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SHS aims to end skid, Thursday versus No. 3 Dumas

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Stephenville's Corbin Poston (9), Damian Meza (53) and Reese Young (42) combine on a tackle during Friday's non-district football game in Melissa.

This week’s task for the young Stephenville High School football squad will be another tough one as the Yellow Jackets seek to end a three-game losing streak.

Coach Sterling Doty’s 1-3 Yellow Jackets will take on the Dumas Demons, who are 4-0, coming off their 62-26 victory over Levelland Friday. That matchup is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, at Lubbock Cooper High School.

SHS is coming off a wild 65-58 loss to a stout Melissa squad, which needed a last-minute touchdown to fend off the Yellow Jackets.

Since the driving distance between Dumas — in the northernmost part of the Texas Panhandle — and Stephenville is about 6 hours and 15 minutes, the schools are meeting at the neutral site in Lubbock. The driving time from Stephenville to Lubbock is approximately four hours.

Lubbock Cooper High School’s football field, Pirate Stadium at First United Park, is located at 16302 Texas Loop 493 in Lubbock.

SCHEDULE CHANGE

SISD Athletic Director Jerod Womack has announced that Stephenville’s varsity and subvarsity football games scheduled against Brownwood have been changed to what had been planned as the open week. The varsity game (originally scheduled for Nov. 6) will now be played on Friday, Oct. 2. The junior varsity and other subvarsity games will also be moved accordingly, to that same week. The varsity game will be played in Brownwood.

The email message sent by Womack states:

"This email is to notify you that the district executive committee voted to move the last game of the district schedule to the bye week on October 2nd. Stephenville will now play Brownwood on Friday October 2nd in Brownwood starting at 7:30 pm. The remaining district schedule will be played on the original dates. This decision was made to insure all teams had the opportunity to have the last week's open date to reschedule any games. The sub-varsity games will be moved to October 1st vs Brownwood in Stephenville.”

DUMAS MATCHUP

The Demons’ high-scoring win over Levelland bumped them up from their previous No. 4 spot to No. 3 this week in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine’s Class 4A Division I rankings.

“They’ve got a lot of good football players,” Doty said, adding that they have experience and are disciplined.

Spencer Williams is returning this season as the starting quarterback for Dumas after leading the team to the regional final and a 13-1 record in 2019.

Doty said Williams is “explosive” as both a runner and as a passer, working out of their shotgun spread offense — which is averaging 44.5 points a game so far.

“They do a very good job with their offensive scheme,” Doty said. “We’ve got to be physical, attack in space and keep getting better defensively.”

On defense, Dumas uses a 3-4 set that features a pair of exceptionally talented inside linebackers — Cade Cox and Dallan Hill. Eight defensive starters are back from last year.

“It’s been a stingy defense,” the SHS coach said. “We’ve got to be able to continue to get the football to our playmakers, and continue to protect the quarterback and run the football and not turn the ball over.”

Although the Demons gave up 26 points to Levelland, they had held their first three opponents this season to a total of just 21 — including a 30-0 win over Perryton on Sept. 11.

TOUGH SCHEDULE

Melissa’s unbeaten Cardinals moved into the state’s top 10 rankings (Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine) for the first time this week, to No. 8. And Melissa entered the Stephenville game ranked third in another statewide poll.

The Yellow Jackets once again were able to light up the scoreboard with great frequency, producing an incredible 692 total yards in total offense, scoring eight touchdowns on 79 plays from scrimmage.

Quarterback Gavin Rountree ran for two and threw for three scores, including a pair to Trace Morrision, and the Jackets got three rushing touchdowns from running back Kason Philips, who rushed for 209 yards on 28 carries.

Morrison had 226 yards receiving on the night on 11 catches. Rountree added 134 yards rushing on 16 carries in the mix, which added up to 349 yards on the ground as a team.

But SHS had difficulty shutting down the Cardinals’ high-octane, big-play offense.

The Cardinals have averaged scoring 58 points a game the last three weeks, on the way to their 4-0 record. Stehenville’s 58-point effort was 30 more than any of Melissa’s other four opponents have scored this season — including the Cardinals’ 58-28 win over Sunnyvale, the preseason No. 7 team in Class 4A Division II. Last season, it took eventual Pleasant Grove to eliminate Sunnyvale from the playoffs, in the Region II-4A final.

