The Yellow Jacket soccer team has never won a regional tournament soccer game but did reach the first round in 2016. That may very well change as Stephenville (18-8-4) takes on (Clint 6-12-2) Friday in a 3 p.m. game at Justin Northwest High School.
On paper, the Jackets are favored to advance to the regional finals as they have lost more games (8) than Clint has won (6) has won. Both teams have common opponents in Brownwood and Lakeview and victories over both.
Against Brownwood’s Lions Clint was a 3-2 winner and topped Lake View 5-0 to reach the regional semifinals.
Stephenville matched up against Brownwood three times in district play and allowed only one goal as they beat the Lions 3-0, 5-1 and 2-0. The Jackets also downed Lakeview in a 3-0 shutout.
Clint entered district play with a 6-6-2 record and finished the regular season 6-12-2 showing every sign they were a team that peaked before league play began. A bye game in the first seemed only to prolong the inevitable early exit from the playoffs.
Is Clint a Patsy?
Clint plays in a three-team district that includes defending state champion San Elizario and Lakeview. The defending state champions have rung up 16 goals to ZIP in their two playoff wins.
A 9-4 Canyon team and 9-9 Lakeview have both fallen to Clint by 5-2 and 5-0 scores. Clint’s offense has found a second life after not having scored more than three goals in a game all year.
Stephenville is fresh off a win against a quality opponent, and when it comes to peaking at the right time, Coach Taylor Smith has the Jackets precisely on the mark. The Yellow Jackets don’t have a gaudy record, and their contests include a couple bruising losses against 5-A and 6-A schools.
Stephenville got on top of Fort Worth Castleberry just a minute into the game with a goal from Luis Carillio and was able to dictate its style of play. The Jackets performed like a well-oiled machine as they went into more of a defensive mode while continuing to look for opportunities to break open their offense.
“It was a gritty and gutsy performance,” Smith said. “ If we play at the level we have played the last three games it is going to take a dang good team to beat us.”
At the start of the season, Smith said he believed the Yellow Jackets had a team that was capable of winning state.
“No one has changed my mind,” Smith said. “I have not seen a 4-A team that is better than us. We have lost some game to 5-A and 6-A teams, and we have beaten ourselves against some 4-A teams.”
The Jackets overcame a little adversity against Castleberry when Cougar goals were disallowed twice due to offside calls. Stephenville remained in control and owned most aspects of the game as J.J. Saldano booted in two scores and Jorge Gallegos netted one.
Smith isn’t from the state of Missouri, but he’s in a “Show-Me Mode.”
“That’s right I’m saying show me,” Smith said. “I have not seen a 4-A team top to bottom that is better than us. We know who we are and we know what we can achieve. Our goal is beyond winning the regional tournament.”
It’s the leadership and confidence the Jackets are going to need as a victory would put them into the winner of the San Elizario and Argyle game. That game will be played on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Justin Northwest High School.