Coach, players reflect on how they got to state championship game

Maci Guay
For the Empire-Tribune

The Stephenville Yellow Jackets took the 4-A State Semifinal victory in a heart-pounding game on Friday against Wichita Falls Hirschi at the Star in Frisco.

Several thousand fans rallied behind their teams with Jackets fans armed with cans, cowbells and festive Christmas decor. 

It was obvious that both teams would give everything they had to go to the State Championship game, but it was Stephenville’s focus and composure that made the difference in the end.

The Jackets did not get flustered or rush to mistakes, but dug deep and stopped Hirschi’s close final drive. Now, it's on to state, and in the spirit of such an impressive season (15-0), it seemed like a good time to look closer at how the team got here.

Sterling Doty

Sterling Doty took the position as head football coach for the Yellow Jackets in 2019 and said he is "elated" to be able to have this opportunity to have a chance at winning a state championship for Stephenville.

“I am so proud of our players and staff. So much work has gone into this season. Being able to play in the state title game is very special,” Doty said. “Our mindset was the same as it’s been all season: Play with championship effort and execution, focus on our process, and continue to hit it in the same spot. WF Hirschi is a great team and very well coached. It was a great game. So proud of our players and how they handled and overcame adversity during the game.”

Leadership is a priority when building champions; it is what Doty and the rest of the Stephenville coaching staff focus on developing in their players.

“Our leadership this year has been phenomenal and a big reason why we have had the success we have had," Doty said.

Junior quarterback Ryder Lambert said what he thought helped the Jackets reach their goal to play for a state championship title: “I would say it’s the bond we have as a team. We always want each other to succeed, and we play for the guy beside us knowing there is a bigger purpose than just for yourself.”

In the end, it is more than simply talent and practice that has made Stephenville’s season so successful. It was years of coaches, parents, friends, engaged players and teammates working to grow and develop not just skills, but confidence, composure, and mindset. 

The Jackets will make their first appearance at the state championship since 2012 against also undefeated LBJ Austin at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 17 in AT&T Stadium. Tickets may be purchased online at Tickets are available for $15 with the specific Stephenville code of 4ADIN. 

Anyone ages 1 and older will be required to have a ticket for the game. Gates open one hour prior to the first game of the day.

There will be a community pep rally and sendoff at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, at the practice field on Overhill Drive. There will also be no school on Friday so that student fans may attend the game.

The Stephenville Athletic Booster Club is hosting a charter bus to the game, which leaves at 8:15 a.m. Friday. Those interested must sign up by end of the day Wednesday. Contact Maddie Smith at (817) 304-5805. Cost is $40 (does not include game ticket).

For more information, visit the Yellow Jackets and Honey Bee athletics Facebook page at