Stephenville’s final District 5-4A football game is against winless Gatesville, but head coach Sterling Doty said his Yellow Jackets are approaching the matchup just like they would against any other team.
Gatesville’s Hornets fell to 0-8 overall and 0-2 in district with last Friday’s 52-13 loss at home to China Spring (3-6, 1-2).
But the Jackets, who are 4-4 overall and 1-2 in district, have yet to nail down — mathematically speaking — one of the four playoff spots in the five-team district alignment. Stephenville will have an open date the following week, when the other four schools are playing their fourth district game.
The kickoff time is set for 7 p.m. Friday, at McKamie Stadium in Gatesville.
If the Hornets could — by miracle or other act of God — finish district play with wins over Stephenville and third-ranked Waco La Vega, they would be 2-2 and the Jackets would be 1-3. China Spring, which is idle this week, could finish 2-2 in district with an upset win over sixth-ranked Brownwood.
“We’ve got to win to solidify our spot. If we win, we most likely will be the No. 3 seed (third place coming out of district into the playoffs),” Doty said.
But regardless of any seemingly impossible scenarios that could be imagined in the minds of the Hornets, the Jackets simply have to “handle our business” against Gatesville Friday, as Doty said. We take the same approach each week, and every team deserves our best effort. You can’t look at records.”
Here are eight things to know about Gatesville Hornets football:
1. Since going 7-4 and making the playoffs with a 2-3 district mark in 2017, the Hornets are 3-15. They were 3-7 last year. At 1-3 in district a year ago, they were the fifth-place team and failed to make the playoffs.
2. For the second year in a row, Gatesville was picked to finish last in the district in the preseason poll published by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
3. The Hornets lost their longtime head coach, Kyle Cooper, in late June, when he resigned to be an assistant at Mount Vernon under former Stephenville head coach Art Briles. Cooper, who had been the Hornets’ head coach for 12 seasons, was replaced by his assistant head coach Luke Howard.
4. Gatesville entered this season with only three offensive and two defensive starters returning.
5. In addition to losing other players this year, the Hornets were also facing a tough schedule. They faced eighth-ranked Lampasas, highly regarded 4A Division I Midlothian Heritage and 4A Division II Waco Connally, along with preseason Class 3A Division I No. 4-ranked Cameron Yoe. That’s in addition to the powerhouse top-10 state-ranked foes Waco La Vega and Brownwood in district play.
6. The Hornets’ offense has been held under 7 points four times this year, including two shutouts. The defense has given up 52 points or more five times, including a 68-34 loss at Cameron Yoe on Sept. 13
7. Gatesville entered the season counting on getting good performances from defensive end Luke Gregory (five quarterback sacks last year), along with sophomore receiver Carson Brizendine, and linemen Stephen Fitzer and Waylon Jones.
8. The two most notable football players who graduated from Gatesville High School were Cotton Davidson, (born in 1931), a former AFL and NFL quarterback, and Taurean Henderson (born in 1983), a former NFL player with Atlanta and Minnesota.
On the matchup against Gatesville, Doty said, “They’ve got a good, big offensive line. When they are at their best, they are able to run the ball. They play extremely hard and they’ve got good coaching schemes.
“We’ve just got to get out and play our game. We’re on a two-game losing streak, and our kids want to get that taste out of their mouths and get ready for the playoffs.
“They take pride in their work and what we need to do to get ready for football games. This game will be no different.”
The playing status of two SHS players who sustained injuries in last week’s loss to Brownwood, outside linebacker Harrison Barkley (shoulder) and receiver/defensive back/punter/placekicker Trace Morrison (lower leg), is listed as a game-time decision, head coach Sterling Doty said.
Kason Philips, who has been recovering from a lower body injury, had limited carries but was able to play last week.
If Morrison is unable to kick versus Gatesville, Corbin Poston can handle those duties and Grayson Traweek can punt.
Poston was brought up from the junior varsity this week along with fellow sophomores Jacob Stacy, Quice Porter, Austin Brown and Alex De Leon.
In last Friday’s 38-22 loss to sixth-ranked Brownwood, the Yellow Jackets held a 7-0 lead in the opening quarter, but the Lions responded with five touchdowns and a field goal after that.
Quarterback Kade Renfro had two rushing touchdowns for SHS and completed 21 of 30 passes for 206 yards with one interception. Renfro carried 16 times for 44 yards.
Gavin Rountree had 81 yards receiving on 10 catches, while Trace Morrison had 73 yards on five catches and Cole Stanley had 54 yards on four receptions.
Kason Philips recorded 62 yards rushing on 12 carries, while Caden Cowan added 37 yards and one TD on four carries.
On defense, Kreed Averhoff led with nine tackles, while Quentin Walker recorded eight, Colton Accomazzo seven and Austin Stidham 6. Harrison Barkley recovered a fumble, while Daniel Luna, Accomazzo and Cowan were credtied with forced fumbles.
Renfro, who was back from being sidelined with an injury the previous week, has thrown for 601 yards, completing 40 of 80 passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Gavin Rountree leads all receivers with 23 catches for 443 yards and three TDs.
Morrison is next with 349 yards on 17 catches with a team-leading five TD receptions.
Kason Philips holds the team lead in rushing with 502 yards on 96 carries, and has scored two TDs.
The leaders in tackles on defense are Quentin Walker with 66, Colton Accomazzo with 63 and Morrison with 42. Austin Stidham has a team-leading 5.5 quarterback sacks. Grayson Traweek leads in interceptions with three.