By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
Senior Kason Philips ran for 172 yards and three touchdowns, and Stephenville’s defense limited Benbrook’s ground game to just 52 yards as the Yellow Jackets rolled to a 56-14 bi-district win over the Bobcats at Farrington Field in Fort Worth Friday.
Stephenville was in complete control from the opening kickoff after stopping the Bobcats’ first possession and forcing a punt. Punting wasn’t on Stephenville’s agenda as the Yellow Jackets booted the ball only once in nine possessions.
The Yellow Jackets took their initial possession down the field in a workmanlike manner with Philips capping a 53-yard drive with a two-yard scoring run.
Stephenville’s defense provided the next scoring opportunity as Coy Eakin crushed Bobcat quarterback William Green with a bruising hit that popped the football loose and Ryder Lambert scooped it up and rambled into the end zone for an apparent touchdown.
The score was called back after extensive discussion by the officials and a ruling the fumble recovery counted, but that an inadvertent whistle nullified Lambert’s touchdown.
The play set the tone of the night for Benbrook’s coaching staff and players who were absolutely convinced they had been wronged.
Bobcat coach Cody Slater continually rode the officiating crew about the call shouting across the stadium that he would be sending video for review and that “Fort Worth officiating crews would never call another Benbrook game.”
Slater kept insisting his quarterback was down when he lost control of the football, but photos and video clearly showed the officials got it right. Philips made the discussion about no touchdown a moot point when he scored from four yards out to give the Jackets a 14-0 lead following the second of Corbin Poston’s seven extra-point kicks.
“To the credit of our players we didn’t lose our cool and we remained focused on what we wanted to achieve,” Coach Sterling Doty said.
Before the first quarter was over the Jackets had enough points to win the game when Gavin Rountree hit a streaking Reece Elston for a 65-yard touchdown.
Benbrook responded with its biggest play of the night as Green connected with Caleb Henry on a screen pass that the running back turned into a 72-yard score to make it 21-7.
It looked like the Bobcats had seized the game’s momentum when they stopped a Stephenville drive after Jacket miscue put the ball over Rountree’s head when he was in the shotgun formation. The play cost the Jackets 23 yards on a fourth down play, but Lambert’s scoop-and-score play put the Jackets back on course.
The Bobcats’ leadership structure really began to crumble when ironically Lambert picked up another fumble on a lateral play and raced 44-yards in the second quarter for a touchdown. The play was disputed because Slater insisted the play had been a forward pass and should have been ruled an incompletion.
The loss of leadership led to incidents on the field and the second half was marred by an ugly incident in which a Benbrook player was sitting on top of a Stephenville player and repeatedly punching him.
To Stephenville’s credit the Yellow Jackets didn’t lose their cool and kept the goal of winning in mind and they continued play without any retaliation.
From that point on the Jackets sharpened all the points of its offense with ball control being number one. With Philips dominating on the ground, Rountree attempted the fewest amount of passes he has thrown all season, but his 8-of-10 statistics produced two touchdowns and 170 yards of offense.
Philips kept things rolling with a 14-yard score, Eakin gathered in a 65-yard scoring pass and then Philips ripped off perhaps his most dazzling score of the season. Philips looked like pinball on the play as he jitterbugged and juked his way into the end zone on a 44-yard run.
With a 56-14 lead midway through the third quarter, Doty elected to begin giving his younger players some playoff experience and he began pulling his skill players starting with Philips who came to the sidelines amid cheers from the Stephenville fans and players.
“It’s just awesome to get the younger kids in the game because it is a great program builder,” Doty said. “For them to get out there and to get a taste of it just builds that hunger for the future.”
Freshman Tate Maruska proved Doty’s point as the junior varsity move-up gave fans a taste of the future when he scored on a six-yard run to end the scoring at 56-14. If that wasn’t enough to drive things home – move-up Ben Kirbo picked off a pass and nearly returned it for a touchdown.
Stephenville (6-5) now advances to face No. 1 Argyle Thursday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, but don’t expect the Jackets to walk into this game with big eyes.
“We have seen some really good teams this season and that’s what Argyle is—a really good team,” Doty said “With the schedule we have has this year, we know what it’s like to play those kind of teams—last year we played them close. They have an awesome squad and great staff so we certainly have our work cut out for us with a short week.”