By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 4, 2015) — Stephenville can still throw and catch. And win.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Easton Jones passed for three touchdowns and the defense made it stand as Stephenville (1-1) held off a late Gatesville (0-2) surge for a 28-21 win at Memorial Stadium Friday night.
It was significant because the Yellow Jackets avoided an 0-2 start for the first time since 2009, and because it was their first win since 2012 with someone besides former All-American Jarrett Stidham at quarterback.
But it was also the first career win for Stephenville head coach Greg Winder, who had this to say following the game:
Jones fired two touchdowns to Jace McLeroy covering 39 and six yards to break a tie and give Stephenville a 21-7 third quarter lead. The Jackets then made it 28-7 on a 37 yard strike from the sophomore QB to Darian Brown, a lob over the defense down the Stephenville sideline that ultimately stood as the game winner.
But there were plenty of nervous moments down the stretch, especially when Stephenville muffed a punt while clinging to a 28-21 lead with 3:56 remaining. Officials said there was an inadvertent whistle. By rule, if an inadvertent whistle is blown on a kicking play, the down is replayed. Had the play stood, Gatesville would have taken over at the Stephenville 10.
Jon Clark Giddings caught the second punt cleanly, and Stephenville picked up two first downs before punting deep into Gatesville territory with less than half a minute remaining.
Two Stephenville penalties set up a two-yard run by Gatesville quarterback Jeff Speer to make it 28-21 with 7:59 left. That came after a 20 yard TD strike from Speers to Jacob Smalley to make it 28-14 with 10:14 remaining.
The teams traded off early scores, Nico Madrid plunging in from a yard out for the Jackets and Gatesville answering with a one-yard Dakota Vernon touchdown run that was set up by a bad deep snap on a Stephenville punt attempt. The play lost 36 yards and Gatesville scored quickly evened the score late in the first.
Jones was 15-20 passing for 229 yards in just his second snap. Stephenville had just 57 rushing yards including the bad punt snap – 93 without it – and 286 total yards. Brown hauled in five receptions for 92 yards while Matthew Chapman rushed 20 times for 81 yards.
The Yellow Jacket defense allowed just 235 total yards, 157 through the air and 78 on the ground. The ‘Wardogs,’ as their called locally, also picked off two passes – one each by Jon Clark Giddings and Zoey Kendall. Kendall returned his interception 35 yards to the 50 to set up a Stephenville touchdown. Giddings had a second interception called back for defensive holding, one of 13 Stephenville penalties for 135 yards.
Stephenville welcomes Everman to Memorial Stadium for its third consecutive home game next Friday, September 11.
Photos by CHET MARTIN