The opening acts have all been completed.
Time to cue the main event.
Stephenville head coach Joseph Gillespie said it loud and clear following his team’s scrimmage Friday night.
“It starts right now,” Gillespie said in reference to this week’s season-opening showdown between his Yellow Jackets and Aledo. “We want this one. Our kids want this one real bad, but it’s still game one and there’s going to be an opportunity where we face them again. I want (to win) them both.”
Stephenville warmed up for the opener by scoring four touchdowns and a field goal while shutting out Granbury in a scrimmage at Tarleton Memorial Stadium.
The Jackets reeled off 17 points in the one-quarter game simulation that ended the scrimmage. Dominick Jokel was the star, returning a fumble 36 yards for a touchdown and an interception 40 yards to the Granbury five in a five-play span.
The defense went on the offensive regularly last season, scoring touchdowns in six straight games to help fuel a district championship run.
It was fitting that it was Jokel who got the turnovers. He was one of the team’s leading tacklers as a sophomore in 2008, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener at Aledo last year.
“I guess he missed out on it last year so he’s trying to make up for it early,” Gillespie said. “Let’s hope that carries over into next week.”
Stephenville dominated in total yardage, out-gaining Granbury 410-222. The difference in the running game was the key. Stephenville thundered its way to 206 rushing yards, averaging better than six yards per carry. Granbury averaged just more than two yards per run on its way to 93 yards on the ground.
“I thought our running game looked good and I was really pleased with the way our defense played for the most part,” Gillespie said. “There are still some things we can do better, but as far as (defensive) execution…we played pretty well.”
The line played without starting guard Ben Dammers, but Trevor Stephens and Cody Josserand filled in and Stephenville didn’t appear to miss a beat. Dammers is expected back this week.
James Myles rushed for 85 yards on just seven carries, while Aiavion Edwards gained 40 yards on eight runs while splitting action with the first team. A.J. Moore had a good night with the Jackets’ second offense, running 10 times for 67 yards.
Washington scored the only TD on the ground when he plunged across the goal line from one yard out. He also tossed a six-yard scoring pass to Trent Morrison during controlled play.
The touchdowns came after a slow start for the junior quarterback. Washington was just 1-8 for four yards on Stephenville’s first possession before going 6-9 for 57 yards and a TD the rest of the way.
Three dropped passes contributed heavily to the slow start offensively, but the Stephenville receivers got better as the night went along. During the second possession for the first-team offense, Washington was a perfect 4-4 including his scoring pass.
“The big thing that concerned me early was just not holding on to the football,” Gillespie said. “We dropped some passes and we fumbled the snap on third-and-one.”
But the offense improved as the night went on, just as Gillespie said his team has improved steadily leading up to this point.
“We’ve come a million miles, but we have a million miles more to go,” he said.
Now the focus is squarely on Aledo, which eliminated Stephenville in overtime of last year’s 4A Division II area playoffs on its way to winning a state title.
“It’s been burning in my belly. It’s been burning inside of me,” Gillespie said. “We’re going to go out next Friday and lay it all on the line. We’re going to lay it all on the line with a lot of folks this year.”
Dine with the Jackets
The Varsity Mom’s club has announced plans to involve the community in their weekly team meals.
The team will meet each Wednesday at an area restaurant, and fans are encouraged to join the Jackets to support both the team and a local business.
The first team meal is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at CiCi’s Pizza.