BROWNWOOD — The Stephenville Yellow Jackets jumped ahead of Brownwood into second place in the District 7-4A Division I football standings and secured a playoff berth Friday night with a 45-20 victory over the Lions at Gordon Wood Stadium. 

Coach Greg Winder's 5-3 Yellow Jackets moved to 2-1 in district, clinching a playoff berth, while the 4-3 Lions slipped to 1-1. It marks the 15th consecutive year the Jackets have qualified for the playoffs.

SHS quarterback Kade Renfro threw three touchdown passes — one each to Gavin Rountree, Kyle Lindsey and Zane Walker. 

Running back Krece Nowak scored on runs of 40 and 2 yards for the Jackets. Blu Caylor added a 1-yard TD run, and Chase Carrillo kicked a field goal.

Brownwood claimed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Jackets cut it to 7-3 with a short field goal by Carrillo at the 1:51 mark in the quarter.

The Lions had a hard time slowing down Stephenville’s offense after that as the Jackets scored two touchdowns in each of the final three quarters.

But Brownwood was still within striking distance, pulling within 17-14 with a touchdown with 5:28 to go in the second quarter. But the Jackets broke open with the game by scoring the next four TDs to stretch the margin to 45-14 by the 7:42 mark in the fourth quarter. 

It was the 78th meeting between the two rivals, in the “Battle of 377” and was the Yellow Jackets’ second straight victory over the Lions. Brownwood holds a 46-30 lead in the series, and there have been two ties.

“It was a great win for us,” SHS head coach Greg Winder said. “I thought the kids came out and played hard, and played with a lot of emotion. We had some mistakes we had to overcome, but it was a good victory for us.” 

Jacob Poston, a senior offensive lineman for the Jackets, said, “It’s always a big game for us. You look for it on the schedule. Beating them is everything, a successful season. It’s Brownwood.”

The Jackets have only nine regular-season games this year, so their final game before entering the bi-district round of the playoffs will be next Friday, Nov. 2, at home for SHS Senior Night against Gatesville (1-1, 3-5 overall). Gatesville was idle Friday. District-leading Waco La Vega improved to 2-0 and 6-2 overall with a 56-17 win over China Spring (0-3, 4-5).

In the opening round of the playoffs, the four postseason qualifiers from District 7 will be paired against teams out of the seven-team District 8 alignment. Kennedale leads that district with a 5-0 mark, followed by Benbrook at 4-0, Lake Worth at 3-2, Dunbar at 2-2, Castleberry at 1-3, and Western Hills and Diamond Hill-Jarvis both a 0-4.

The first-place team from each district plays the No. 4 team from the next district in the playoff bracket, while the runner-up plays the No. 3 team.

Renfro passed for 264 of Stephenville’s 435 yards of total offense. He completed 14 of 21 attempts with one interception.

Nowak ran for 149 yards on 24 carries to lead SHS in rushing.

Walker’s big play helped propel him to 108 yards receiving on three catches. Lindsey caught three passes for 64 yards in all. Gavin Rountree was next with two receptions for 34 yards.