Turnovers lead to Stephenville win at HHS

96-yard scoop-and-score completely flips momentum of game as No. 2-ranked Jackets seal top playoff seed

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Heritage quarterback Kaden Brown (2) looks to avoid Stephenville defensive tackle Gavyn Sharp (79) during Friday night's District 5-4A (Division I) game at MISD Multipurpose Stadium. The No. 2-ranked Yellow Jackets rallied in the second half to dodge a Jaguar upset bid for a 38-27 win.

Opportunity slipped through Midlothian Heritage’s hands in the second half, and Stephenville was right there waiting.

The Class 4A Division I No. 2-ranked Yellow Jackets returned not one, but two Jaguar turnovers for touchdowns — including a 96-yard scoop-and-score that completely flipped the game — and converted a fumble into an eventual TD, sealing the District 5-4A championship on Friday night at Don Floyd Field at MISD Multipurpose Stadium, 38-27.

The Jackets (9-0, 4-0) clinched the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Division I playoffs, while Heritage (6-3, 3-2) will likely settle for the No. 3 seed barring a disastrous outcome in Friday’s regular-season finale.

Stephenville scored 24 consecutive points after Heritage had jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Junior quarterback Ryder Lambert completed 13 of 15 pass attempts for 101 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Coy Eakin and Reece Elston. Sophomore Tate Maruska added 63 rushing yards and a TD.

The turnover bug spoiled an otherwise sensational night for Heritage quarterback Kaden Brown, who rushed for 296 yards and a touchdown and completed 21 of 28 passes for 75 yards and a score.

It looked like an upset was brewing in the first half, as the Jags led 14-0 before the Jackets finally cracked the scoring column with 2:01 remaining in the half to go into the break trailing 14-7. The Jackets opened the second half with a 20-yard chip-shot field goal by Corbin Poston to close to within 14-10.

Heritage put together a 13-play drive and was knocking on the door with the ball at the Jackets’ 5-yard line. But the ball was jarred loose, and senior defensive back Ben Kirbo picked it up and scampered 96 yards the other direction, putting the Jackets on top for the first time, 17-14, with 5:11 remaining in the third quarter.

Yet another fumble one play later, following the kickoff, was pounced upon by SHS’ Payton Poston, and the Jackets were in business again. Eight plays later, Lambert’s 13-yard pass to Eakin made it 24-14.

Following an exchange of possessions, Heritage quarterback Brown was hit behind the line of scrimmage as his arm was moving forward, and sophomore Camden McKinney hauled it in and rumbled 30 yards for yet another defensive score. At 8:19 of the fourth quarter, it was 31-14 and the game was all but decided.

Running back Jason Barela finally ended the HHS scoring drought on a 1-yard run with 3:28 remaining, but Eakin’s long return of an onside kick attempt set up Lambert’s scoring toss to a wide-open Elston for the final SHS score of the night.

With 29 seconds left, the Jags tacked on one final TD on Brown’s 7-yard pass to Stetson Sarratt.

The game started well for the Jags in a surprisingly-defensive first half as they played make-it-take-it for a 14-0 lead. Heritage punted on its opening possession, but after a Stephenville punt, Brown kept on a draw and went 82 yards for a 7-0 lead with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter.

The Jags then attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Trevor Atwell. Five plays later, Greg Johnson took a double reverse 27 yards for a TD on his only offensive touch of the night, and Dylan Riggins’ second PAT put HHS on top 14-0,

The Jags put together a time-consuming drive that melted almost eight minutes of clock before being forced to punt. That’s where the Jackets finally scored, capping a 75-yard drive with a Marushka 17-yard run that made the halftime score 14-7.

Both teams have one last regular-season game remaining until the playoffs begin. HHS will travel to Alvarado, while the Jackets will host Brownwood at Tarleton Memorial Stadium. Both kickoffs are set for 7:30 p.m.