STEPHENVILLE - NO. 1 Stephenville scored the final four touchdowns to erase a second-quarter deficit and thump Crowley 35-14 in District 8-4A action Friday.
With the win, Stephenville (9-0, 6-0) secures its 18th trip to the Class 4A playoffs in the last 19 years, and sets the stage for next week’s district title bout with undefeated, state-ranked Everman (9-0, 6-0).
Crowley (5-4, 4-2) visits Aledo next week, with the winner advancing to the post season and the loser being left out.
With the score deadlocked at 14-14 and time running out in the first half, Stephenville was faced with fourth-down and 13. Quarterback Kody Spano delivered an 18-yard pass into the hands of Dakota Mathis to move the chains. Stephenville Coach Chad Morris called Mathis’ first-down catch the play of the game.
Stephenville took the lead for good on the next play, as Spano hit Josh Graves in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. The third of Josh Chavarria’s five point-after kicks made it 21-14 at the half.
Spano completed 19 of 26 passes on the night, throwing for 247 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Trey Taylor collected seven receptions for 76 yards, while Chris Malone had six for 78.
Four Stephenville turnovers helped Crowley to keep it close early on. Spano fumbled the ball over to Crowley twice, with one being returned 38 yards to the house by Jarvis Wilson for the first points of the game.
After a seven-yard pass from Spano to Hayden Whiteley knotted the score at 7-7, Crowley showed its big-play potential with a 78-yard touchdown through the air from Colby Ray to Herbert Shaw.
Spano drove Stephenville to the Crowley four on the ensuing possession, before taking matters into his own hands with a short scoring run to tie it at 14-14.
Stephenville created some breathing room in the second half with a pair of six-yard touchdowns. The first was a run by Taylor in the third, and the second came on a play action pass from Spano to Malone in the fourth.
Stephenville was never forced to punt and finished with 504 yards of offense. It was a balanced effort by the Jackets, as they posted 257 yards on the ground and 247 through the air.
Whiteley led the way on the ground with 127 yards on 17 carries, while Taylor ran 10 times for 80 yards.
Junior Brad Mills, who leads Stephenville in rushing this season, did not play due to a high ankle sprain suffered last week in Mineral Wells. Morris said Mills will return next week against Everman.
Crowley managed only 143 total yards. The Eagles netted only eight rushing yards on 24 attempt.
Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.