When Stephenville and Aledo met in the District 8-4A opener on Sept. 28, the atmosprhere, the crowd size and the media coverage gave it the feel of a district championship game.
Stephenville came from 11 points down to defeat the Bearcats 31-28.
Even Stephenville Head Coach Chad Morris said before the game that the winner would have a big leg up in the 8-4A race.
Enter Everman, the other 8-4A contender.
The Bulldogs came from two touchdowns behind to knock off Aledo, 35-28 - in Everman - where Stephenville must visit in tonight's 7:30 p.m. showdown that is everybody's game of the week.
Since the Everman comeback on Oct. 5, the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs have been on a collision course, destroying all who got in their path.
Everman upset Stephenville 28-20 in 2006, causing the 8-4A title to be split three ways.
“That's the last time we lost a regular season game,” Morris pointed out. “It was a loss that kind of left a bitter taste in our mouths, and we have visited about that this week as a team.”
After approximately 12,000 fans turned out to see the Jackets tangle with Aledo, only 4,000 plus media and district pass holders will be in attendance at the much smaller Dr. J.E. Marr Stadium Friday. Each school has been provided with 2,000 tickets, and though some remain, school officials say they should be gone before toe meets leather tonight.
“It would have been nice to have had it at a larger venue, but if I'm in Everman's shoes I would do the same thing,” Morris said.
Stephenville enters the contest with its full arsenal of offensive weapons back in place for the first time since hanging 64 points on Joshua four weeks ago.
Brad Mills was available if needed but did not play last week against Crowley. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Mineral Wells on Oct. 26.
“Brad is going to play,” Morris said Thursday. “We fully expect him to be 100-percent by Friday. Don't forget, Hayden Whiteley did a great job last week, but Brad will play.”
In eight games Mills has rushed for 855 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is averaging 106.9 yards per game and needs 145 to top the 1,000-yard mark.
Whiteley carried the ball 17 times last Friday, netting 127 yards.
Besides missing Mills for a week, Stephenville also managed to cruise through the second half of a 41-7 win over Cleburne and the full four quarters of a 52-14 defeat of Mineral Wells without senior quarterback Kody Spano.
Spano has completed 70-percent of his passes this season for 1,460 yards and 14 touchdowns. He returned to complete 19 of 26 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns against Crowley.
Stephenville is racking up 430.6 yards per game, with 247.6 coming on the ground and 183 through the air.
Everman is far from balanced, but has the speed to burn teams with its ground game. Led by 1,200 yard, 17-touchdown rusher C.J. Jennings, the Bulldogs are picking up 357 yards running per game. They only pass for 83 yards on average, for a total 440 yards per contest.
“With their team speed, they have the ability to turn a small run into a big play,” Morris explained about the Everman offense. “We have to able to tackle and make them drive the ball. The runs over 15 or 20 yards - you can't have to many of those.”
Defensively, Everman is expected to be without linebacker Darius Busby, who has missed the previous two weeks with a broken foot.
“(Busby) is defintely a great player, but Devin Woods has done a remarkable job stepping into his place,” said Morris. “And one thing Everman always has is talented defensive ends.”
The Everman defense is just as daunting as Stephenville's. While the Yellow Jackets surrender only 202.3 yards per outing, the Bulldogs have been allowing only 206.
“The thing that Coach keeling has done there is be consistent with what he does. He's been successful for a reason,” explained Morris.
“We're going to see a dominant run team that doesn't pass the ball much, and we're going to face a defense that is going to try to put pressure on the quarterback and keep everything contained.”
As if playing for a district title isn't enough for one week, there are also numerous playoff scenarios that will unfold Friday.
District 7-4A, which is the bi-district of District 8, is holding its championship and third-place games tonight.
If Stephenville and Fort Worth Dunbar both win, Dunbar visits Stephenville in the first round next Thursday. Other scenarios would mean a Thursday trip to Burleson for the Jackets, where they would meet either FW Southwest or FW O.D. Wyatt. Regardless of opponent or location, kickoff Thursday will take place at 7:30 p.m.