Stephenville head coach Joseph Gillespie is adamant about one thing entering his team’s District 8-4A contest at Joshua tonight.

“This is not the same Joshua team we’ve faced in the past,” Gillespie said. “They have improved a great deal over the last couple years. They were 2-1 coming into district and played a good Crowley team very tough (two weeks ago).”

Stephenville enters the contest riding the momentum of three straight wins, a span in which the Yellow Jackets have outscored the opposition 97-7. Joshua, however, has seen its 2-1 start spoiled by consecutive 8-4A losses to Crowley and Mansfield Legacy. Stephenville is 3-2 overall and 2-0 in 8-4A, while Joshua is 2-3 and 0-2, respectively.

Kickoff at the impressive new Owl Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.

Gillespie agrees there is a possibility of the matchup qualifying as a trap game for the Jackets with Mansfield Timberview in the rearview mirror and Everman around the corner.

“On paper I guess it could be a trap game. It’s the same situation we were in last year having just beat Timberview to stay in contention for a district championship with Everman coming up. Joshua gave us a real dog fight then and I don’t expect any less from them now. They aren’t going to want us to push them around in their new house, that’s for sure.

“I think our kids have come to understand that they are always going to have a big target on them because everyone wants to beat Stephenville. We used the (University of) Houston game as an example this week (in talking to the kids). Houston just beat Oklahoma State and Texas Tech but then they got their lunch handed to them by UTEP and they probably shouldn’t have lost that game. It’s the same way for us, we can’t get caught looking ahead of a game that we should win.”

Stephenville beat Joshua 30-14 a year ago after leading just 23-14 early in the fourth quarter.

Joshua suffered a 39-7 loss last Friday to the same Legacy team that Stephenville throttled 31-7 two weeks ago, mainly due to second half turnovers. The Owls trailed 14-7 at halftime and turned the ball over twice inside the Legacy 20.

“They had some crucial mistakes in the red zone, or that game would have gone a lot differently,” Gillespie said. “And the week before that they were in a tough defensive game with Crowley.”

Crowley clipped the Owls 14-3 on Sept. 25, when Joshua suffered a bigger loss than just the game.

Standout receiver Jordan Allen went down with a broken ankle against Crowley. He did not play last week against Legacy and won’t play tonight or any time in the immediate future.

“They lost a good football player, but one thing Joshua has always had is a handful of good skill kids,” Gillespie said. “I’m sure they have somebody else capable of stepping in.”

The Owls are scoring 19 points per game and allowing 30.2, with much of the opponents’ damage being done when offensive juggernaut Birdville rolled up 63 points.

Stephenville is averaging 25.4 points and surrendering only 14.4. The Jackets gave up 45 points to No. 2 Denton Guyer. In its other four games, Stephenville has allowed only 6.8 points per night.