By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (November 17, 2016) — It should be no surprise that Stephenville FAITH is rounding into championship form by mid November.
It’s what the Knights have done each of the last five years, after all.
But before FAITH can play for a sixth consecutive state football title including a second straight championship in Division II of the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Organizations, the Knights must survive a semifinal rematch.
FAITH hosts Austin NYOS (Not Your Ordinary School) at 7 p.m. Friday in Three Way, with the winner advancing to Bastrop Tribe Consolidated or Lubbock Home School in next week’s championship showcase in Bryan.
FAITH defeated Austin NYOS, 84-36, in the last regular season game, then thumped Bryan Homeschool, 52-7, in the quarterfinals last week. NYOS had a much more exciting rout to the semifinals, winning its quarterfinal matchup, 60-59, over Plano CHANT. FAITH defeated CHANT in overtime in the state final last season.
“They have a good team with a couple really good athletes,” said FAITH coach Nick Braun of Austin NYOS. “We have to keep those guys bottled up, but I think you’ll see on Friday that we have really emphasized being better against them defensively this time around.”
Better, he means, than allowing 36 points in a half, which happened during their first meeting. Still, the Knights scored a program-record 78 in a half to build a big lead, then added the winning touchdown early in the third quarter when the 45-point mercy rule was invoked.
Beginning weeks before that game, when FAITH upset then-undefeated UIL playoff team Gorman, Bruan saw his team beginning to hit it’s stride. They followed the win over Gorman with a victory at Iredell, another UIL opponent, before routing NYOS.
“I really think we are peaking at the right time, and that’s what you want is to put your best product on the field for the games that matter,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been able to do the last few years, and I hope that’s what we will show again the next couple weeks.”
Beginning Friday. Because in order to win its sixth straight title, FAITH first has to get there.
“We just have to stay focused on us, controlling what we do,” said Braun. “We can’t overlook them just because we beat them before. If we stay focused and play with the intensity and tenacity that we’re known for, then we should be fine.”
They would be better than fine. Because for the sixth straight year, they would be state bound.