WHITE SETTLEMENT — Celina held Stephenville scoreless in the second half and broke open a tie game with 10 points in the fourth quarter, eliminating the Yellow Jackets from postseason play with a 31-21 decision in their Class 4A Division I area-round football playoff game Friday afternoon at Brewer High School Field.
The Yellow Jackets closed out their season with a 7-4 mark, having qualified for the playoffs as the second-place team out of District 5-4A. They were coming off a 12-3 mark the previous season, when they reached the state semifinals. The Jackets began the season ranked in the top 10 by the Associated Press, but lost to three powerhouse squads -- Argyle, Midlothian Heritage and District 5 champion Waco La Vega -- in the regular season.
The Jackets and the Bobcats were tied 21-all at halftime, with senior Nowak scoring all three of Stephenville’s touchdowns. He scored twice on runs and once on a pass from junior quarterback Kade Renfro.
Nowak finished his stellar three-year career as a starter at running back 31 yards shy of the all-time SHS record for career rushing yards and two touchdowns short of the career mark in that category.
Celina, which led 7-0 and 14-7 before the Yellow Jackets surged ahead 21-14 late in the second quarter, moved on to the regional quarterfinal playoff round.
The Bobcats (7-4), the fourth-place team out of District 7, will face unbeaten Argyle (11-0) — the team that won their district — in the third round. Argyle advanced with a 52-14 area playoff win Friday night over China Spring (6-6), the third-place team from Stephenville’s district.
After the Bobcats took a 24-21 lead on a 24-yard field goal at the 7:59 mark in the fourth quarter, the Jackets turned the ball over three times in the final 7:11 — on two interceptions and one fumble.
“That was two good football teams out there that played their hearts out,” Winder said. “Unfortunately, we had some turnovers and the defense couldn’t get them off the field.”
Senior Chase Carrillo said, “We gave it our all. There was some hiccups there, but that was a good team. We did everything we could. We threw everything at them we had.”
After Celina grabbed a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, Nowak raced 34 yards for a TD and the teams were tied at 7-all going into the second quarter.
Celina hit for a big play to regain the lead, 14-7, on a 45-yard TD pass with 9:38 to go in the second quarter.
Nowak’s second score, a 28-yard TD run, came at the 8:17 mark in the second quarter, tying it at 14.
Renfro connected with Nowak on a 7-yard TD pass at the 4:30 mark in the quarter, giving the Jackets a 21-14 edge.
But Celina drove for another score to tie it in the closing seconds before intermission, on a 1-yard TD.
The Bobcats’ final TD — a 4-yard run — was set up by an interception they returned to the Stephenville 24-yard line, plus an additional 12 yards on a facemask penalty.