Brownwood out of district title hunt after second straight 7-point setback

Big plays in the passing game by Stephenville, coupled with missed opportunities by Brownwood, defined Friday night's “Battle of 377” at Gordon Wood Stadium, as the Yellow Jackets emerged victorious with a 28-21 victory over the Lions.

“I know this one stings a lot, the last two have,” said Lions second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield, whose squad was coming off a 45-38 triple overtime loss at Abilene Wylie in their District 3-4A Division I opener. “But we've preached to our kids going back to the offseason that sometimes life throws you curve balls and you have to deal with it, move on, stay positive about it and be the best you can be. I feel like this group is capable of doing that, and I feel like the best is yet to come.”

Stephenville (5-2, 1-0) quarterback Easton Jones completed four consecutive pass attempts for 226 yards — all touchdowns — in a 6:33 span over the first and second period, which accounted for all the Yellow Jacket points. Jones connected on 16 of 21 passes overall for 390 yards with one interception, as Stephenville amassed 447 total yards.

Brownwood (3-4, 0-2), meanwhile, missed a 40-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and failed to recover a short kick in the second period — which resulted in 14 Stephenville points with touchdowns following on the very next snap. The Lions also dropped what would have been a touchdown pass just before halftime, and mustered only 58 yards of total offense in the final two quarters after generating 222 yards in the opening half.

The loss virtually ends the Lions' hopes of their first district championship since 2010, and Brownwood still has to win at least one of its final two games of the season against Big Spring and Snyder to secure a postseason berth.

“I told the kids after the game that my first experience as a head coach of getting to the state quarterfinals we were the third place team in the district,” Maxfield said. “We just have to reach deep down inside and find what we're made of, and I think we showed that when we got down tonight. But we still need W's to get in the tournament.”

The Lions, who wound up with 280 total yards, struck first on a 44-yard deep slant from Tommy Bowden to Braden Jetton for a 7-0 lead with 7:16 left in the opening period. From that point forward, however, very little went the Lions' way — especially the remainder of the first half.

The Yellow Jackets needed just six plays to answer Brownwood's touchdown, as Jones connected with Krece Nowak on a 17-yard scoring toss with 5:18 left in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 56-yard pass from Jones to Kyle Lindsey, which advanced the ball to the Brownwood 22. Stephenville then converted a third-and-5 for the touchdown.

The Lions' next drive reached the Stephenville 23 where it stalled. Rylan Reagan — whose 45-yard field goal at Wylie last week forced overtime — came on to attempt a 40-yard field goal, which sailed right and left the game tied at 7 with 1:49 to go in the opening stanza.

On the very next play, Jones hooked up with Kade Averhoff on a 77-yard slant for a touchdown and a 14-7 Yellow Jacket lead. Averhoff eluded a tackle attempt by Tristin Revada near midfield, which in turn allowed Jones to record his second scoring toss in as many attempts.

Brownwood reached midfield on its next drive before being forced to punt and pinning the Yellow Jackets on their own 8. But for the third pass play in row, Jones connected with Blake Aragon, who shook off Lion defender Marcus Mosley for a 92-yard catch and run to the end zone.

Down 21-7, the troubles continued for Brownwood as no one fielded Stephenville's short kick off, which eventually landed in the arms of a Yellow Jacket. On the next play from the Lion 40, Jones found Lindsey on a 40-yard scoring toss — the fourth in as many throws — to push the Yellow Jackets in front, 28-7, with 10:45 to go in the first half.

“That was the difference, those four pass plays in a row,” Maxfield said. “That was a big momentum swing. It seemed like he had all day to throw it there for a five or six minute stretch and he was hitting them on the money. A couple of times we had them and just let them go. Besides the passes we went to sleep on there in the second quarter, we really shut them down. And in the second half we really didn't give them anything.”

