Brownwood finishes with 504 yards on the ground in first win over Bulldogs since 2010
At halftime of Friday night's homecoming contest, the Brownwood Lions trailed the Abilene Wylie Bulldogs by a 14-13 count. But a 40-point second-half allowed the Lions' win streak to reach three games, while Wylie's eight-game run of victories in the series ended as Brownwood rolled to a 53-21 triumph in front of a packed house at Gordon Wood Stadium.
“It's a huge win for Brownwood, period,” said Lions first-year head coach Sammy Burnett. “I'm almost speechless to watch those kids and see the excitement in their eyes. We've been talking to them about the process and what it takes to continually get in the win column, and they're doing it. We had a great week of preparation, total focus even though it was homecoming, and they came out and executed and never doubted that they could do it.”
Through four games, the Lions (3-2) had rushed for 461 yards as a team. Against Wylie (0-5), the Lions churned out 504 yards on the ground on 51 carries — an average of 9.8 yards per tote — with six touchdowns. The offensive line of Brandon Farrow, Jacob Ruiz, Theo Bryant, Ulysses Villarreal, Jayln Jones and Dawson Evans, among others, paved the way for 217 yards and five rushing touchdowns by quarterback Tommy Bowden, while Reece Rodgers chipped in 145 yards and a score. Joseph Johnson contributed a season-high 82 yards, while Khyren Deal added 41.
“You want to talk about the maturation of an offensive line gelling together and taking control of somebody, I never thought it would be in this kind of situation,” Burnett said. “Wylie is a good defense, we just took away their will to win and started pounding them in the second half, 5 and 10 yards a pop.”
Brownwood — which had lost all its meetings against Wylie since 2010, including two during the 2015 campaign — finished with 595 yards of total offense and 30 first downs. Meanwhile, the defense intercepted four passes — all in the second half — and returned one for a touchdown.
“We played great defense,” said Burnett, whose team surrendered 361 total yards. “They ran a lot of things but our kids stayed disciplined. They're doing what they're being asked to do. It's just a discipline thing and the kids are buying into it and it's showing now.”
The Lions clung to a 27-21 lead as the fourth quarter began, but ran away down the stretch.
Just 11 seconds into the final period, after Brownwood had passed for a mere 27 yards the entire night, Bowden connected with Zach Strong on a 64-yard strike that gave the Lions some breathing room, 33-21.
“They were triggering on the screen all night so we went over the top on them and it worked,” said Strong, who caught his second touchdown of the season.
Wylie's ensuing possession ended after three plays on an interception by Hunter Leonard, which he returned 32 yards to the Bulldog 28. The Lions were unable to generate points on that possession but, after turning the ball over on downs, Brownwood was back in the end zone two snaps later.
With Santanna Espinoza putting pressure on Wylie's Harrison Atwood, the Bulldog quarterback made an ill-advised throw while tumbling to the ground, which Damion Jones picked off and returned 31 yards for a touchdown. Zack Smith's extra point with 10 minutes left extended the Lions' lead to 40-21.
“Santanna got on the quarterback and almost brought him down and Damion was there and made a big pick and brought it to the house,” Burnett said.
The Bulldogs' next drive ended in a three-and-out, and the Lions needed just one play to light up the scoreboard again. Rodgers scored on a 73-yard scamper that included a leap over one Wylie defender about 15 yards into the run as the lead grew to 46-21 with 7:43 to go.
“The line came through and stepped up today and I knew they would,” said Rodgers. “They helped me a lot and my legs did the talking. On that touchdown run Jalyn made a big hole for me and I couldn't let anyone catch me.”
The Lions' final touchdown — from 2 yards out with 3:49 left — was the fifth on the ground of the night for Bowden, who entered the game with six rushing touchdowns for the season along with 261 yards.
“The game plan coming into the week was run, run, run,” Jones said. “They trusted in us and we got it done.”
Trailing 14-13 at the break, Strong recorded the first of his two interceptions just two plays into the second half. Taking over at the Bulldog 43, the Lions needed seven plays before Bowden scored on a 7-yard carry to put Brownwood up for good, 20-14, at 8:36 of the third.