The Yellow Jackets won their season opener over Sweetwater, but since then dropped matchups against Lampasas and Salado. Lampasas has since moved up to No. 2 in the state in Class 4A Division I (following No. 1 Argyle’s win over Waco La Vega). Salado, which improved to 3-1 with a 40-21 road win over Mexia Friday, has scored at least 40 points in each of its wins. Salado’s only loss was in the second week of the season, to unbeaten Grandview — the second-ranked Class 3A Division I team in the state

But those facts don’t really make a third consecutive loss feel any better for the Yellow Jackets. They had fought back from deficits of 15-0 and 22-7 to gain the lead in the third quarter — only to see Melissa tie the game at 58 with 2:02 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then the Cardinals scored the winning touchdown with just 16 seconds left in the game.

HURT

Doty said the loss hurt, but the team will keep it in perspective and learn from it as they go through the short week leading to Thursday’s game in Lubbock.

“The kids work extremely hard, and they lay it on the line every week,” Doty said of the Jackets. “They believe in the overall process, and they see in the video how close we are. The wins are going to come along as we continue to get better every step.”

Another factor that came into play is having a total of seven players brought up from the junior varsity over the past two weeks. Two of those — sophomores Payton Poston at free safety and Jackson Barkley at fullback — started the game.

That was in an effort to give relief to the two-way starters who had been playing on both offense and defense. With the benefits of those substitutions, however, also came the factor that there were fewer players with varsity experience on the field.

At the same time, several injuries have hurt the team’s depth. Linebacker Colton Accomazzo suffered a shoulder stinger versus Melissa, and is listed as “day to day” while running back Kason Philips was shaken up during the game but was able to return. Bryson Dill is still sidelined after having thumb surgery. Ruben Reyes will be out this week with a knee sprain.

“Defensively, we had some guys in some new spots,” Doty said. “We had some youth on the field. They played extremely hard, they played physical, and they are only going to get better as the year goes along.”

SCORING

After Melissa gained its 15-0 midway through the first quarter, Philips recorded his first TD of the game, on a 9-yard run that cut the deficit to 15-7 with 3:49 to go in the opening quarter.

Melissa quickly struck back with an 81-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. But SHS pulled within 22-21 by the 6:55 mark in the second quarter as Rountree connected on TD passes to Reece Elston (33 yards) and Morrison (23 yards).

A missed scoring opportunity came in the third quarter when the Jackets reached Melissa’s 29-yard line and went for a pass into the end zone on fourth down. The pass fell incomplete, and Melissa recorded a 71-yard TD run to increase its lead to 29-21.

A penalty against the Cardinals negated a 65-yard scoring run, and on the next play Stephenville’s Austin Brown recovered a fumble. That led to a 25-yard TD run by Rountree as the Jackets pulled within 29-28.

Corbin Poston’s 38-yard field goal with five seconds left in the second quarter gave the Jackets a 31-29 halftime edge.

Philips scored on a 22-yard TD run with 7:40 to go in the third quarter, and Rountree sprinted 62 yards for a score as SHS pulled away to a 44-29 lead with 6:17 left in the period.

After Melissa cut the margin to 44-37, the Jackets extended their advantage to 51-37 when Rountree connected with Morrison for a 52-yard TD strike at the 2:09 mark in the third.

But Melissa’s offense rallied again, this time inching to within 51-50, but missing on its extra point kick early in the fourth quarter.

Philips capped the next scoring drive with a 5-yard TD run that gave the Jackets a 58-50 edge at the 5:03 mark.

But the Cardinals pushed to the SHS run on their next drive before getting a TD and a tying 2-point conversion to knot the score at 58, with 2:02 left.

Melissa forced a punt and went on to record the winning score, on a 19-yard TD run, with just 16 seconds remaining in the game.

STAT LEADERS

Rountree has passed for 846 yards in four games — an average of 211.5 per contest. He has completed 59 of 94, with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

Philips is the leading rusher for SHS with 573 yards on 80 carries, for an average of 7.2 per attempt. He also is the top scorer overall for the Jackets, with 54 points — with eight rushing TDs and one as a receiver.

Rountree is next in scoring with 30 points (five rushing TDs), followed by Corbin Poston with 29 (three field goals and 20 extra point kicks), and Morrison with 24 (four TDs).

Morrison, Stephenville’s all-state punter, is averaging 42.4 yards on his 15 punts this season.

On defense, linebacker Reese Young has the most tackles with 64. Morrison is second with 37, followed by Accomazzo with 33, Harrison Barkley with 32 and Kevin Bowery with 31.

Stephenville receiver Reese Elston (24) celebrates with quarterback Gavin Rountree after the connected on a 33-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of the Yellow Jackets' non-district football game Friday in Melissa.