Two weeks into the season, the Brownwood Lions offense has yet to make an impact.
For the second consecutive game, the Lions were limited to a single touchdown while four turnovers and a botched punt attempt only made matters worse in a 28-7 loss to the Graham Steers Friday night in Brownwood’s home opener at Gordon Wood Stadium.
The Brownwood (0-2) defense put forth a spirited effort, allowing just 263 yards of total offense, but Graham (2-0) scored on drives of 22 yards after a fumble, 52 yards after the failed punt attempt and returned an interception 48 yards for another score.
“When the defense is on the field as long as ours was, that’s asking an awful lot, especially against a team as physical as Graham,” said Lions fourth-year head coach Bob Shipley. “We made way too many mistakes offensively and Graham forced some of those. I’m not taking anything away from Graham, but between our execution, decision making, interceptions and a dropped punt, that takes the wind out of your sails.”
The Lions followed a 232-yard performance in the season opener at Fort Worth All Saints, a 31-7 defeat, with just 221 yards against Graham. Brownwood threw for 203 yards, but quarterback Clint Keesee was picked off three times, and the Lions’ ground game mustered just 18 yards on 20 carries — thanks in part to 23 yards lost on four sacks.
Brownwood is breaking in a new offensive scheme under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Bryan Clark and quarterbacks coach Sam Harrell, who used the same system at Ennis to win three Class 4A state championships.
“I’d like to attribute our struggles to that, but I don’t know if it holds any validity,” Shipley said. “Maybe things would run smoother if we were running the offense we had the last three years, but we’ve made a commitment to this and we’re going to see it through. It hurts now, but if we get it worked out by district, that’s what counts. The fact is we’re not getting it done on offense and we’re going to have to go back and take a hard look at things. But I also felt like Graham is a really good football team with a great defensive scheme. It’s not like they weren’t playing their tails off out there.”
Among the limited offensive highlights for the Lions, Cooper Howey caught 10 passes for 110 yards, while Braxton Kilgo chipped in 41 yards on the ground and Brownwood’s only touchdown on a 1-yard carry with 5:45 left in the third period.
Trailing 21-0 at halftime, the Lions appeared to have stolen the momentum following their opening drive of the second half.
Brownwood forced Graham to punt on its opening possession of the third period, where a facemask penalty on the return set the Lions up at the Steers’ 44. Four plays later, following a 38-yard completion from Keesee — who was 21-of-32 for 196 yards — to Howey, Kilgo pounded the ball into the end zone from a yard out.
Graham then went three-and-out on its next possession as the Lions took over at their own 38. Facing a fourth-and-one at the Brownwood 47, Keesee rolled out on a bootleg, but was picked off by Hunter Hughes who returned the interception for six points and the final touchdown of the game — giving the Steers a 28-7 edge with 2:03 left in the third period.
Brownwood threatened to score on a number of other occasions, but could not produce points.
Trailing 6-0 with just over three minutes left in the first period, the Lions took over on the Graham 24 after a 13-yard punt. On the first play, however, Keesee’s pass downfield was deflected and picked off by Jesse Ramos at the Graham 13.
In the second period, down 14-0, the Lions marched the Graham 25 before the drive stalled on a failed fourth down conversion attempt. That scenario also repeated itself in the fourth period when Brownwood advanced to the Steer 23.
Then, in the final minute of the game, the Lions took over at the Graham 12 after a fumbled snap on a punt, but were still unable to push the ball into the end zone.
Perhaps the Lions’ opening drive was a sign of things to come as, after moving from their own 31 to the Graham 48, Howey’s pass on a fourth-and-8 fake punt attempt was batted down, which set up the Steers’ first touchdown.
“The equivalent of three turnovers turned into touchdowns, and it wasn’t just the touchdowns, but the short drives that hurt us,” Shipley said. “That really puts you with one arm tied behind your back. We’re not good enough to have four turnovers and win.”
Graham quarterback Ben Davis threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns and hit running back Dillon Gonzales, who rushed for 91 yards and caught four passes for 53 yards, on a 31-yard swing pass to open the scoring with 6:08 left in the first period.
The Steers’ next touchdown, which occurred with 9:15 left in the first half, was the result of a muffed punt by the Lions at their own 22. Six plays later, Davis connected with Bryce Reeves, who grabbed a team-high six receptions for 52 yards, on an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Both of Graham’s first two touchdowns scored on fourth down plays.
Graham stretched its lead to 21-0 with 1:51 left in the first half as the Steers capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown carry by Hagen Hughes, who chipped in 25 yards on the ground.
On the injury front, a handful of Brownwood players were dinged and some returned to action, but starting linebacker and backup running back Colten Guidry was lost for the season with a leg injury, according to Shipley.
The Lions will attempt to notch their first victory of the season next week as they hit the road to face former district rival Snyder (0-2), which has opened the season with losses of 70-57 to Amarillo Caprock and 35-21 to Lubbock Cooper.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged,” Shipley said. “We’ve played two good football teams and that may be part of the reason for our start. But we’re going to continue to work to be the best football team we can be.”
GRAHAM 28, LIONS 7
Graham 6 15 7 0 - 28
Brownwood 0 0 7 0 - 7
G: Dillon Gonzales 31 pass from Ben Davis (kick blocked), 6:08, 1st
G: Bryce Reeves 8 pass from Davis (Janson Graham pass from Davis), 9:15, 2nd
G: Hagen Hughes 6 run (Fidel Herrera kick), 1:51, 2nd
B: Braxton Kilgo 1 run (Matt McCrane kick), 5:45, 3rd
G: Hunter Hughes 31 interception return (Herrera kick), 2:03, 3rd
First Downs 13 14 Total Offense 263 221 Rushes-Yards 36-99 20-18
Passing Yards 164 203
C-A-I 15-23-0 22-35-3
Fumbles Lost 0 1
Penalties 5-50 2-8
Punts 5-31.2 2-46.5
G: Dillon Gonzales 20-91; Hagen Hughes 8-21; Ben Davis 8-(-13)
B: Braxton Kilgo 8-41; Chris Keesee 4-(-23)
G: Ben Davis 15-23-0-164
B: Clint Keesee 21-32-3-196; Clint Taylor 1-2-0-7; Cooper Howey 0-1-0-0
G: Bryce Reeves 6-52; Dillon Gonzales 4-53; Hunter Jones 2-22; Janson Graham 1-34; Cameron Calame 1-2; Hagen Hughes 1-1
B: Cooper Howey 10-110; Matt McCrane 5-44; Eddie Duque 4-29; Kaimon Ontiveros 2-17; Clint Taylor 1-3