Fourth-year Stephenville High School head football coach Greg Winder hasn’t had time to dust off his crystal ball to speculate on how next year’s team may fare.

In fact, by midweek the players and coaches still hadn’t fully digested their 31-21 loss to Celina. That elimination in the area round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs last Friday at Brewer High School in White Settlement, felt like an abrupt end to the 2018 season, a year after Winder guided the Jackets to a district crown and reached the state semifinals.

This year, the 7-4 Jackets were second to state powerhouse Waco La Vega (10-2 and paired against 9-2 Paris in this week's regional quarterfinal round) in District 5-4A Division I, and finished with a 3-1 mark in the five-team field. They were 3-2 in a rugged non-district schedule, beating Class 5A Everman, Abilene Wylie and Georgetown.

Winder did say that while next season is still “a ways off,” he expects next year’s squad “to get out there and be competitive and compete for the district championship.”

The 2018 Jackets will lose 30 seniors to graduation — a class that had fans buzzing with anticipation coming off the 12-3 2017 season, when a relatively large number of standout juniors got the equivalent of a season and a half of playing time under the belts.

This spring SHS will say goodbye to 30 seniors, including running back Krece Nowak, who finished his high school career at No. 2 on the Jackets’ all-time leading rushing list. The team is also losing its top three tacklers — Blu Caylor, Gage Graham and Chase Carrillo — and five of its top six receivers (Kyle Lindsey, Nowak, Zane Walker, Caden Cowan and Graham).

“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill. There’s no doubt about that,” Winder said. “When you lose that many seniors, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

After Friday’s loss to Celina, Winder said the seniors were “very special to me and the coaching staff. We’ve been through good times and bad times.”

Senior offensive lineman Jacob Poston said of his fellow seniors, “They mean the world to me. I remember playing with them in the first and second grade. They are my brothers. I love them to death.”

Senior defensive back and place-kicker Chase Carrillo said that the group gave it their all, and added, “I’ve grown up with these seniors, since we started playing. Not being able to put on pads will be different.”

Senior linebacker Blue Caylor said, “They are my family forever. I’m going to miss every single one of them.”

The other seniors on the squad included Payton Kimple, Thomas DeLaCruz, Hank Moore, Kenny Carlson, Ryan Fisher, Xavier Gonzalez, Eric Carrasco, Cody Storrs, Tyelir Brown, Victor Moreno, Nathan Diedrich, Dylan Garber, Pacen Parker, Dylan Fairchild, Grady Smith, Issic DeLaCruz, Jonathan Gutierrez, Andres Perez, Josh Cox, Scott Gill, Eduardo Cerros, Devon Roeming and Lane York.

JV COMING UP

The junior varsity placed first in their district, and posted a 5-5 record. Their only district loss was to Gatesville.

“That interior line is a plus. They are physical. I think that’s the best part about that group,” Winder said of the junior varsity.

The JV schedule, like the varsity slate, included non-district matchups against the JV squads from powerhouse teams like Argyle and Midlothian Heritage, which began the varsity season in the Associated Press top 10 rankings along with Stephenville.

“We’ve got guys coming back offensively that have gotten playing time that should be the leaders of the team for next year,” Winder said. “We’re got some fill-ins on the offensive line. We’ve got guys that played on the JV that are very capable to do that.

“And defensively, we’ve got a lot of holes to fill but we’ll find some young men to step up. That’s what our offseason is for. We’ve already started our offseason.

“We don’t have to get them to buy-in (to the system); they’ve bought-in. We’ve got to get them stronger, faster. That’s the process right now.”