MANSFIELD — The entertainment level was off the charts, and so was the sheer effort.
The 2019 football season finale Thursday night at Vernon Newsom Stadium was an incredible offensive showcase featuring two of the state’s highest-profile teams in the Class 4A Division I ranks.
Stephenville never led, but rallied to tie top-ranked Argyle at 42-all midway through the fourth quarter and again at 49-49 before the Eagles pulled away for a thrilling 63-49 triumph in their area playoff clash. The Eagles outscored the Yellow Jackets 21-7 in a wild fourth quarter as the teams dealt with light rain during part of the second half.
Senior quarterback Kade Renfro threw three touchdown passes and added a 1-yard scoring run for the Yellow Jackets. Gavin Rountree caught an 8-yard TD reception and also ran for a score from 29 yards out. Trace Morrison had a 35-yard TD catch thrown by Renfro, and Cole Stanley grabbed his other TD pass, from 37 yards out. Junior running back Kason Philips bolted 64 yards for a TD that got the third quarter off to a hot start for Stephenville.
The Jackets picked up one TD when Colton Accomazzo blocked an Argyle punt and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 42 at the 5:17 mark in the third quarter. The SHS defense came through with two more huge plays in the third quarter, as Grayson Traweek intercepted an Argyle pass and Austin Stidham pounced on an Eagle fumble.
Argyle (12-0), which got an incredible eight touchdown passes from quarterback Bo Hogeboom including five to Cole Kirkpatrick, advanced to the third round to play the winner of Friday’s area playoff between Brownwood and Alvarado.
Stephenville (6-5) ended its season in the second round of the postseason for the second year in a row, this time with former Yellow Jackets player Sterling Doty as their head coach.
The Yellow Jackets had been outscored by the Eagles 42-14 in the season opener for both teams, Aug. 30 in Stephenville. They also showed how much they improved from the start of the season to the end by scoring the most points any of Argyle’s opponents had in its 10 other games. That includes defending state champion Waco La Vega, which fell victim to Argyle by a 49-35 margin on Sept. 6.
And beyond the improvement under head coach Sterling Doty in his first season with the Jackets, their sheer effort in trying to pull off the massive upset was also obvious.
“Oh, yeah, 100 percent,” Doty said. “They worked so hard during the season, and I’m just extremely proud of them and the growth that we showed all year long.
“We got better every time we came out, and 17 seniors, couldn’t be prouder of them. Love ‘em to death. They laid the foundation to what we want to accomplish and the culture that we want to create by focusing, winning the day and being great in all three phases.”
When asked about his Jackets rallying to tie Argyle in the frenzied second half, Doty said he was thinking they were “right where we wanted to be. And it came down to they made a couple more plays. Their staff did a better job of getting them in place to be successful than I did. So proud of our boys.”
Rountree said that the effort given by the team was simply what Stephenville players are taught to do.
“It was amazing. I wouldn’t choose any other team over this team,” Rountree said. “(We) gave great effort tonight. It was a hell of a game and I think the scoreboard shows it. That’s just Yellow Jacket football. The coaches preach it to us every day, to believe in one another, stand by their side and go make plays for your brother beside you.”
Argyle, which had led 35-21 at halftime, scored the go-ahead TD to break the tie, 49-42, with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter. The Eagles capped the scoring with scoring passes of 66 and 25 yards in the final 5:03 of the game.
Renfro said that the Jackets knew when they tied it that they had to keep up the pressure and score again.
“We just went in knowing we had to drive down the field and score. We had two three-and-outs that hurt us. Our defense did a great job of setting (us) up and getting turnovers. We just couldn’t capitalize on it and that’s on me and that’s on everybody on the offense. Those big moments like that, we need to step up and be great players.
“All the guys played their hearts out. We came into this came with nothing to lose and playing to win. The scoreboard didn’t turn out in our favor but I feel like our guys proved a lot this season and had a lot of growth. The effort was there all the time. We just had to put it together and we finally did. Argyle’s a great team, just kind of capitalized on some things.”
Unofficially, Renfro completed 13 of 27 passes for 296 yards with one interception.
Accomazzo said that he thought Argyle may have been looking past the Eagles to a possible playoff matchup against La Vega, and the team’s effort almost paid off.
“We just wanted to go out there and fight,” Accomazzo said. “It just didn’t go our way. We were all pumped up. We believed we could win. Just a couple of good plays by them. They’re a hell of a football team. They’re here for a reason.”
Renfro, who will graduate early, this December, said he will miss being a Yellow Jacket after being on the varsity the last three seasons.
“It’s pretty bittersweet to hang up the helmet,” Renfro said. “I moved in three years ago and I fell in love with this place. It hurts, just not being able to ever be with my brothers again, just being there for them and seeing them every single day. So this really hurts.”