There’s never a good time for a football team to be missing its starting quarterback and running back out because of injuries, and taking on the No. 3-ranked team in the state makes it even tougher.

Waco La Vega, the defending Class 4A Division I state champion, posted a 42-10 victory over the Stephenville Yellow Jackets at Tarleton State University’s Memorial Stadium.

Coach Sterling Doty’s Yellow Jackets are now 1-1 in District 5-4A Division I, and 4-3 overall. La Vega, the defending district champion, improved to 6-1 on the season and 1-0 in league play.

The Jackets went into the game without their leading rusher, running back Kason Philips, because of a previous hip injury. They then lost starting quarterback Kade Renfro to an upper body injury in the first half.

Stanley moved from slot receiver to quarterback after Renfro’s injury, and finished the game with 142 yards passing, completing 6 of 15 attempts with one interception. Renfro finished his night with 63 yards passing, completing 4 of 7.

With Philips out, Eduardo Campos led SHS in rushing with 59 yards on 19 carries, followed by Caden Cowan with 47 yards on 11 attempts.

“The injuries kind of got us out of sorts there. You take a skill player off and you move him to quarterback and that’s going to cause you a little bit of confusion. And we’ve got to do a better job as a coaching staff, communicating.”

Doty said that having to switch quarterbacks in the middle of a game is “extremely tough,” but added, “but I was proud of Cole and was proud of our team of stepping up and taking that challenge. We did some really good things. Cole played well, battled his tail off. The other guys rose up around him.”

But on this night, the Pirates had significant personnel problems of their own, coming off an on-field fighting incident on Oct. 4 involving multiple players in the third quarter of their final non-district game, against Liberty-Eylau. That game was stopped in the third quarter because of the brawl, but La Vega’s 49-6 lead at that point stood up as the final score.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reported that 12 La Vega players were suspended for the game against Stephenville. The Tribune-Herald also noted that Pirates head coach Don Hyde had said before the Stephenville game that some of the players would serve a half-game suspension required by the UIL for leaving the bench area to join the brawl, while others were suspended for the entire game Friday.

The Pirates took a 7-0 lead over SHS with a 3-yard touchdown run at the 3:38 mark in the opening period.

But the Jackets drew within 7-3 when Trace Morrison kicked a 30-yard field goal with 1:36 left in the quarter.

La Vega expanded its lead to 14-3 with a 7-yard TD run with 10:26 remaining in the second quarter, and the Pirates went into the locker room at halftime with that same 11-point edge.

Stephenville’s only TD of the game came in the third quarter on a 61-yard pass to Morrison from Cole Stanley, who took over at quarterback when Renfro was sidelined.

Meanwhile, the Pirates were hitting high gear with three TDs in the quarter. Their final score came in the fourth quarter.

“We had some plays there where we had a chance to take some momentum from them, and never took advantage of it,” Doty said. “We’ve just to be more consistent in our run game and be able to continue opening those holes up. Give credit to La Vega. They did good job of making the adjustments when we hurt them throughout the series. We didn’t do a good job as a staff, myself, of countering what they were doing to us.”

In addition to Morrison’s 61-yard TD catch, Gavin Rountree caught three passes for 57 yards and Cowan grabbed three for 55 yards. Grayson Traweek added 21 yards on two catches and Stanley caught one pass for 11 yards.

The Jackets will shift gears from taking on the third-ranked team in the state to playing the undefeated (6-0) and sixth-ranked Brownwood Lions, who are tied for the district lead with La Vega, at 1-0. Stephenville, tied for third currently with China Spring at 1-1, will play Brownwood starting at 7 p.m. Friday on Parents Night at Memorial Stadium.

The other team in the district, Gatesville is 0-2. The top four teams in the final district standings qualify for the playoffs.

For Friday's Brownwood game, Doty said Philips’ playing status will be a “game-time” decision. Doty said that Renfro is “progressing well” with the recovery from his injury.