Brownwood drops district opener, eighth straight game to Bulldogs

ABILENE — A 48-yard interception return for a touchdown.

An 87-yard kick return for a touchdown.

A 52-yard march in 60 seconds to tie the game with a 45-yard field goal at the end of regulation.

Still, after three overtimes, Brownwood again was unable to overcome Abilene Wylie, as the Bulldogs collected a 45-38 victory Friday night — their eighth in a row over the Lions — in the District 3-4A Division I opener for both squads.

“We took a lot of steps in a very positive direction,” said Lions second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “It doesn't help the feeling we all have right now I know, but I really think we took some positive steps that are going to get us back to where we want to be.

“Our players laid it all on the line. They played every snap, we didn't play perfect, but we played hard until the bitter end. Just to get the game into overtime, then to play three overtimes, was a credit to our kids. We just didn't get that one break in overtime to seal the deal. It's been a while since I've walked off the field as proud of a group of men.”

The Lions trailed for just 6:38 during regulation, but were staring at a 31-28 deficit when they began their final possession at their own 30, and a penalty on the first snap — one of 10 for 106 yards for Brownwood — quickly placed the ball at the 20. On the next play, however, Tommy Bowden threw a jailbreak screen pass to Nick Salazar, who gained 25 yards to get the Lions out of trouble. Bowden followed with connections of 4 yards to Hunter Leonard, 8 yards to Patrick Nash and 15 yards again to Salazar to advance to the Wylie 28. There, with five seconds left, Reagan trotted onto the field and booted the tying field goal as the Brownwood sideline erupted.

“Reagan's got such a strong long that we feel like he can make it from 60,” Maxfield said.

Brownwood (3-3, 0-1) began with the ball first in overtime and a holding penalty on the initial play immediately put the Lions in a bind. A 12-yard pass from Bowden to A.J. McCarty moved the Lions back into field goal range, but Reagan's 41-yard attempt drifted wide right.

Wylie (4-2, 2-1), playing to set up a field goal, advanced to the Brownwood 20, but Grant was unable to convert a potential game-winning 37-yard try.

In the second overtime, Wylie scored on its first play as quarterback Sam King hooked up Brady Horn on their second touchdown connection from 25 yards out.

Trailing 38-31, the Lions had to score at least seven points to continue the contest. A 15-yard scramble by Bowden on the first play of the drive was followed by runs of 6 and 4 yards from Gavin Jefferson, with the second pushing Brownwood into the end zone. The Lions opted for the tying extra point instead of a two-point attempt, and Zack Smith's kick barely cleared the cross bar to extend the contest.

“We weren't ready to make that decision,” Maxfield said in regard to going for two. “We've been in that situation before and we felt like our defense was playing good enough to maybe cause another turnover.”

In the third overtime, the Lions moved to the Wylie 11 before the drive stalled. Following a 4-yard loss, Smith came on to try the go-ahead 32-yard field goal attempt, which untrue.

“It was an in between distance, both of our kickers have great strengths and Zack's who we went with,” Maxfield said. “Smitty is a little more consistent and he felt he was confident he could get it in there. You can use hindsight on that, but it didn't matter in the end because Wylie scored a touchdown.”

After the miss Wylie regained possession and traveled 25 yards in four plays before Grant barreled into the end zone on a game-winning 2-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs added the extra point for the sake of a potential points tiebreaker in the 3-4A Division I race, according to an official on the field.

“When they needed a key play he stepped up and made it,” Maxfield said of Grant. “We've got some guys that are getting there, but (Grant) is a special player and hats off to him and Coach (Hugh) Sandifer. You're not going to find a better coached team than what they have. For us to go toe-to-toe with them and have a chance there to bitter end was a credit to our kids.”

After a scoreless first period, the Lions finally lit up the scoreboard with 7:41 remaining in the first half as they capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Bowden to Patrick Nash.

“He is such a great kid and represents what high school football players are all about,” Maxfield said of Nash, who also led the Lions in tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage, despite playing with a knee injury. “He took more snaps than anybody on our teams when you add the offensive plays.”

Wylie answered in 16 seconds as King connected with Hayden Keidl on a 57-yard scoring strike to knot the score at 7 at the 7:25 mark.

On Wylie's next possession, Hunter Mares ripped the ball away from King for a fumble that Santanna Espinoza pounced on 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage as Brownwood took over at the Bulldog 28 with 3:35 left in the first half.

The very next play saw the Lions run a double-reverse pass as Salazar floated a ball to the end zone that Braden Jetton wrestled away from a Wylie defender as Brownwood reclaimed a 14-7 advantage.

Before the half ended, Wylie fired back as an 8-yard touchdown toss from King to Hayden Murphy capped an eight-play, 65-yard drive and evened the score at 14 heading into halftime.

The first points of the second half also belonged to the Brownwood defense as Tristin Revada jumped an out route, picked off King and sprinted untouched to the end zone for a 21-14 Lions lead with 8:14 left in the third period.

