By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 15, 2017) — A mere 105 days after suffering an injury typically corrected with oftentimes career-ending Tommy John surgery, Easton Jones proved his prep career is by no means complete.
The senior QB who was scheduled to be a third year starter in a program known for producing a bevy of Division I field generals – Brandon Stewart, Jevan Snead, Tyler Jones and Jarrett Stidham are on the list – showed he can do more than punt and more than catch one pass for 23 yards in a season-opening blowout.
Jones proved he’s back, and the Jackets proved this is not your 2016 Stephenville team, but a redesigned, physical group not afraid to cut out the razzle-dazzle and get physical, mean even, and bully opponents when necessary.
Jones proved he could pass the ball into a tight window past two defenders and hit his target square in the hands for a 30-yard touchdown, and he proved fearless as he plowed his way through the defensive line for a one-yard scoring run that opened an insurmountable 34-7 Stephenville (3-0) lead over Everman (0-3) Friday at Memorial Stadium.
The Bulldogs scored a pair of garbage-time touchdowns to make the final score a respectable 34-21, but by the time the final horn sounded a bold statement had long since been made by Stephenville, the only remaining unbeaten among teams who will compete in District 8-4A four Fridays from now.
Easton Jones on Twitter
On his first play back at QB, Jones handed the ball to Krece Nowak,
who scampered 45 yards for a TD. On his first pass attempt, Jones
laced a perfectly-placed ball beyond the reach two defenders directly into the hands
of Clay Krause for a 30-yard TD. The senior, who passed for more than 4,100
yards the past two seasons, later plunged over the goal line for a 1-yard TD
to cap off a run of 27 straight points by the Yellow Jackets against Everman Friday.
Jones is back. And with him, an already potent offense thriving primarily on the scatty quickness of running back Krece Nowak, appears on the precipice of becoming a fearsome outfit, because with the passing prowess of a veteran having already passed for more than 4,100 yards, talented wideouts Kyle Lindsey and Blake Aragon should resume being major threats sooner rather than later. That makes interior receiving threats Clay Krause and Kade Averhoff more difficult to account for. And defenders can’t dare turn their heads far enough to lose sight of Nowak, who has already rushed for almost 600 yards – he’s on pace to set the Stephenville single-season rushing record – and nine scores with a 10th TD through the air.
Jones, who sped his recovery with cutting edge stem cell therapy, and his 8-13 passing for 77 yards and a TD were not the primary reasons Stephenville won Friday. Everman provided that itself as the Bulldogs do not appear to have a real identity to hang their hat on, giving up on what has been their bread and butter for years from the wing-T offense under longtime successful and widely respected head coach Dale Keeling, and passing the ball 27 times Friday, the most anyone seems to ever remember the Bulldogs putting the ball in the air against Stephenville in 24 meetings dating back to 1978.
But what were the Dogs supposed to do with their typical rushing attack stonewalled and held to under two yards per carry by a much improved and realigned Stephenville defense that continues to answer all challenges? Everman did break a few big gainers among eight completions from four different passers, but even with 160 yards through the air they finished with just 222 total yards of offense. Everman had one 200-yard rusher against Stephenville last fall. The Dogs rushed for 66 yards as a team this time around.
Blu Caylor was Everman’s worst nightmare, as the bullish linebacker who did his usual moonlighting as a short-yardage “hammer time” running back, scoring on pile driving carries of five yards and one. He made his biggest play of the year when he jumped in front of an Everman pass over the middle, picking it off and racing into Bulldog territory before deciding that if he was going down the last would-be tackler to beat was going down with him. The resulting collision leveled the Everman player, and left Caylor spilling victoriously into a raucous Stephenville bench that was aggressively hunting with the smell of blood thick in the air.
Brad Keith on Twitter
Following the Caylor interception and return that set up the Jones TD for a 34-7 lead
Sure enough, just six plays later, the Yellow Jackets feasted on their harvest, and in fitting fashion, they did so with more of the same rugged physical play. Jones plunged through the defensive line for a 1-yard TD while lineman Jacob Poston was busy pancaking an Everman defensive lineman into end zone section of the shiny new CoolPlay FieldTurf playing surface.
Those were the finishing touches of a 27-0 run that began with, who else, but Krece Nowak. On Jones’ first snap at quarterback since a playoff loss to Decatur last November, he handed the ball to the talented junior and watched him make a couple quick cuts then sprint away for a 44-yard TD, the latest in a highlight reel growing longer week-by-week.
Caylor’s one-yard TD to make it 28-7 at halftime followed perhaps the most physical play of all. Linebacker Kasee Bouchey blitzed and drilled Everman QB Antonio Little, forcing a fumble that was pounced on by Yellow Jacket Dylan Garber.
Everman acted early on as if its 0-2 start was simply the product of playing Mansfield Timberview and The Colony, larger schools with talent and depth up and dwon their rosters. Bulldog junior Keonte Lusk tucked in behind the pulling lead block of massive offensive tackle Jaylin Hendrix for a 10-yard TD that knotted the score at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
But that was it. that’s all Everman could get, and even then it wasn’t for the lead, something the Bulldogs never had in the game and have not had yet this season.
Before earning the brief tie, Everman gift wrapped the initial Stephenville points. The Bulldog punter went to a knee while gathering a low , snap, and he was correctly ruled down at the 15 yard line. Caylor blasted his way through most of the Everman defense, dragging bodies into the end zone to get the party started less than three minutes into the game.
Even a struggling Everman team had tools foreign to the current rosters at Cleburne and Springtown, who Stehpenville combined to out score 94-33 over the first two weeks of the season. The competition takes a step forward next week and the challenge will be a much different one than the Jackets have faced through three games. Decatur will spread its skill players all over field in a variety of positions, and the Eagles prefer a quick strike approach to their offensive attack.
Deatur has its homecoming next week, so the game is beginning at 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy Dr. CHET MARTIN