Of all the impressive numbers that spell out Stephenville's football success since 1989, perhaps this is the most indicative:

The Yellow Jackets are 18-2 in their last 20 playoff openers.

That's 18 bi-district titles, 18 area-round appearances. Since 1989.

In a system that allows basically half the teams in the state to reach the postseason, getting there is one thing. Winning and advancing once a team is there is what raises the bar.

At Stephenville, the bar has been raised for a long time, and each year a group of seniors takes it upon themselves to guard that tradition. It's a responsibility the seniors on this playoff-bound Yellow Jacket team take seriously.

"You almost feel kind of a pressure, like you have to (win playoff games)," said senior linebacker Dominick Jokel, who was a varsity starter as a sophomore. "You don't want to be the class that misses the playoffs and ends that streak. It's tradition - carry it on."

Jokel's classmates all agree.

"We have to protect the tradition we have here at Stephenville," said two-year starting cornerback Keaton Trinkle. "We had good seniors last year that led us, and now it's our turn to lead the way."

Defensive end Stephen Harrell is enjoying his first varsity season and first playoff journey. But even Harrell, who blocked a punt that led to a touchdown to put away Waco last week, understands the significance of playoff football in what has become known as the "City of Champions."

"It's cool to get to carry on the legacy," he said. "We're carrying the torch of the program."

Austin Melvin, a two-year starter at offensive tackle, couldn't say it better.

"We just have to lead the way," Melvin said. "Lead those young guys so we can all continue the legacy together."

Stephenville has dominated Crowley through the years, including a 42-7 blowout when the Jackets clinched their outright district title last season. But Jokel says there are no concerns of overlooking the Eagles tonight.

"Growing up I used to think the first round was just easy," said the linebacker who missed his junior season with a knee injury but has started every game this year. "Then in my sophomore year (Fort Worth) Dunbar was tough (in the bi-district round), so I know now to never take it for granted."

Stephenville erased a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Dunbar in overtime in 2008. That Yellow Jacket team, the first under head coach Joseph Gillespie, went on to the state quarterfinals. The Yellow Jackets' only first-round losses since 1989 were to Dunbar in 2001 and Wichita Falls Rider in 2004.

The Yellow Jackets have won five straight playoff openers, and the seniors say they are focused on continuing that streak.

"We have to get the first one down and roll on from there," Trinkle said.

"After we get the first one we'll have even more momentum," added Harrell.

"Every time we talk about it we say we have six weeks left, but we know that's only true if we win this week," Melvin said. "That's what we're focused on."

Jokel feels he has an understanding of what it takes to win in the postseason - 48 minutes of solid football - and says the Jackets are close to putting that together.

"I think we're really close. Just a couple minutes away - a few bad penalties and turnovers," Jokel said. "Now it's layoff time and we have have to put it together."

Trinkle knows the short-term goal is to win and survive. He also is very aware of the long-term goal.

"The short-term goal is to get past each week," he said. "Then hopefully we get to play Aledo again and then win state."

All the seniors loved the sound of Trinkle's final phrase, especially Harrell.

"That's about what it's all about right there," Harrell said.

And it all begins Friday.