring run at the 1:20 mark before going into intermission with a 26-9 lead.
The third quarter was also scoreless, but the Pirates added their final score on a 3-yard TD run to make it 32-9 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Renfro’s 22-yard aerial TD to Routree with about six minutes left in the game produced the final 17-point margin. The Jackets attempted a two-point conversion, but a pass into the end zone fell incomplete.
Kyle Lindsey and Gavin Rountree each caught one touchdown pass from quarterback Kade Renfro for the Yellow Jackets. Also for SHS, Gage Graham returned a blocked extra point kick for two points.
La Vega trailed 7-0 early in the second quarter, but reeled off 26 points in the final 10:06 going into halftime.
The Pirates racked up more than 400 yards in total offense but also benefitted from three interceptions — including one that was returned 93 yards for a touchdown that gave the Pirates the lead, 14-7, just four snaps after tying the game.
Against La Vega, Lindsey gained 125 yards on five receptions overall, and Rountree had two catches for 30 yards.
Krece Nowak led SHS in rushing with 84 yards on 16 carries.
Renfro had 155 yards passing, completing seven of 24 passes with three interceptions. He added 26 yards rushing.
SHS STAT LEADERS
Krece Nowak leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 687 yards on 121 carries, with three touchdowns. Next is Kason Phillips, who has 130 yards on 33 totes, and four rushing TDs.
Renfro has 825 yards passing, completing 51 of 96 for seven TDs and four interceptions.
The team leader in receptions is Kyle Lindsey with 23 for 402 yards and two scores, and Nowak is second with 20 for 374 yards and three TDs.
Blu Caylor is the leading tackler on defense, with 91, followed by Gage Graham with 77.