Stephenville has faced its fair share of gifted quarterbacks on the gridiron this fall.

There was Shavodrick Beaver for Wichita Falls Rider and Cole Loftin for Aledo. The No. 2 Yellow Jackets will face a third talented signal-caller when they continue District 8-4A play at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Joshua.

Austin Neal is 76-138 passing for Joshua for 960 yards. He has thrown eight touchdown strikes with only two interceptions.

“He is very talented and has a good strong arm, Stephenville Head Coach Chad Morris said of Neal.

With Kody Spano taking the snaps when Stephenville has the ball, another QB showdown may be in store. Spano has completed 65 of 92 pass attempts for 860 yards. He has thrown for eight touchdowns and has been picked off four times.

Spano unleashed five touchdown passes and rushed for a sixth score last week-all in the first half-as Stephenville built a 42-0 lead on their way to a 42-10 win over Alvarado.

Joshua was not as fortunate in district action a week ago, falling to Crowley, 24-21.

“They should have won that game, Morris said.

On its final drive, the Owls needed only one more first down for a chance to win. Instead a pass to an open receiver was dropped and Crowley was given a final shot. CHS made the most of its last gasp of life, as Aaron Jones hit a 21-yard field goal as time expired to give the Eagles the victory.

“If they hold on and win, we're talking about two 2-0 teams in district, Morris said.

Morris expects the Owls to put up a much tougher fight than last year when the Jackets shut them out 61-0.

“It's definitely a much improved Joshua team, Morris said. “A few years ago they had a very talented eighth grade class, and they're juniors now.

Like Stephenville, Joshua works out of the spread on offense.

“They have had a lot of success throwing the football, Morris said.

Defensively, the Owls are similar strategically to Rider and Alvarado.

“They're going to come out of a 3-4 look and try to bring a lot of pressure and keep you guessing, Morris said of his expectations concerning Joshua's defensive game plan.

The meeting comes in the third week of district play, with Stephenville sitting at the top of the standings along with Everman and Crowley. Joshua is even with Cleburne at 1-1, while Aledo, Alvarado and Mineral Wells are all 0-2.

“Aledo is sitting there at 0-2, and I don't think anyone would have predicted that would happen, but we knew it was possibility with them playing us and Everman right at the start, Morris said. “But the lights aren't out for Aledo yet by no means. I think things will shake out over the next couple weeks. We'll see the leaves fall, and the cream will rise to the top.

Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at