Stidham returns to dismantle Matadors

PHIL RIDDLE phil.riddle@empiretribune.com Twitter @ETSports
The Yellow Jackets huddle around the Area Round playoff trophy Friday in Abilene's Shotwell Stadium after downing Lubbock Estacado 69-60.

It was a shock to fans of the Yellow Jackets and, apparently, to the Lubbock Estacado Matadors.

Senior standout quarterback Jarrett Stidham, injured and just three weeks removed from surgery to repair a broken bone in his throwing hand, returned with a flourish, leading Stephenville on 10 touchdown drives and scoring on three TD runs of his own in a 69-60 victory over the Matadors Friday night in Abilene.

The victory sets up a rematch with District 3-4A opponent Big Spring at 2 p.m. Friday, back in Abilene.

An interception of Friday’s starter, Anthony Chavarria in the opening drive appeared to hasten what had been a planned off night for Stidham, just released to play by his doctor.

Stidham needed just four plays, the last a 4-yard TD strike to Josh Nowell to tie the game at 7.

“We really didn’t know,” said Stidham when asked if Friday's return was part of a planned reintegration into the offense. “After that first drive they just decided to put me in just to see how it went.

“We played good ball, offensively. We played a great game. Now we get ready for Big Spring next week.”

The TD to Nowell was just the beginning as the ‘Jackets proved impossible to stop, adding a 1-yard TD run by Kaegun Williams, a 74-yard touchdown connection from Stidham to Williams, a TD toss from Stidham to Darian Brown, and a swing pass to Williams that turned into a 62-yard score to give Stephenville a 35-21 halftime advantage.

Estacado returned from intermission with a 5-play drive that ended with a David Smith touchdown run of two yards to cut the gap to one point.

Stephenville’s Jon Clark Giddings’ block of the point-after touchdown kept the Jackets ahead.

“We never said it was going to be easy,” said SHS Coach Joseph Gillespie. “We’ve said all along that when we get rolling, about the only ones that stop us is us.

The lead grew to eight points when Stidham found Austin Stufflebean for 14 yards and a TD that topped a seven-play possession that covered 70 yards and took just over two minutes off the Shotwell Stadium game clock.

Estacado QB Jaleen Tennison connected with Dorean Deary, covering 10 yards for a score that drew the Mats to within two at 42-40. Deary caught three touchdown passes Friday, part of a 6-catch, 96-yard night.

The teams traded fumble recoveries in the third period, with Stephenville getting the better of the trade when Ben Martin snagged a 25-yard toss from Stidham for yet another score.

The last three touchdowns for the Blue and Gold were Stidham’s as he ran for 17, 21, and 50 yards.

On the night the senior Texas Tech commit played a part in nine of Stephenville’s 10 scores, passing for six and running for the final three. He completed 18 of his 25 attempts for 341 yards.

His six TD passes landed in the hands of five different receivers, Williams, who had two, Brown, Martin. Josh Nowell and Stufflebean.

Stephenville’s defense, while allowing 60 points, managed three turnovers and stifled four consecutive 2-points conversions.

Friday marked the sixth time in the last seven seasons the Yellow Jackets have claimed the Area crown.