“I told them when we went into the locker room at halftime that we made some mistakes that kept the game closer than what it probably should have been, and we needed to fix those,” Burnett said. “I also told them we're a second half team, go win the third and fourth quarter and they did that again.
“I'm really pleased with them, they're real resilient as the game goes on. We talk about feeding the wolf and they're all saying the wolf's fed. I'm really pleased with the fact that we're getting stronger in the third and fourth quarters.”
Less than three minutes after his first interception, Strong again picked off Atwood — who threw four interceptions before being replaced by Jaxon Hensen — to halt a Wylie march at the Brownwood 26.
“It's just being in the right place at the right time,” said Strong, who has four picks through five games. “I'm just following reads, looking at the quarterback's eyes. Our corners are going a good job covering their guys so I can go make plays.”
A 74-yard trek followed, sparked by a 48-yard carry from Bowden, who later finished the drive with a 1-yard dive on fourth-and-goal as Brownwood extended its advantage to 27-14 with 2:04 left in the third.
Wylie scored its final touchdown with 45 seconds left in the third as Atwood connected with Hayden Keidl on a 6-yard scoring toss.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring midway through the first period as a 27-yard Bailey Hicks touchdown run staked Wylie to a 7-0 lead.
The Lions immediately answered with an eight-play, 74-yard trek that concluded with a 2-yard Bowden touchdown run. Smith's extra point knotted the score at 7-all.
“We go as Tommy goes,” Burnett said. “He set the tone for us and opened up opportunities. We had been meshing a bunch and I knew they were going to key the mesh and Tommy could get some yards when we started running him off the mesh. He did a good job reading the plays and running the counter when we called it to him. That opened up what we wanted to do even more because they had to watch him as well.”
Wylie regained a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard plunge by Hicks with 5:27 left in the half, but Brownwood again responded. Another eight-play, 66-yard march ended with Bowden's second 2-yard touchdown run, but a botched extra point attempt left Brownwood behind, 14-13, at halftime.
But the Lions refused to be denied.
“Seven years in a row, this had to come to an end this year,” Bryant said.
Brownwood is off next week, then opens District 5-4A Division I action at Gatesville on Oct. 12. The Hornets (2-3) slipped past Lampasas, 33-27, Friday night.
ABILENE WYLIE 21
SCORE BY QUARTER
Abilene Wylie 7 7 7 0 - 21
Brownwood 7 6 14 26 - 53
W: Bailey Hicks 27 run (Peyton Wood kick), 6:03, 1st — 0-7
B: Tommy Bowden 2 run (Zack Smith kick), 2:52, 1st — 7-7
W: Hicks 1 run (Wood kick), 5:27, 2nd — 7-14
B: Bowden 2 run (kick failed), 1:49, 2nd —13-14
B: Bowden 7 run (Smith kick), 8:36, 3rd —20-14
B: Bowden 1 run (Smith kick), 2:04, 3rd —27-14
W: Hayden Keidl 6 pass from Harrison Atwood (Wood kick), 0:45, 3rd — 27-21
B: Zach Strong 64 pass from Bowden (kick failed), 11:49, 4th — 33-21
B: Damion Jones 31 interception return (Smith kick), 10:00, 4th — 40-21
B: Reece Rodgers 73 run (kick failed), 7:54, 4th — 46-21
B: Bowden 2 run (Smith kick), 3:49, 4th —53-21
First Downs 19 30
Total Offense 361 595
Rushing Yards 21-129 51-504
Passing Yards 232 91
C-A-I 19-38-4 6-11-0
Fumbles Lost 0 1
Punts 3-51.0 0-0.0
Penalties 11-90 8-85
W: Bailey Hicks 14-75, Harrison Atwood 5-48, Jaxon Hensen 2-6.
B: Tommy Bowden 22-217, Reece Rodgers 10-145, Joseph Johnson 12-82, Khyren Deal 2-41, A.J. McCarty 4-14, Hayden Tunnell 1-5.
W: Atwood 13-19-4-171, Hensen 6-19-0-61.
B: Bowden 6-11-0-91.
W: Logan Hollenbck 4-69, Hayden Keidl 3-23, Christian Ramirez 2-61.
B: McCarty 3-1, Zach Strong 1-64, Hunter Leonard 1-18, Ben Kallman 1-8.