Jackets ace two big tests

Stephenville won. No surprise. I don’t think anyone from around these parts was terribly worried about the slight possibility that Waco Midway would sneak up on the No. 3-ranked Yellow Jackets.

It wasn’t a Yellow Jacket win or loss that intrigued me about this game during the week leading up to Thursday’s season opener. There were two things, however, that had my interest especially peaked.

I couldn’t wait to see how the Stephenville running game looked, as Head Coach Chad Morris vowed to be more balanced offensively. More importantly, I was ready to see the revamped run defense against talented Midway back John Hubert, who possesses speed and agility similar to C.J. Jennings of Everman, and Wichita Falls Rider’s Damien Washington and Jurell Thompson.

Running the ball and stopping the run were the two areas where improvements had to be made for the Jackets to secure their status as a state title contender after falling in the area round of the Class 4A, Division II playoffs last fall.

On his weekly radio show, Coffee With Coach on KSTV, Morris spoke concerning his team’s motto for the 2007 campaign, “one more yard.”

“We felt like if we would have picked up one more first down, we could have run out the clock,” Morris said of the Jackets’ loss to Rider in the post season. As far as the motto’s significance to the War Dogs on defense, Morris said, “There will come a time when we need a big stop on third or fourth down, with one yard to go.”

In the run game, the Jacket offense, without a doubt, passed the test. Brad Mills ran for three touchdowns on sprints of two, 33 and 44 yards. He earned the MVP award from Kickoff Classic officials, but it’s a shame the honor couldn’t be split six ways. Mills deserved every bit of the recognition he received Thursday, but the men in the trenches should be given just as much credit.

Center Tom Dodson, guards Blake Pair and Danny Moss, and tackles Brawnson Oliver and Dewayne Phillips, paved the way for Mills and other SHS ball carriers, prompting Mills to provide the quote of the night after the game.

“Whenever I got the ball there was a big hole,” Mills said. “It just opened up like the red sea.”

The Jackets finished with five touchdowns via the run. Trey Taylor and Colby Lozano added one score each to Mills’ three.

While the running game certainly passed the test, the War Dogs defense against the run absolutely aced it.

Hubert is as talented as advertised. The few times he was allowed some space, he covered ground with exceptional speed. But the script Thursday wasn’t about the talented Midway junior. It was all about a tenacious defensive effort by the War Dogs. Hubert looked one way, and saw nothing but the game’s defensive MVP, Josh Emmons. He looked the other way and was staring right at Seth Reding. Whenever he dared to look straight ahead, there was T.R. Varnado, Wayne Viotto, Colton Diffie and Cody Wood. The list of Jackets who were superior against the run goes on, but the bottom line is this-it was a long night for John Hubert, who may still be envisioning a gang of blue gold monsters charging at him in his sleep.

Morris and his staff didn’t need to see Kody Spano throw the ball all over the field Thursday to be assured the Jackets have a dangerous passing attack. They didn’t need to see Cody Davis pick off passes and run punts back for touchdowns to know that he is a scary talent.

The staff needed to see two things to prove to themselves that all the hard work in the weight room, spring ball and late summer preseason drills had paid off.

They ran the football, and they stopped the run. Plain and simple.

Nobody at SHS is going to have their jersey retired or start designing state championship rings because of a victory over Midway. But if the first game is supposed to set the pace for the season, the Jackets are off and running.

The missing ingredients necessary for a deep state playoff run were found Thursday.

Even the blind could see it.