After a week off, the Stephenville High School Yellow Jackets are set to start District 5-4A play this Friday, taking on China Spring on the road.
The Yellow Jackets’ last outing was Sept. 27 at Georgetown, where they posted a solid 28-21 victory in the final non-district test. SHS moved to 3-2 on the season.
China Spring is 2-4, and the Cougars are coming off a 14-13 non-district loss to St. Thomas Catholic, a private school in Houston.
Here are 10 things to know about the China Spring Cougars:
1. The Cougars were 6-6 last season, and 1-3 in the district (fourth place), which also includes Waco La Vega, Stephenville, Brownwood and Gatesville.
2. The Cougars won their bi-district playoff game last year before being eliminated in the area round.
3. China Spring was picked in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine’s preseason poll to finish third this season in the district, behind La Vega and Stephenville.
4. The Cougars have only three offensive and two defensive starters back from last season.
5. China Spring has had four losses by a total of only 12 points, including a 21-20 loss to state-ranked Waco Connally, a 49-41 loss to Alvarado and a 58-56 loss to Argyle Liberty Christian.
6. Junior Emmanuel Abdullah, a physical running back who also has breakaway speed, gained 545 yards rushing in the Cougars’ loss to Liberty Christian.
7. At quarterback for China Spring in its spread offense is sophomore Brayden Faulkner. As a freshman last season, Faulkner made a splash by passing for 1,965 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
8. A dangerous receiver is also back this season, in the form of senior K.J. Peoples. Last year he caught 73 passes for 853 yards and five TDs.
9. Defensive lineman Josh Thomas is a standout on defense for China Spring. He recorded 55 tackles and three quarterback sacks in 2018.
10. SHS head coach Sterling Doty noted that after opening the season 2-0, the Cougars were ranked among the state’s top 20 in Class 4A Division I.
STATE OF THE JACKETS
For head coach Sterling Doty, it’s mostly about seeing progress going into the district wars.
“Every time we’ve gone out on Friday night, we’ve gotten better, and we certainly want to keep that trend up.”
The Jackets are hoping for more of the same against China Spring.
“We want to progress, and be 1-0 in district,” Doty added. “We’ve just got to go on the road and be able to match their emotion. The team that goes out there and plays the best (will win).
“I know they’re a really good team, because of who they played and how close they played.”
Doty said that the Jackets have learned a lot about themselves already.
“We’ve been able to focus on things that we need to continue to build on, and then be able to focus on things we need to correct. I think when it comes down to each individual position, we’ve gotten better.
“Our secondary is covering better. Our defensive line and linebackers have done a good job stopping the run game. Our offense line has got to continue to limit turnovers, and finish drives.”
Two starting offensive linemen for the Yellow Jackets, who were injured in the Georgetown game, have made progress. The availability of both Damian Meza (ankle) and Caleb Smith (knee) will be a game-time decision, Doty said on Monday.
Another SHS player who had been banged up, senior wide receiver Caden Cowan, is back to 100 percent now, Doty added, along with Cole Stanley (shoulder).