Football Insider: Stephenville passing all its tests

Posted Wednesday, Dec. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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En route to the Class 3A Division I state title last season, Stephenville never quite faced the test it did Friday against Big Spring.

The Yellow Jackets found themselves trailing with just over 30 seconds remaining, but engineered a 65-yard scoring drive to pull out the victory, scoring with 4 seconds left. Stephenville coach Joseph Gillespie says the win is a testament to their preparation.

“We always talk about having to go out there and play 48 minutes,” he said. “We never prepare ourselves to play half a ballgame or three-quarters of a game. We prepare to play for 48 minutes, and sometimes you have to.

“I think anytime you’re down 36-34 with 34 seconds on the clock, and to come back and win it, that shows the character of your football team. We put ourselves in practice situations and we prepared ourselves mentally and physically to be in these situations. The fruits of that labor come to fruition and it’s encouraging to us as coaches and as a football team.”

Also encouraging to Gillespie was Stephenville’s performance in inclement weather two weeks ago when the Yellow Jackets beat Springtown 63-21. That could be important with wintry conditions in the forecast for Friday night, when Stephenville (11-1) meets Lubbock Cooper (11-2) at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.

“Anytime you go out and do that in the conditions we did, it should give you some confidence,” he said. “We really didn’t know heading into that game what kind of impact the weather would have on us.

“Our kids responded very well and went out and executed. I was very proud of them, and I fully anticipate the same thing happening again.”

Familiar foe

When Nolan Catholic (9-4) faces Plano Prestonwood Christian (12-1) in the TAPPS Division I championship game Tuesday, the Vikings will be after their third consecutive state title. It would be the sixth straight had Prestonwood not defeated Nolan 38-35 in the 2010 championship game.

It also happens that nine months ago, Prestonwood kept Nolan from winning a TAPPS basketball title by beating the Vikings 71-66 in overtime in the state championship game. A pair of Nolan football players, Landon Russell and Pierce Braden, were also on that basketball team.

“It’s definitely in my mind,” Russell said. “I’d say it’s a factor; it gives us a little extra motivation, but ultimately we just want to win the game no matter who we’re playing.”

With many of their meetings having so much on the line, a natural rivalry seems to be developing between the schools.

“We’ve had some really close games with them,” Nolan coach Joe Prud’homme said. “I think the margins have always been close. I’d think it’s fair to say they’re rivals.

“We’re pretty much polar opposites. They’ve got all the high-flying athletes and we just have to battle and be blue-collar and be extremely disciplined in order to compete with them. But that’s made for some great games, in both basketball and football.”

Seeing Prestonwood on the schedule brings out the best in Russell and his teammates.

“Every time we play them, it’s a good game, and we look forward to it because we definitely know it’s going to be a battle,” he said.

“Tensions build and get even higher the more we see them in football and basketball,” Braden added.

Some scores to settle

This week’s area playoff action features two teams looking to turn the tables on foes that bounced them from the playoffs last season, while one school will be looking to avenge a loss from earlier this year.

Birdville (11-2) faces reigning state champion Denton Guyer (11-2), which eliminated the Hawks 52-42 in this round of the postseason in 2012.

Denton Ryan (10-2) will be looking to avenge its 2012 area-round loss to Cedar Hill (11-2). The Longhorns beat the Raiders 48-35 last year on their way to the 5A Division II title game.

Euless Trinity (11-2) squares off with DeSoto (13-0) for the second time this season, after falling to the Eagles 61-35 on Sept. 14. The Trojans also lost to DeSoto in the 2012 regular season 42-21. For a complete preview of this matchup, see Friday’s edition of the Star-Telegram.

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