WICHITA FALLS — Pampa head coach Greg Poynor put it best when speaking of the Stephenville Yellow Jackets:
“Stephenville has a lot of tradition, they’re very well coached on both sides of the ball. I think last season was an anomaly for them, this year’s team looks like the normal Stephenville teams I’ve seen over the years.”
Indeed, these are definitely not the Yellow Jackets who finished 3-8 last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Stephenville started off hot, flipping the 0-4 start in 2016 on its head, before dropping games to quality Graham and Lubbock Monterey teams.
“We had a good non-district against tough teams,” boasted Stephenville coach Greg Winder. “We were beat by two quality opponents, but overall I feel the non-district schedule went pretty well for us.”
The Jackets rebounded from back-to-back losses quite nicely however, torching 3-4A DI competition en route to a district title. The slate began with a momentous win against Brownwood on the road, and ended with a 33-20 win at home over a strong Abilene Wylie squad, with 71 and 49 point wins over Big Spring and Snyder sandwiched in between.
Good times continue on into the postseason, with a 52-13 dispatching of Sanger in the opening round setting them up for a Friday evening contest at Memorial Stadium.
“Well it didn’t start out very good, they ran a hitch-and-pitch we didn’t see to score on the first play,” recalled Winder. “But the team stepped up and improved, and we kept it going offensively.”
Stephenville’s potent backfield tandem of quarterback Easton Jones and rusher Krece Nowak continue to shine in 2017: Heading into game 12, Jones is nearing the 2,000 yard mark to go along with 23 touchdowns on 116 completions, while Nowak has so far tallied 1,363 yards and 13 scores on the ground.
Pampa meanwhile is ready to continue their postseason momentum, coming off “probably our most complete and best game overall” according to Poynor, in a 53-3 drubbing of Fabens. In contrast, the Harvesters entered the postseason off a tough 69-28 loss to Levelland, the game Poynor felt was perhaps the most disappointing of the season.
The Harvesters played well in key non-district games, starting off 2-0 with 49 and 35 point wins over Littlefield and Perryton, as well as giving Bushland a strong challenge in a 56-49 loss.
“We felt good about our schedule to start with; we had a good mixture of teams,” said Poynor. “I feel as though the Bushland game could have been won.”
Pampa started off district play strong, topping rival Borger with a 50-29 win. They would finish in third place however with consecutive losses to Lubbock Estacado and Levelland, but appear ready for this next challenge after the big aforementioned win to begin the postseason.
Art Briles was the head man at Stephenville the last time these two teams met (1998), but Poynor appeared quite studious of their opponent.
“They have a great passing game, but if they feel you’re a little light in the box, they can run it all over you,” the coach continued. “They have a very good quarterback, a very good running back, and a good O-line to go along with that. The strenght of the team though is on the defensive side. The back end is very athletic, they break on the ball, they’re good tacklers and ballhawks. It’s definitely going to be a big challenge for us.”
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