MIDLOTHIAN — If ever there were a football game that showed the incredible power of momentum, it was Stephenville’s battle Friday night against Midlothian Heritage.
The Yellow Jackets dominated the first half, taking a 29-6 lead over the Jaguars, but Heritage came back to record an unbelievable 33-29 victory over Stephenville at Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium. Both teams are now 2-2 on the season.
Heritage — which had entered the season as the fifth-ranked team in the state in Class 4A Division I, but had lost its last two games — capped a 27-point second-half rally on a 28-yard touchdown pass with only 2:57 left in the game.
“I told the kids this is on me. I’ve got to do a better job of managing everything,” SHS head coach Sterling Doty said after the one-of-a kind game, which followed two straight wins for the Jackets.
Although the Jaguars had scored first for a 6-0 lead in the opening quarter, the Jackets took control to gain a 29-6 halftime lead.
“We were building off the momentum from each side of the ball,” Doty said of the Yellow Jackets’ first-half surge.
With the Jackets holding a 29-13 lead early in the third quarter and facing a fourth-and-1 situation near midfield, they elected to go for the first down instead of punting.
The quarterback sneak try was stopped short, turning the ball over to the Jaguars at Stephenville’s 47-yard line — and possibly providing a key spark to the dramatic momentum turn. On the first snap, Heritage quarterback Cade Sumbler threw a strike to receiver Jay Wilkerson for a 47-yard TD strike as the Jaguars cut the deficit to 29-19.
In the fourth quarter, after Heritage had pulled to within 29-26 with 11:47 left in the game, Stephenville appeared to be on its way to a potentially game-clinching TD. The Jackets drove to the Heritage 13-yard line, but Heritage coaches interrupted the game as they complained to the referees that they had seen an infraction — although no flag had been thrown.
After an unusually long and heated discussion with coaches on both sides — and among themselves — the referees decided to give SHS a penalty, calling illegal participation. During the intense argument that ensued, the Yellow Jackets were given another penalty — a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call.
Not only did that move Stephenville’s offense back to its own 43 yard-line, it also seemed to kill whatever spark of momentum the Jackets had just managed to revive.
“It’s hard to stop it,” Doty said of momentum in football. “We battled, had the ball in the red zone a couple of times.”
Of the dual penalties, Doty stated, “No flags were thrown originally. I would just say that it was a big ordeal that took a whole lot of communication, slowed down the momentum of the game as we had just gained some. It was unfortunate.”
But, he added, “One play (did not) dictate tonight’s outcome.”
If his team didn’t approach the second half with the mentality of maintaining its effort from the first half, Doty said he didn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think we had that mentality,” he said.
SHS had to play the majority of the game without running back Kason Phillips, who had led the team in rushing through the first three games. Doty said Philips missed the final three quarters after suffering an injury, the extent of which was not immediately known.
Trace Morrision had a big night for the Jackets, kicking a 20-yard field goal for the first score, and catching TD passes of 30 and 45 yards from quarterback Kade Renfro.
Renfro also threw a TD pass to Cole Stanley, and ran for a 2-yard TD.
Other individual statistics are not yet available from the game.
Looking ahead, Doty said, “We’re still heading the right direction.
Stephenville will close out its non-district schedule on Friday, Sept. 27, at Georgetown (7:30 p.m. kickoff). After an open date the following week, the Jackets will begin District 5-4A Division I play on Oct. 11 at China Spring (7 p.m. start).