Brad Keith

Whenever a new football season begins, there are always specific things that intrigue every fan.

In the Cross Timbers area, we have the Stephenville Yellow Jackets and the Tarleton State Texans, and those are just two of several area gridiron squads making headlines.

Different teams and different stories appeal to the interest of different fans. I share with you now the 10 football story lines (in no particular order) that intrigue me most this fall in the Cross Timbers.

The play of Stephenville seniors Kody Spano and Cody Davis: Both Davis and Spano made the third-team roster of Texas Football Magazine’s Super Team. Both are on track to take their talent to the collegiate level next fall, with Spano having committed early to Oklahoma State.

It is the final season at Tarleton for senior Texans Ranardrick "Dee Wee" Phillips and Tywain Myles. Both have been honored as LSC South Division Players of the Year, with Phillips being recognized twice as best defensive back, and Myles taking last year’s defensive lineman honor. They both represent Tarleton with a lot of class and pride.

Stephenville vs Wichita Falls Rider: The Jackets and Raiders split in two battles last year, with Rider winning in the playoffs. Both teams are loaded again this fall, and will go to war Sept. 15, in Wichita Falls. Another post season classic may also loom ahead.

Dublin vs. Hico: Lions and Tigers and football, oh my! Dublin and Hico finished alongside Itasca in a three-way tie for second in District 11-2A last fall. Thanks to tie-breakers, Hico and Itasca enjoyed a trip to the state playoffs while Dublin stayed home. The Lions could avenge last year’s disappointment with a second consecutive win in this annual rivalry.

The title chase in the South Division of the Lone Star Conference could be the most intriguing conference race in all of NCAA Division II football. The South’s four top-tier teams—Tarleton, Abilene Christian, West Texas A&M and Midwestern State—all feature abundant talent. Another co-championship is not out of the question.

Speaking of title races, high school football’s District 12-A should be an interesting one to sort out. Area teams Tolar, DeLeon and Gorman made the playoffs last year, and all three return a good core of players as they gear-up for a run at the league championship.

Stephenville vs. Aledo: I missed the classic battle these two 4A powers waged last fall, but you can bet I’ll be there to witness the 2007 edition of this exciting rivalry. The Jackets are as talent-laden as they have ever been, and Aledo has two sensational skill players in Cole Loftin and Ryan McGuire. Jackets vs. Cats is quickly becoming one of the most hyped rivalries in the state, especially with the absence of Brownwood on Stephenville’s schedule.

Tarleton vs. Abilene Christian: It’s an annual clash that seems to get more exciting every year. The Texans and Wildcats will be hard-pressed to top their exciting finish in 2006, when a John Williams field goal with four seconds remaining gave Tarleton the 37-36 win in an epic dual. A lot could be on the line in the Tarleton Homecoming game, with both teams expected to be in title chase in South Division of the LSC.

Strawn vs Gordon: Aw, yes, six-man football! This is the biggest of rivalries among the smallest of schools. Both programs have a great tradition, with the Longhorns capturing state titles in 1996 and again in 1999, and the Greyhounds having been crowned champs in 2003.

Tarleton vs. West Texas A&M: Last year, this match-up determined the co-championship in the LSC South, and the overall league championship. Ditto to the 2005 meeting. A lot could be on the line again in the 2007 finale, as each squad is loaded and ready for another title race.

That’s what I’m looking forward to most on the gridiron this fall. Other stories are also interesting, and many more will surface as the year goes on. It all kicks off Saturday when Tarleton hosts East Central. High school ball kicks off the following week when Stephenville travels to Waco Aug. 30 to battle Midway in the H-E-B Heart of Texas Kickoff Classic.

The wait is almost over. Let the games begin!