By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 31, 2017) — Gone is Tre’veon Bradley, the Cleburne quarterback who could still be running if he wanted and the Stephenville defense of last year probably still would not have caught him.
Bradley rushed for 423 yards and seven touchdowns – four of them covering at least 50 yards – and was 15-22 passing for 135 yards and two scores for nine total TDs 558 yards of total offense when Cleburne amassed 713 total yards in a 66-40 win over Stephenville last season.
But that was last season. Bradley is gone, and the Yellow Jacket offense that was so young then will be the most experienced unit on the field come 7:30 p.m. Friday, when it’s the Yellow Jackets’ (Stephenville, two words) turn at home field advantage on the new turf of Tarleton State’s Memorial Stadium against the Yellowjackets (Cleburne, one word). That experience counts even if they are in a new defense under a new coordinator, as Cody Moore, once a TCU defensive lineman, has installed the 4-2-5 he learned from Horned Frog coach Gary Patterson and staff.
Moore would be the first to tell you that the “night and day difference,” as head coach Greg Winder called it last week when comparing the defense played in preseason scrimmages to that of last year, is more because of tackling than strategy, and that begins with linebackers Zane Walker and Blu Caylor, juniors who each made the All-FBU (Football University) Team at the FBU Top Gun Showcase over the summer.
The head coaching sagas could give you an eye catching primary story line for this on. Greg Winder needing success in the third and final year of his head coaching contract at Stephenville, where he’s gone just 7-15 the last two season, while Cleburne, largely unsuccessful after its win over Stephenville to begin the 2016 campaign, has made the change to Casey Walraven, who went 43-15 and reached two regional semifinals leading Conference 3A Grandview the past five years. According to THIS ARTICLE by AJ Crisp of the Cleburne Times-Review, Grandview averaged 48.9 points and more than 500 yards per game over those five years.
But while both head coaches will be closely examined for signs of progress to begin a new season, they may have to take a back seat to a pair of wide-eyed young quarterbacks, each making his first start.Winder has never wavered in saying Tyler Schouten is the man for Stephenville until Easton Jones can play. Schouten is a junior and has been working with the first team skill players since 7-on-7 and the first-team offense as a whole throughout the preseason. Jones would be a third-year starter – and still could be – if not for a ligament tear in his throwing (right) elbow. It was feared Tommy John surgery would be required, but Jones tried the modern stem cell route and was recently allowed to begin soft tossing, escalating to what he believes will be a return to the field before district.
Winder has never wavered in saying Tyler Schouten is the man for Stephenville until Easton Jones can play. Schouten is a junior and has been working with the first team skill players since 7-on-7 and the first-team offense as a whole throughout the preseason. Jones would be a third-year starter – and still could be – if not for a ligament tear in his throwing (right) elbow. It was feared Tommy John surgery would be required, but Jones tried the modern stem cell route and was recently allowed to begin soft tossing, escalating to what he believes will be a return to the field before district.
In the meantime, Schouten looked stronger in his second scrimmage performance against Granbury than in his first against Glen Rose and Gatesville.
Cleburne is also going with its 2016 junior varsity quarterback as the varsity starter Friday due to injury. Carson Gann is starting in place of Austin Robinson, who injured an ankle on the first play of last week’s scrimmage against Argyle, according to THIS TIMES-REVIEW ARTICLE, also by Crisp.
Both head coaches have said on the record they feel the other’s offense will still be formidable come Friday.
Winder on Cleburne offense:
“They’re fast in terms of tempo with their offense and in terms of speed. Cleburne will always have dangerous skill kids, so as long as they hvae someone who can get the ball out to them, they are going to be explosive offensively.”
Walraven on Stephenville offense (per Crisp, Times-Review):
It’s a high school town that’s produced so many great quarterbacks over the years that they’re going to have people that can step in and play. We’ve got to prepare like it’s the starter and go in with the same mentality that we would if [James (he meant Jones)] was in the game.”
Winder on Cleburne defense:
Their defense is kind of the same – a bunch of kids who can run. They do a good job of flying to the football. They have a middle linebacker returning who gave us all sorts of fits last year.”
Walraven, who grew up in Alvarado and opposed Stephenville as a player, on its tradition (per Crisp, Times-Review):
“…when I was growing up, that’s the team that I kind of idolized. I thought they were interesting and liked how they worked hard and did it as a team. The greatest thing about them is they’re a town and team that loves football and has a strong passion for it, like Cleburne. And this group they have coming back is experienced and they have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.”
Last meeting: 2016 – Cleburne 66, Stephenville 40. Cleburne’s first win over Stephenville since 1988; First meeting between former district rivlas since 2007. Jeff Merket, a 1990s assistant at Stephenville, was still head coach at Cleburne last season.