December 12, 2017

Column: Physicality should carry Jackets past similarly talented Graham

Jacob Poston pancaked an Everman defensive lineman as Easton Jones snuck across the goal line for a Stephenville touchdown on September 15 at Memorial Stadium. || Photo courtesy Dr. CHET MARTIN

STEPHENVILLE (Sepember 29, 2017) — Longtime successful programs Stephenville and Graham will put a little of everything on display when they meet in a battle of Region I-4A Division I unbeatens Friday.

Kickoff between the Yellow Jackets (4-0) and Steers (4-0) is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Newton Field in Graham.

The high scoring offenses are similarly built around prolific running backs and savvy veteran quarterbacks. So why should Stephenville fans be confident 5-0 will become reality. Physicality, they they achieved it, their determination to maintain it and their dominance when they exert it will again be the difference…

Editorial || Brad Keith

Brad Keith has covered Erath County sports through journalism or radio since 2000. His periodical columns have been a part of daily sports coverage since 2014 on TheFlashToday.com.

The right ingredients all seemed to blend at once in recipe that has now produced the most physical brand of football Stephenville has put on the field, perhaps since 2010, the last year the Yellow Jackets had a healthy Aiavion Edwards for a full season along with Holton Westbrook and others leading the defense.

The Jackets have won a state championship since then, and it’s not as if the 2012 3A Division I champions weren’t physical, it simply wasn’t what they hung their hat on week-in and week-out the way this group has, especially in shoving around Everman and Dectatur for large chunks of comfortable wins the past two weeks.

Three catalysts, it seems, have really brought out the physical side of this team, and to sustain it, in stepped the head coach and his senior quarterback.

The catalysts were third-year assistant coach Cody Moore being named defensive coordinator in the off-season and bringing not only a fresh start and balanced 4-2-5 defense into the fold, but his own brand of intensity – which in itself often breeds physicality – typical of a major college defensive lineman.

The offensive line has been the second catalyst. Everyone could tell the Jackets would have large group up front by high school standards, but there have bee large lines who never really developed a reputation as being overly physical. The Stephenville line realized, and it appeared to happen while scrimmaging Granbury, that if they decided they were going to push folks around and willed it so, there wouldn’t be much that most high school teams are equipped to do about it, and thus far that has proven true.


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Third, the loss of quarterback Easton Jones provided this team a serious challenge – to find a new identity. With large guys on both lines, linebackers like Blu Caylor and Zane Walker, a cornerback bench pressing 300 pounds in Cole Pettit, it made sense. How many Euless Trinity teams, Everman teams, the list goes on, have had great success through the years without ever fielding a Jarrett Stidham or Tyler Jones, or even a Easton Jones type player at quarterback? A bunch.

Stephenville turn to physicality as a way to improve its defense, because it realized it could as an offensive line and then as  a way to win in the absence of their expiate field general. And that all led to a physical group, that more than anything, just refuses to be physically beaten on any given play, a characteristic gradually wearing downy their opponents.

Then Jones came back to quarterback, and head coach Greg Winder avoided the biggest mistake he could have made. He didn’t go straight to the air. His first play with Jones in charge of the offense was an off-tackle run by Krece Nowak. A move-em back, give him a “crease” and watch him explode football play. He made one cut, the line set the edge and nobody worked inside-out in time, and Nowak was gone for a 45-yard TD.

Jones got his TD pass in later then threw a career-high five in a statement victory at Decatur, when the Yellow Jackets did physical things like run for 260 yards, block a punt for a touchdown and rip loose a fumble for a takeaway with their backs to the goal line.

Jones himself said last week that “Decatur, I don’t think, will be able to handle our physicality.”

He was spot on, just like he is spot on as a leader to say he is just as happy holding up both hands to signal touchdown while Nowak follows pancake blocks provided by the big boys to the end zone and to enjoy those as much as he does a stylish jump ball to Blake Aragon or Kyle Lindsey on a back corner fade.


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The identity Stephenville won with in the absence of their senior leader, was boldly embraced by him upon his return. And his head coach sealed it all with that off-tackle call, telling everyone, yes, he’s back, but he’s here to be a part of who we are, not to change what we’ve become to satisfy the player he may want to be.

The player Jones wants to be is a winner. He has recognized the best way to achieve that is to join the physicality movement. So has his coach, his offensive line, the new defensive coordinator and that whole dynamic starting defense that is literally night and day different from a year ago.

Foliks in Graham, rest assured, believe they have a physical football team, and I’ve seen the Steers be downright nasty. Take 2014, for example, when they physically bullied Stidham to the end of his high school career while eliminating Stephenville in a state quarterfinal.

But 54-49 over Brownwood in a game full of long touchdowns and trick plays doesn’t sound too physical.

They’ve been physical enough for Chase Gilmore to get off to an explosive start to the season similar to that of Krece Nowak, but I’m still not convinced.

Outside of the Brownwood win, which is quality, don’t be mistaken, the Steers have edged a Hirschi team that may prove to be good but has played a schedule so weak thus far that losing to Graham 42-35 may be the most impressive part of a 3-1 start. Sanger is 2-2, but had just a two-point win over Bridgeport, and Burkburnett is not good at 1-3.


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No doubt, Graham has a good thing going and has made its own drastic improvements since losing 55-28 to a previously winless Stephenville team a year ago.

Not having seen Graham run a single play in person, I’m sure in getting to 4-0 the Steers have proven themselves at least somewhat physical. Having seen a lot of this Stephenville team pushing people around, they dang sure better be.

Stephenville to win in a good one. With a physical play or two making the difference.

 

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