After weeks of blowout victories, the Glen Rose Tigers wouldn’t mind squeaking out a close win this week in the least.
No. 19 Glen Rose (6-0), which just entered the 3A AP Poll this week, will head southwest on Friday to face No. 3 Stephenville (4-1). The Yellowjackets surprisingly lost their opener to Monterrey Prepa Tech (27-17), but have since reeled off impressive wins over 4A No. 4 Aledo (41-28), Beaumont Ozen (31-6), Waco La Vega (43-22) and 4A No. 25 Amarillo (35-14).
“We’ve been talking about winning early to set ourselves up for bigger games down the road,” said coach Tommy Dunn. “This is certainly a big game, but it’s not the biggest that we plan on playing this year. We want to play our best and improve.
“As far as seeding is concerned, Stephenville is in Div. I, and so our other district games will have more to do with seeding. This game is more about who will take a step toward winning a district title. We always have good intensity in practice, so you just hope everyone is here participating and that we’re focused.”
Certainly the Yellowjackets’ ability to bounce back from their loss with the Aledo win was extremely impressive.
“I think they realized after their first game they had some weaker areas they could improve,” Dunn said. “I would imagine they got a lot more intense in practice and increased their focus.”
Stephenville is coming off a bye, but its last game against Amarillo showed a sharp squad.
“Amarillo is such a different style of team (more run-based) than we are,” Dunn said. “Stephenville handled them fairly easy, and they’re a ranked 4A team. Stephenville has played a strong schedule at a high level; we recognize that and know we have to be at our best to compete.”
The Yellowjacket offense is led by quarterback Tyler Jones. He’s completed 102 of 152 passes for 1,233 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also rushing 60 times for 365 yards and five scores. Witt Westbrook (77-337, 4 TD) is the top running back, while key receivers include Brice Gunter (31-402, 2 TD) and Jarrett Stidham (24-353, 6 TD). Westbrook (23-139) and Stidham (8-133, 4 TD) factored heavily into the Amarillo win.
“Jones is the catalyst,” Dunn said. “He has a strong arm and a quick release; he can run the ball extremely well. Gunter and Stidham are both very good to spread the field, and Westbrook is a tough runner, plus they have other guys who can make plays.
“Their offensive line is big and does a very good job. We’ll have to cover the whole field while being very aggressive and sound in our schemes.”
Dunn believes the Stephenville defensive front is the key on that side of the ball.
“Their defensive ends Jonah Noah and Chase Varnado are very good; their defensive front is the best we’ve seen,” Dunn said. “They have an outstanding free safety in (Mookie) Carlile and they play extremely aggressively.”
When up against such a stiff challenge, it’s nice for Dunn to know his Tigers are on an incline regarding level of play. Glen Rose put on an all-around clinic against Fairfield last week, 45-6.
“I think that is and should be the best we’ve played to this point in the sixth game,” Dunn said. “Fairfield had good size and speed, but when they stacked the box we took to the air. Our defense was outstanding to never let them get going.”
Looking to the injury report, the notable Tiger is receiver Austin Gibson, and he’s probable after missing the Fairfield game.
The challenge for Tiger football this week is indeed grand, but an A-game from Glen Rose could certainly make things interesting in Stephenville.
“We’re going to have to play flawlessly, as far as turnovers,” Dunn said. “We have to get some stops to keep them from stringing together too many consecutive scoring drives, so we have an opportunity to win in the second half.”