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 at 7-4, having qualified for the playoffs as the second-place team out of District 5-4A.
SHS was in the Associated Press top 10 state rankings earlier this season, and was No. 9 before losing to fourth-ranked Waco La Vega, the eventual district champion. The Jackets were coming off a 12-3 mark the previous season, when they were district champions in a different alignnment and reached the state semifinals.
The game was tied 21-all at halftime, with senior Krece Nowak scoring all three of Stephenville’s touchdowns. He scored on runs of 25 and 7 yards, and on a 7-yard TD pass from junior quarterback Kade Renfro.
“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.”
SHS senior linebacker Blu Caylor, who led the Jackets in tackles, said that missed opportunities was a key factor in the loss.
“We played our hearts out, but we fell short,” Caylor said. “They’re a good team.”
Unofficially, 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.
The Yellow Jackets will lose 30 senior football players to graduation.
“We gave it our all,” SHS senior place-kicker and defensive back Chase Carrillo said. “There was some hiccups there, but that was a good team. We did everything we could. We threw everything at them we had.”
Senior offensive lineman Lane York said, “We had some troubles in some places — some things we needed to work on. It was a little off. Things happened that shouldn’t have happened. If we could have corrected (the miscues) we would have won.”
Renfro passed for 266 yards, completing 14 of 27 attempts with one TD and two interceptions.
Nowak also led in reception yards, with 81 on four catches, while Trace Morrison caught four for 75 yards. Gavin Rountree contributed 50 yards on two receptions, Zane Walker caught two passes for 41 yards, and Kyle Lindsey added two catches for 19 yards.
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 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.
Celina grabbed a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, when a cross-field lateral turned into a 37-yard TD pass.
Nowak raced 34 yards for a TD and the teams were tied at 7-all going into the second quarter.
Celina struck for a big play on offense 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.
In the second half, Celina frustrated the Jackets by controlling the ball on offense, picking up crucial first downs on multiple occasions.
After their field goal, the Bobcats’ final TD came on a 4-yard run set up by an interception at their own 30-yard line that they returned to the Stephenville 24-yard line — plus an additional 12 yards on a face-mask penalty.
Celina will take on Argyle Friday at Collins Stadium in Denton for the right to advance to the regional semifinals. Argyle won their district matchup, Nov. 9, 63-21. Stephenville lost a non-district game to Argyle, 45-35, to open the season. Argyle also outscored La Vega in non-district, 31-29.