“It was so great to see Tristin make a play like that because he's come a million miles, not necessarily in terms of his play on the field because he's already a talented player, but the maturity that he's shown off the field and with his teammates,” Maxfield said. “For him to step up and make a big play like that was really exciting to see.”

Wylie closed the gap to 21-17 on a Grant 32-yard field goal with 5:32 left in the quarter, then seized its first advantage with 2:32 remaining in the third as Grant scored on a 39-yard sprint to push the Bulldogs in front, 24-21.

Wylie's lead lasted just 19 seconds as Marcus Mosley returned the ensuing kick 87 yards for a Brownwood touchdown, giving the Lions a 28-24 edge at the 2:32 mark of the third.

“He bobbled it and he looked like he was dead in the water,” Maxfield said of Mosley's return. “But he showed his skills on that play.

“The thing that's really encouraging to us is we scored on defense and we scored on special teams. When you do that, you feel like you can get some victories by everybody contributing.”

The Bulldogs answered once again with 6:19 left, marching 80 yards in 10 plays before King found Horn for an 18-yard scoring toss.

With a chance to put the game away after the Lions failed to convert a fourth-and-8 at the Brownwood 45 with 4:22 left, the Bulldogs instead were forced to punt the ball back to the Lions, setting the stage from the drama that ensued the rest of the way.

Brownwood produced 343 yards of total offense — 183 through the air and 160 on the ground, while Wylie finished with 403 yards — 286 passing and 117 rushing.

Bowden completed 17 of 28 passes for 155 yards with one touchdown and his first interception — on a Hail Mary to end the first half. Bowden also led the Lions with 80 yards rushing followed by Cain Kittrell with 41 and Jefferson with 38. Salazar finished with six grabs for 72 yards accompanied by Jetton with four for 49, McCarty with three for 33, Leonard with three for 16 and Nash with two for 13 yards.

For Wylie, Grant rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 22 yards. King finished 17 of 24 for 286 yards with three touchdowns and a pick six. Gatlin Martin tallied three receptions for 61 yards, Horn caught three passes for 46 yards with two trips to the end zone and Heidl added two grabs for 70 yards and a score.

Next up for the Lions is the “Battle of 377” as they seek their first district victory of the season, and third win in a row over Stephenville (4-2, 0-0) which had its district bye Friday night.

“The biggest challenge for us, with this being such an emotional game and emotional loss, is that it can take a toll on you,” Maxfield said. “We have to be mature about it because the Battle of 377 is right in front of us. We drew the short end of the stick with the schedule because Wylie was off the week before playing us and Stephenville's off tonight, but like we tell our players, life isn't fair all the time. We just have to deal with it and man up.”

•••

Abilene Wylie 45, Lions 38 (3 OTs)

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Brownwood 0 14 14 3 0 7 0 - 38

Abilene Wylie 0 14 10 7 0 7 7 - 45

SCORING SUMMARY

B: Patrick Nash 5 pass from Tommy Bowden (Zack Smith kick), 7:41, 2nd

W: Hayden Keidl 57 pass from Sam King (Cason Grant kick), 7:25, 2nd

B: Braden Jetton 28 pass from Nick Salazar (Smith kick), 3:26, 2nd

W: Hayden Murphy 8 pass from King (Grant kick), 1:10, 2nd

B: Tristin Revada 48 interception return (Smith kick), 8:14, 3rd

W: Grant 32 FG, 5:32, 3rd

W: Grant 39 run (Grant kick), 2:51, 3rd

B: Marcus Mosley 87 kick return (Smith kick), 2:32, 3rd

W: Brady Horn 18 pass from King (Grant kick), 6:19, 4th

B: Rylan Reagan 45 kick, 0:00, 4th

W: Horn 25 pass from King (Grant kick), OT2

B: Gavin Jefferson 4 run (Smith kick), OT2

W: Grant 2 run (Grant kick), OT3

TEAM STATS

B W

First Downs 20 20

Total Offense 343 403

Rushes-Yards 37-160 33-117

Passing Yards 183 286

C-A-I 18-29-1 17-24-1

Fumbles Lost 0 1

Penalties 10-106 7-35

Punts 5-41.3 5-28.6

PLAYER STATS

Rushing

B: Tommy Bowden 14-80, Cain Kittrell 12-41, Gavin Jefferson 10-28, Braden Jetton 1-1

W: Cason Grant 26-133, Bailey Hicks 3-9, Sam King 6-4, Nathan Moore 2-3, Brady Horn 1-2, Hayden Keidl 1-(-1), TEAM 1-(-29).

Passing

B: Bowden 17-28-1-155, Nick Salazar 1-1-0-28

W: King 17-24-1-286.

Receiving

B: Salazar 6-72, Jetton 4-49, A.J. McCarty 3-33, Hunter Leonard 3-16, Patrick Nash 2-13.

W: Gatlin Martin 3-61, Horn 3-46, Grant 3-22, Keidl 2-70, Bailey Hicks 2-29, Riley Garrison 2-26, Moore 1-14, Hayden Murphy 1-8.