By BRAD KEITH
DECATUR (September 22, 2017) — Someone thought it would be in Decatur’s best interest to set up its Sepember 22 date with Stephenville as homecoming night.
Why not? The Eagles had turned a major corner at the same time the once mighty Stephenville program was beginning to crumble, right?
Not so fast.
Stephenville continued its row of statement wins with it’s loudest and most concise deliverance yet in a 41-20 victory over Dcatur (2-2), and the game wasn’t that close.
All the anticipation was for this big shootout between high-octane offenses, but it quickly turned into a proving ground for the Yellow Jacket defense, which has passed test after test thus far, and has no time to rest on its laurels with another difficult exam next week in the form of unbeaten Graham and its 53.5 points per game average. Kickoff in Gaham on Friday, September 29, is set for 7:30 p.m.
But the Jackets have relished these weekly exams, and the results show why.
It’s fun to be part of an offensive explosion for 536 yards, 332 of them coming from running back Krece Nowak, including 204 rushing yards behind an offensive line that has simply mauled its opponents more and more as each game has gone on, and more and more with each passing week.
And it’s fun to be part of a new-look defense that continues to silence more of its critics each week, this time producing four turnovers – three fumble recoveries and a Cody Storrs interception – and three four-down stands while holding Decatur to 339 total yards, almost 100 below it’s average. It’s the fourth straight week a Stephenville opponent was held under 20 points until the bulk of the starting defenders were resting on the sidelines.
It’s even fun to be on a special teams when a blocked punt for a touchdown by Jonathan Gutierrez got it all started.
Basically, right now, being a Stephenville Yellow Jacket is just fun, something head coach Greg Winder must be relieved to finally experience after going 7-15 his first two seasons in charge after 10 successful years – in two stints – as offensive coordinator for the storied program.
“It’s a great victory. The kids came out here and played hard offensively and they played hard defensively, and they’re just fun to watch,” said Winder, before narrowing his thoughts from the general performance of his team to that of its defense. “They fly around, they tackle hard, they cause turnovers, that’s just good football, and when you can get them doing those things, you can have the type of fun we’ve had these first few weeks.”
It’s also fun being physical, when you’re the one with the physical offensive and defensive lines pushing around your opponents. Winder agreed Friday’s bout was the most physical yet for this Stephenville club.
“It was definitely physical on both sides, but I think a little more on our side, and that’s the way we play,” Winder said. “When we get this physical the people coming to play us are going to try and get physical, too, or at least they better.”
Decatur, like Everman, Springtown and Cleburne before the Eagles, couldn’t match that level of physicality, and the more Stephenville applied it, the wider the margin grew.
Nowak rushing for 203 yards per game has made life easier in the pocket for Jones, who just one week after returning to quarterback for Stephenville tossed a career-high four touchdowns while going 17-33 for 265 yards Friday.
Never mind the percentage, because this is no longer a spread it out and toss quicks and short passes to put skill players in space. This is throwing the ball down field on at least 25 of those pass attempts, and averaging almost 16 yards per completion and more than 8 per attempt – pro football numbers in what is a more pro-type approach to offense.
And when Jones did strategically toss the ball short it was to, guess who, Nowak. That seems to always be a good decision, especially when the junior scat back provides 12.3 yards per offensive touch, and a touchdown every nine touches.
Besides his 20 carries out of the backfield, Nowak also had seven receptions for 128 yards and two more TDs, giving him 12 – 9 rushing, 3 receiving – on the season. Hew was given the ball on 27 of 72 offensive snaps – 37.5 percent – and doubled his reception count for the season. He has 78 carries for 812 yards and 14 receptions for 182 yards, a total of 994 yards, or an average of 10.8 per touch.
Jones also tossed two touchdowns to Blake Aragon, who in addition to hauling in five passes for 69 yards also came in defensively and made the biggest in a series of big plays on that side of the ball. Midway through the second quarter, with Deacatur seemingly bound to take the lead with a third straight touchdown, Aragon ripped the ball out of the hands of Mario Reyes and the Jackets recovered at their own one yard line.
Instead of falling behind on that play or possibly one of the next few, Stephenville handed the ball to Nowak, who continued to do Nowak things to the Decatur defense. It looked as if he may join the always growing list of those tied for longest touchdown of all-time with a 99-yard run, but he was cut off after 70 of those yards.
It didn’t matter, as the Yellow Jackets were in the end zone and ahead for good five plays later, when Jones connected with Aragon. And after another takeaway by the defense, Jones dialed up #88, the number Kyle Lindsey answers to, and he was Johnny on the spot to restore the two-possession lead 18 seconds before intermission.
Decatur would get no closer until Stephenville called off the dogs as the third quarter went stop, touchdown, stop, touchdown.
A year after the only thing playing defense when these teams played in Stephenville was the lightning that halted the action with Decatur ahead 61-35, the tables, as they have been for each Jacket opponent, had completely turned.
There would be no lightning at Eagle Stadium Friday. Decatur was left to watch he fourth quarter mercifully tick away, drawing a touchdown closer against Stephenville reserves.
But the fourth quarter was meaningless, because Stehenville had already made its statement.
A clear, concise message complete with a stomping just to drive the point home.