By BRAD KEITH
(November 24, 2014) — It’s like deja vu, really.
Stephenville loses its starting quarterback on its opening possession against a high quality opponent, and goes on to suffer a loss in a key district contest.
Then said quarterback returns, and gets his shot against the same opponent in a playoff rematch.
Ala Brad Picha against Everman in 2008, Jarrett Stidham is back at the controls of the Stephenville offense as the Yellow Jackets begin preparations for a rematch with Big Spring six years later.
Picha was knocked out trying to finish an effective opening drive in what turned out to be the district championship game at Everman. Stephenville settled for a field goal, but later surrendered four defensive touchdowns in a 56-3 loss, their worst defeat under now seventh year head coach Joe Gillespie.
In the state quarterfinal rematch, Picha led Stephenville to a 17-0 lead, though Everman overcame the early deficit, winning 27-24.
Stidham was injured on Stephenville’s first possession at Big Spring on Oct. 24 of this season. He turned the offense over to Anthony Chavarria, who passed for six touchdowns in a 64-57 loss to the Steers.
Chavarria went on to pass for 1,039 yards and 12 TDs in Stidham’s absence from the lineup. Meanwhile, the Elite 11 fraternity member had a plate and eight screws installed in his right hand on Oct. 27. Three weeks later – last Monday – he was throwing passes preparing for a potential comeback earlier than the originally predicted 4-6 weeks.
Not only did he come back in less than four weeks, he did the unthinkable when his team needed him most.
Stidham announced his return with authority Friday night, leading Stephenville to a school-record 10 offensive touchdowns, all on consecutive drives. After opening the game at receiver, the Under Armour All-American and Texas Tech commit took over at quarterback on the second possession against Lubbock Estacado. He passed for six touchdowns and rushed for three scores, the last a 50-yard TD to end all doubt as the Jackets won their sixth area title under Gillespie.
Stidham passed for 341 yards and rushed for 181, accounting for 522 of his team’s 652 total yards in the 69-60 win.
While Stidham’s second shot at Big Spring falls under eerily similar circumstances to Picha’s second chance against Everman, they are far from the only times the Yellow Jackets have met a regular season foe again in the playoffs.
In fact, the Jackets are 6-6 all-time in playoff rematches. Current Baylor head coach and Maxwell Award finalist Art Briles was 5-0 in the early 1990s. Current Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was 0-2 last decade.
After the Everman rematch came the tantalizing series of run ins with Aledo.
The Bearcats defeated Stephenville in post season rematches three straight years from 2009-11. The 2009 area final went to overtime with an Aledo touchdown following a Stephenville field goal for a 26-23 final. The rivals met in the quarterfinals the next two years, with Aledo winning 18-10 in 2011 and 32-0 in 2012. The Bearcats went on to win state championships each year, their famed 4A (now 5A) Division II three-peat behind record-setting running back Jonathan Gray.
Big Spring will be the first team Stephenville has met twice in a season since dropping a classification, but even back in Gillespie’s days as an assistant, it wasn’t rare for the Jackets to be faced with the rematch scenario.
Before Gillespie took over and Everman and Aledo became the big rivals, Stephenville lost playoff rematches to Wichita Falls Rider in 2006 and 2007. En rout to their first of five state championships in 1993, the Yellow Jackets survived two rematches against Azle and Sweetwater.
Stephenville had to beat Azle twice in 1992 and Burkburnett twice in 1991 and 1992.
The other of Stephenville’s playoff rematches came back in 1952 when the Yellow Jackets twice defeated Graham.
Big Spring just dealt with a rematch, avenging a 43-42 regular season loss to Andrews with a 48-35 win in last Friday’s area round. For the Steers to win Region I of 4A Division I, they would have to survive three consecutive rematches. They beat Graham but lost to Wylie, and those teams meet in the other regional semifinal.
Of course, A Stephenville-Wylie showdown would also be a rematch, and would mark the third time the Jackets have had two rematches in one post season.