Friday night’s showers turned out to be a blessing in more ways than one as slippery field conditions at Gordon Wood Stadium forced the Brownwood Lions to rely more on their run game — which finally came roaring to life in a 28-13 homecoming victory over the Sweetwater Mustangs.
After producing just 310 rushing yards through their first four games, the Lions (2-3) erupted with a 295-yard ground assault led by a barrage of four ball carries, two of which eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
Eddie Duque rushed for a team-high 135 yards out of the wildcat formation, while Braxton Kilgo chipped in 108 yards and two touchdowns and Daylon Johnson contributed a pair of short scoring runs to ignite the ground attack. Dylan Martin also contributed in a change of pace role.
“Obviously on a rainy night like this we have to be able to run the ball and we did it good enough to win,” said Lions head coach Bob Shipley. “We used a lot of people carrying the ball and that’s what it’s going to take. We have four guys we’re counting on and each brings a unique ability to that position another guy may not possess. Each one adds another dimension to our running game and we need all of them for a good balance.”
The Lions generated 371 yards of total offense overall and lost the game’s only turnover, while Brownwood’s defense held a resilient Sweetwater (2-3) offense to 243 total yards.
“Sweetwater is a totally different team than they’ve been the last three years,”
Shipley said. “They’re playing hard, they’ve got great schemes and we were lucky to come away with a win.”
The play that iced the victory for the Lions came with 4:08 remaining and Brownwood clinging to a 21-13 advantage. Pinned at their own 2 following a 47-yard Sweetwater punt, the first play of the Lions’ drive was a wildcat keeper by Duque which turned into a 95-yard sprint before the quarterback was dragged down at the Sweetwater 3. Two plays later, Johnson scored on a 2-yard carry with 2:42 remaining for the final 15-point margin.
“I saw the hole and hit it real hard and thought I was going to score, but kind of got sucked up,” Duque said. “Monday the coaches told me I was going to start running a little wildcat and today they gave me the ball a lot to see what I could do. I just tried to step up and make plays.”
Added Shipley, “Eddie’s always been a quarterback for us until this year so he can also throw the ball. We’ll continue to add things with him and continue to build more things off that.”
Leading 6-0 at halftime following a first-half downpour, the Lions started the second half with a 63-yard kick return by Cooper Howey that placed the ball at the Sweetwater 22 and began Brownwood’s offensive roll.
Two runs totaling 11 yards by Martin, who chipped in 19 yards on the ground, followed by three runs from Kilgo — capped by a 2-yard touchdown run at the 9:41 mark of the third period — allowed the Lions to extend their lead to 14-0, after a two-point run by Duque.
“We had some blocks that were opening up and I’m starting to see the holes better,” Kilgo said of his first 100-plus yard effort, which came on 20 carries. “I’m still learning, but we’re progressing together and starting to put it together.”
Sweetwater answered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that chewed 6:28 off the clock before Ryan Linebaugh scored on a fourth-and-goal 1-yard dive with 3:13 left in the third period, which cut Brownwood’s edge to 14-6 after Kaimon Ontiveros blocked the extra point.
The first time the Lions touched the ball in the fourth period occurred after a 20-yard Howey punt return, which positioned the ball at the Sweetwater 34. A 10-yard pass from Chris Keesee — who was 9 of 12 for 76 yards — to Jared Crouch — who caught a team-high three passes for 16 yards — followed by an 11-yard Duque run and an 8-yard carry from Howey, set up Johnson’s first 2-yard touchdown with 8:45 left in the contest, increasing the Lions’ lead to 21-6.
The Mustangs again responded with a lengthy drive, moving 69 yards in 11 plays before Kaleb Hoover caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kaegen Jeffrey with 6:52 left, which trimmed Brownwood’s lead to 21-13. The play of the drive, however, was a fourth-and-10 connection between Jeffrey and Hoover that covered 26 yards and moved the ball the Brownwood 4.
“One of the things we have to get better at is third and fourth down conversions,” Shipley said. “We’re giving up way too many big plays, but we’ve got some inexperience back there and some of the guys don’t have a lot of confidence right now. At the same time, we can’t give up big cushions and allow them to complete passes underneath and then miss tackles. It’s very frustrating, but it’s something we have to do a better job at.”
The Brownwood defense did make a stand when Sweetwater took over at the Lions’ 45 trailing by eight points with 5:05 left. The Mustangs lost 4 yards in three plays before punting the ball back to Brownwood, which set up the game-clinching three-play, 98-yard drive.
In the first half, the Lions generated the only points on a 10-play, 65-yard trek that ended with a 5-yard Kilgo touchdown run with 9:23 left before halftime.
Sweetwater had an opportunity to cut the Lions’ 6-0 lead in half, but a 33-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 4:20 left in the second period. Brownwood’s 40-yard field goal try on the final snap of the first half was also blocked. The first half ended with Brownwood giving up just 59 yards of total offense and three first downs, while compiling 176 yards.
The Lions are off next week before opening District 8-3A action at Burnet.
“A win always makes you feel better, but we have a lot of work to do to get ready for district,”
Shipley said. “I don’t know if things are going to be any easier in district, but we have a week to get some people well and work on some more things and then, hopefully, get ready to go on a roll.”
LIONS 28, SWEETWATER 13
Sweetwater 0 0 6 7 - 13
Brownwood 0 6 8 14 - 28
B: Braxton Kilgo 5 run (kick failed), 9:43, 2nd
B: Kilgo 2 run (Eddie Duque run), 9:41, 3rd
S: Ryan Linebaugh 1 run (kick blocked), 3:13, 3rd
B: Daylon Johnson 2 run (Matt McCrane kick), 8:45, 4th
S: Kaleb Hoover 4 pass from Kaegen Jeffrey (Tadeo Canon-Masjoan kick), 6:52, 4th
B: Johnson 2 run (McCrane kick), 2:42, 4th
First Downs 17 20 Total Offense 234 371 Rushes-Yards 15-74 39-295
Passing Yards 160 76
C-A-I 15-30-0 9-12-0
Fumbles Lost 0 1
Penalties 7-70 11-85
Punts 4-38.0 1-34.0
S: Marquees Jenkins 6-43, Bray Amos 3-19.
B: Eddie Duque 8-135, Braxton Kilgo 20-108, Cooper Howey 2-23, Dylan Martin 5-19, Daylon Johnson 4-6, Chris Keesee 2-4.
S: Kaegen Jeffrey 15-30-0-160.
B: Chris Keesee 9-12-0-76.
S: Bray Amos 5-56, Kaleb Hoover 4-71.
B: Jared Crouch 3-16, Bryce Vickers 2-10, Matt McCrane 1-19, Elijah Salazar 1-15, Matthew Gomez 1-15, Cooper Howey 1-1.