No. 8 Stephenville eases past Life

Staff report

WAXAHACHIE — All it took was one big play for the Stephenville Yellow Jackets to shake off some early-game sluggishness and get rolling.

The Class 4A Division I No. 2-ranked Jackets struggled early, but sophomore Tate Maruska’s 77-yard gallop late in the first quarter broke the ice and sparked SHS to a comfortable 49-6 win over Life Waxahachie on Friday night at Mustang Stadium.

Stephenville head coach Sterling Doty confers with his team during their match against Life Waxahachie at Mustang Stadium on Friday night. The Class 4A Division I No. 2-ranked Jackets won 49-6.

The victory sets up an important District 5-4A (I) game Friday night at state-ranked Midlothian Heritage at 7:30 p.m.

The Jackets (8-0, 3-0) racked up 487 yards of total offense against Life. Junior quarterback Ryder Lambert completed 13 of 18 pass attempts for 202 yards and four touchdowns, including six completions to Coy Eakin for 101 yards and two TDs. Maruska finished with 176 yards on nine carries, and Julian Iribarren added 69 yards and two TDs.

The Jackets’ first possession ended in a fumble recovered by Life’s Ashton Evans-Clarke, then later Stephenville turned the ball over on downs at the Life 44-yard line. But with under a minute to go in the opening quarter, Maruska found a seam up the middle and outran everyone for his long TD run to end the stalemate. Corbin Poston’s first of seven successful PATs gave the Jackets a 7-0 lead.

The big play lit a fire underneath the Jackets, and they responded in the second quarter. An interception by Payton Poston at the Life 40 set up Iribarren’s 5-yard jaunt, then Stephenville got the ball back on downs to set up a 43-yard drive capped by Lambert’s pass to Eakin for a touchdown, and it was 21-0.

After holding the Mustangs three-and-out, the Jackets drove 64 yards for another score, with Lambert and Eakin connecting in the back of the end zone on a 28-yard strike with about three minutes left in the half.

SHS still had time to score again before intermission, as they used a short Life punt to move 38 yards in the final minute. Lambert’s third TD pass of the night went to Kallan Kimbrough, and the Jackets went into the locker room on top by a 35-0 count.

The Jackets got the ball to start the second half and Lambert quickly hit Reece Ellston on a long pass play to the 6. Following a penalty, Elston scored from the 11 on a jet sweep to make the score 42-0.

With under a minute to go in the third, another long Maruska run set up Iribarren’s second rushing score of the night from a yard out, and that ended the night for the Jacket starters.

The Mustangs (1-7, 0-3) averted a shutout with about three minutes to go as sophomore quarterback Kaden Mayfield called his own number on a 9-yard run.

A Jacket victory on Friday at Midlothian ISD Multipurpose Stadium would clinch the District 5-4A (I) championship and No. 1 playoff seed. Heritage (6-2, 2-1), which entered last Friday ranked No. 7 in 4A Division I, is coming off a 40-28 loss at Waco La Vega.

A loss by the Jackets could set up a three-way tie for the district title, but SHS holds the upper hand. The tiebreaker to be used will be positive number of points in every district game if head-to-head does not resolve the tie. Stephenville stands at 127 points, Heritage at 79 and La Vega at 36 with two games to go.