By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 1, 2017) — Stephenville reached a bracket final Saturday for the first time in its 13 appearances at the Texas 7-on-7 Championships.
The Yellow Jackets competed in eight contests, their most in any state tournament, ending with a 33-14 loss to Midlothian Heritage in the Division II consolation final Friday afternoon. They won their four prior consolation matches after beginning the win streak with a rout of Falls City to complete competition in Pool P.
Stephenville lost to Navasota and Melissa before finishing with 28 unanswered points to rout Falls City and place third in the pool.
In the consolation bracket, The Yellow Jackets scored 21 of the final 27 to break a 19-19 tie and defeat Hitchcock 40-25. Then it got real interesting with a pair of one-point wins – 34-33 over Gilmer and 27-26 in overtime against Canton. That set up a 21-14 semifinal win over Bay City before Heritage jumped on top 20-0 and cruised past the Jackets in the consolation final.
While Stephenville had never been in eight games at the state tournament, the Jackets have been known to have success there, including a semifinal appearance in the first such event in 1998, when there were 32 teams from across all UIL conferences competing in one single-elimination bracket.
Stephenville did not return to the state tournament until 2005, advancing to the consolation tournament before it was canceled due to rain. Stephenville made it to the quarterfinals of the championship bracket in 2007 and to the semifinals of the consolation bracket in 2014.
Back in 1998, the top tier contenders in the initial state tournament were the same programs – Stephenville included – credited with re-shaping how offense – and by its demand, defense, too – was played in high school football.
Southlake Carroll won 47-33 over Grapevine in the 1998 championship game after Grapevine held off Stephenville for a 38-31 semifinal win. members of the final four teams at the first state tournament were presented keepsake medallions and autographed copies of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine.
There was no mountain of free gifts from Adidas in 1998, when the event was presented by Fox Sports Southwest and held at The Adams Course, also in College Station.
Stephenville, of course, rolled through 4A Division II that fall, winning 34-7 in a state championship mismatch against La Marque. The title truthfully was determined a week prior when the Jackets scored late – it was receiver Cody Cardwell from quarterback Kelan Luker, of course – to come from behind for a 28-24 win over Southlake Carroll.
That Stephenville team, behind the likes of Luker, Cardwell, running back Zac Hunter and others, set state and national records while helping some of the more progressive programs introduce the state and baton to terms such as “spread offense.”
Round-by-round state tournament results were not archived – for whatever reason – from the 2008 state tournament, or at least not in a form presented in the history section of the event’s official website, Texas 7on7.com. But the remaining years are achieved, showing Stephenville, to have reached Division I championship brackets in 2006, 2007 and 2009, with a combined record of 4-4 in those single-elimination contests. They were 2-1 in the Division I consolation bracket in 2010.
The summer of 2011 was the only time Stephenville missed state tournament over the past 13 years. The Jackets then fell to Division II when UIL realignment moved them away from one of the two largest conferences.
Stephenville was a runaway favorite to win Division II in 2012 but was upset in the opening round of the championship bracket in an overtime battle against Burnet. The Jackets went on to trounce Burnet in the bi-district round of the 3A Division I playoffs that fall on their way to the school’s fifth UIL football championship.
Stpehenville lost in the first round of the championship bracket again in 2013, the second round in 2015 and the first round in 2016. Their long run to the semifinals of the consolation bracket came in between in 2014.
Stephenville is a combined 1-4 in Division II championship bracket contest and 7-2 in Division II consolation bracket games.