Second-year Stephenville High School head football coach Sterling Doty had said that three athletes competing for the starting quarterback position were all "neck and neck" in preseason workouts. They were senior Gavin Rountree, junior Coy Eakin and sophomore Ryder Lambert.
Doty revealed on Monday that Rountree is the pick as the starting quarterback as the Yellow Jackets head into their 2020 regular-season opener, Friday in Sweetwater (7:30 p.m. kickoff).
The 6-1, 160-pound Rountree had the advantage of having the most varsity experience, although his prior contributions were as a receiver on offense and in the secondary on defense. He was second-team all-district as a receiver last season, and is entering his third year on the varsity.
"It was a close battle between all three," Doty said. "Rountree was the most consistent passer, and he had the experience with two varsity seasons under his belt."
Doty said Eakin and Lambert are still competing for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. And will both be on the field and contributing in essential varsity duties at other positions, both offensively and defensively.
Doty emphasized the "next player up" theory of everyone staying ready at all times to perform at any position necessary. And that goes for any position — not just quarterback.
Rountree had started at quarterback for his 7th, 8th and 9th-grade Stephenville teams. When he was moved up to the varsity as a sophomore, he was switched to receiver on offense. As the "emergency" quarterback last year, he threw only one pass — but it went for a 40-yard touchdown.
"Yellow Jacket fans know all about his play-making ability, what he does on Friday night," Doty said of Rountree. "He’s dynamic back there and has the ability to run the ball. He does a really good job with his pocket awareness."
Lambert had been the starting QB on the freshman team in 2019, and had a good season.
"He’s a vocal quarterback that can run the ball. He can also throw the ball as well, and Ryder’s done a really good job for us so far," Doty said. "He’s mature for his age. He’s a playmaker."
Eakin played on the varsity last season as a sophomore, and earned second-team all-district as a defensive utility player.
"He’s got a ton of athletic ability, throws the ball really well," Doty said. "He’s got really good zip on the ball. He’s dynamic in the run game as well."
Sweetwater’s Mustangs are picked to finish third in District 1-4A Division II by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine. They had a 4-7 record season record in 2019, and were 3-3 in district before being eliminated in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
The Mustangs have eight defensive and six offensive starters returning, among 25 varsity lettermen.
Quarterback Leo Holsey had an impressive output last season, with a little over 3,200 yards in total offense — including more than 2,600 yards passing. He threw 43 touchdown passes, and ran for 11.
Two returning receivers, Darian Carr and Cedrick Brown, combined for more than 1,700 yards in 2019.
Stephenville and Sweetwater have met 12 times over the years in varsity football. Their last matchup was in 1996 when the Yellow Jackets won, 7-0.
Stephenville has won five games in the all-time series, and the Mustangs have won seven. Sweetwater had outscored the Jackets six games in a row during one stretch, but SHS won the last three meetings.
The Yellow Jackets have six offensive and six defensive starters back from their 6-5 squad in 2019. They were 2-2 in district, taking third place behind Waco La Vega and Brownwood.
Trace Morrison returns for his senior year after having the unusual distinction of being named first-team all-district at three positions — receiver, punter and place-kicker. He went on to be selected as all-state at punter.
Senior linebacker Colton Accomazzo is also a returning first-team all-district Yellow Jacket, and he also earned all-state honors.
Kason Philips returns at running back after earning second-team all-district last season.
Wide receiver Grayson Traweek and linebacker Harrison Barkley are returning honorable mention all-district players for SHS.
Editor’s note: Due to production problems, the 2020 preseason football tab with complete previews of the Yellow Jackets and their opponents, plus schedules and photos, has been delayed until the Saturday, Aug. 29, edition of the E-T.