By NATHAN BURAL
Special to The Flash
STEPHENVILLE (September 2, 2016) – – The energy and excitement of the season’s opening kickoff on the turf of Memorial Stadium was equally matched by a somber stillness as Springtown lined up in the victory formation to run out the clock on the Yellow Jackets’ second loss of the young season Friday night.
Stephenville (0-2) outgained the Porcupines (1-1) in total yardage and the defense came up with clutch stops, but four turnovers proved too much to overcome in a 30-28 loss. The loss came on the heels of a valiant second-half rally, highlighted by a pair of big touchdown runs and one passing score from quarterback Easton Jones.
After Springtown scored the first points of the second half to lead 23-8, Jones and the Jackets kicked things up a notch – despite playing without wide receiver Blake Aragon, who left the game with an injury during the opening series and did not return.
Jones cut the Porcupines’ lead down to 23-15 with 4:35 in the third quarter when the junior signal caller found Conner Schmutz behind the defense for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
After Springtown scored its final points of the night with 1:31 left in the third quarter, the Yellow Jacket ground game dominated the final minute of the third quarter and set up Stephenville with a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line to start the fourth.
The Stephenville defense came up with three consecutive defensive stops – including third down tackles from Joseph Brannon and a pass breakup by Mason Holstein, which kept Springtown off the board. Stephenville finally got the offense rolling after the third defensive stop when Jones connected with Schmutz for a 55-yard completion that set up a 20-yard touchdown run by Jones into the corner of the end zone. The Jackets went for the game-tying two-point conversion, but came up one yard short.
Jake Gillispie gave Stephenville a chance with a high-bouncing onside kick that was just out of the reach of Cole Pettit. The ball went out of bounds, allowing Springtown to kneel out the clock.
Nowak finished the game with 153 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries while Jones ran 14 times for 97 yards and a pair of scores, including 100 net yards in the second half after finishing the first half with three rushes for (-3) yards. Schmutz was the leading receiver for the Jackets with 131 yards and a TD on five catches.
Through the air, Jones finished the game 10-25 for 175 yards.
Springtown got its first score of the game off a Stephenville fumble, which set up the Porcupine offense on the 50 yard line. Springtown capped off a 10-play drive that took 2:42 off the clock with a five-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion run to take an 8-0 lead with 2:04 left in the opening quarter.
Nowak answered the call on the ensuing drive by having a hand in all 70 yards of a touchdown drive. The sophomore running back accounted for two receptions and three rushes, including a 33-yard scamper to the house for the score. Kyle Lindsey took in the two-point conversion to even things up at 8-8 with 0:45 left in the opening quarter.
Stephenville had its chances in the second quarter when a low Springtown snap during a jailhouse blitz from Stephenville forced the Porcupines to attempt a 42-yard field goal, which went wide left. Stephenville had another chance when Springtown’s third bad snap of the half bounced away from QB Kaleb Chesney and into the arms of Jonathan Gutierrez to set up the Yellow Jacket offense just 35 yards out.
However, the second interception – and third Stephenville turnover – of the half immediately ended the opportunity, and Stephenville went into the break trailing 16-8.
In the opening half, Nowak led the way with 11 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. With an additional 25 yards receiving on three catches, he had 120 of Stephenville’s 140 total yards in the half.
Stephenville hits the road next Friday night as the Yellow Jackets travel to Everman for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
TheFlashToday.com photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN: