The Stephenville Yellow Jackets are rested and ready for the football playoffs.
SHS will take on Fort Worth Dunbar in the bi-district round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Thursday at the Burleson ISD stadium. Tickets will be $7 for adults and $5 for students. Stephenville will be on the home side of the stadium.
Stephenville is 5-4 overall and finished third (2-2) in the District 5-4A standings behind third-ranked Waco La Vega and No. 8 Brownwood.
Dunbar was the runner-up in the District 6-4A Division I standings with a 5-1 mark (5-5 overall) behind Kennedale. Dunbar secured second place with a 34-20 win over Lake Worth in their district finale, last Thursday night.
The Jackets were idle last week while the other four teams completed their district games. China Spring’s slim hopes of being in a three-way tie for second at 2-2 ended with a flop in a 41-14 loss to Brownwood. In the other district game, defending state champion La Vega whalloped winless Gatesville, 59-0.
Sterling Doty, in his first season as head coach of the Yellow Jackets, said the various bumps and bruises that some players had been nursing are better now — and the squad has been having a string of good practices despite the layoff from game action.
“It (the week off from games) allowed us to get healthy, overall,” Doty said. “They know what we expect. It has been a good bye week.
“We had the benefit of practicing last week,” Doty said. “We are excited. It’s (the playoff field) a 64-team tournament. The next week it’s down to 32 teams, and we sure want to be one of those.”
Dunbar has excellent size among its defensive and offensive linemen, averaging about 275 pounds, according to Doty.
“They have really good skill players,” the SHS coach said. “They have a good little running back and quarterback that can distribute the ball.”
Wide receiver Aaron Cooper is a dangerous offensive threat for the Wildcats in addition to being a starter at free safety on defense.
“We’ve got to figure out where he’s lined up,” Doty said. “We have to be sound (on defense). They also have got a really good offensive line, and two defensive ends that are really good players. We have to be able to control the line of scrimmage and capitalize in running and passing.”
In the area (second) round of the Region II-4A Division I playoff bracket, the winner of the Stephenville-Dunbar matchup will play either Dallas Carter (6-4) or top-ranked Argyle (10-0), the . Stephenville and Argyle met in the first week of the season, with the Yellow Jackets falling by a 42-14 margin.
Brownwood will play its bi-district playoff Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Stephenville at Tarleton State University’s Memorial Stadium against Fort Worth Castleberry, the third-place team out of District 6. China Spring, the fourth-place team in Stephenville’s district, will take on District 6 champion Kennedale, the school that eliminated the Yellow Jackets in the state semifinals in 2017.
Here are 10 things to know about Fort Worth Dunbar Wildcats football:
1. Dunbar was picked in the preseason by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine to finish as the runner-up to Kennedale in the District 6-4A Division I standings. The Wildcats, as predicted, did finish as runners-up to Kennedale — the team Dave Campbell’s had tabbed as the 19th-best team in the state.
2. Last season, Dunbar was 2-2 in district and made the playoffs. Coach Todd Lawson’s Wildcats finished that season with a 5-5 record after losing to Stephenville in the bi-district playoff round.
3. There are seven offensive and six defensive starters back this season among 16 varsity returnees.
4. This marks the eighth time in nine seasons the Wildcats have qualified for the playoffs.
5. The most notable returning standout is two-way all-district (wide receiver/free safety) Aaron Cooper, who was selected as the district’s preseason offensive most valuable player by Dave Campbell's. He accounted for eight touchdowns and 826 yards in combined offensive yardage a year ago — 448 receiving, 378 rushing.
6. Among the top defensive players for Dunbar are a pair of 6-1, 245-pound ends — Jemarion Hayes and Colyn Ross-Siilmon. Hayes notched 14 quarterback sacks in Dunbar’s 10 games and was voted as the district’s Defensive Player of the Year.
7. Dave Campbell’s listed defensive back Lakeithan Tarkington as having nine interceptions last season.
8. This will mark the sixth football meeting between Dunbar and the Yellow Jackets — starting in the year 2000. The only time the Wildcats managed to outscore SHS was in 2001, 35-21.
9. Dunbar’s most obvious claim to fame occurred in boys basketball, when their former longtime head coach Robert Hughes — the winningest coach in high school basketball history (1,333 wins, 247 losses) — was carving out his Hall of Fame career. He led Dunbar to two UIL state championship teams (1993, 2003), adding to the three he captured as the head coach of Fort Worth Terrell in the segregated Prairie View Interscholastic League (1963, 1965, 1967).
10. Two Dunbar graduates played at the professional level in basketball. Gary Collier was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1994 but never played in the NBA. Charles Smith played with five NBA teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, and later was an outstanding scorer when he played in the EuroLeague a little over 10 years ago.
Quarterback Kade Renfro leads the Yellow Jackets in passing with 1,745 yards and 12 TDs.
Running back Kason Philips is the top rusher with 692 yards and 6 TDs on 115 carries.
Receiver Gavin Rountree is the leading receiver with 504 yards and 5 TDs on 34 receptions.
Linebacker Quentin Walker has a team-leading 85 tackles.