Brownwood was able to close the gap to 28-14 with 6:08 left in the first half as the Lions marched 80 yards in 11 plays — converting a pair of fourth-and-2s along the way — as Gavin Jefferson scored from 18 yards out on the second fourth-down conversion of the possession. The Lions moved into scoring position thanks to a 30-yard connection from Bowden to A.J. McCarty, and Jefferson ran for 9 yards on an earlier fourth down call.

“Gavin ran the best he's run all year tonight,” Maxfield said.

After a Brownwood defensive stop, the Lions regained possession at their own 35 and marched to the Stephenville 25. Facing second-and-6 with just under 30 seconds left, Bowden scrambled into the clear and fired a pass to the front right corner of the end zone, but Hunter Leonard was unable to corral the catch.

Two plays later, on fourth-and-5, Bowden was dropped for a 26-yard loss that ended the Lions' scoring threat — and the first half.

“The touchdown right before the half would have been huge,” Maxfield said. “That, and the field goal, that's 10 points and enough to win the game. Our kids play hard, we just didn't play as clean as we needed to. We had a few mental breakdowns, but we'll be fine. We're just going to keep on plugging.”

After giving up 319 yards in the first half — 318 through the air — the Lions yielded just 128 over the final two quarters. But the Brownwood offense produced just 58 yards, with the only points being the result a 48-yard interception return by Mosley to the Stephenville 7. Two plays later, Jefferson scored on a 3-yard carry to close the gap to 28-21 with 11:01 left.

“We got some momentum in the second half with the interception and the touchdown, we just couldn't punch another one in,” said Maxfield said.

Twice in the second half the Lions started possessions at the midfield. The first resulted in 2 yards on three rushing plays and a punt. The second featured back-to-back illegal procedures as Brownwood punted the ball away on a fourth-and-12 without picking up a first down.

“We just couldn't find a way to get any consistency on offense there in the second half,” Maxfield said. “Stephenville has a great defense, and we weren't as clean as we've been in games earlier this year, with the false starts and what not. When we got behind the chains they heated us up and Tommy didn't have time to get a lot stuff off. It was open, but we didn't have time to get it off.”

Despite Nowak rushing for just 33 of Stephenville's 57 yards on the ground, the Yellow Jackets were able to chew the final 4:16 off the clock. A facemask call against the Lions — one of eight flags for 55 yards — on a second-and-13 extended the drive, then Jones connected with Lindsey — who caught six passes for 146 yards — for 17 yards on third-and-seven at the Brownwood 38 with a minute left to ice the victory.

“Everything we gave up tonight is correctable and that's what we'll start trying to do tomorrow morning,” Maxfield said.

For Brownwood, Bowden completed 12 of 21 passes for 148 yards, with Jetton hauling in a team-best four for 62 yards, while Nick Salazar also added four grabs for 29 yards and McCarty finished with two catches for 42 yards. Jefferson rushed for a game-high 89 yards while Cain Kittrell chipped in 20 and Bowden tacked on 17.

The Lions host Class 5A second-year program Alvin Shadow Creek (3-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in non-district action before resuming league play at Big Spring on Nov. 3. Shadow Creek has defeated Silsbee (37-15), Marshall (28-21) and Houston Kinkaid (23-17), with losses to Midland Christian (36-24) and Fort Worth All Saints (46-16) in its most recent game Oct. 13.

“Shadow Creek actually has 29 seniors, so we're going to have our hands full,” Maxfield said. “But I still think playing a quality opponent like Shadow Creek is going to help us get to where we want to go in the playoffs.”

***

Stephenville 28, Lions 21

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Stephenville 14 14 0 0 - 28

Brownwood 7 7 0 7 - 21

SCORING SUMMARY

B: Braden Jetton 44 pass from Tommy Bowden (Zack Smith kick), 7:16, 1st

S: Krece Nowak 17 pass from Easton Jones (Chase Carrillo kick), 5:18, 1st

S: Kade Averhoff 77 pass from Jones (Carrillo kick), 1:35, 1st

S: Blake Aragon 92 pass from Jones (Carrillo kick), 10:57, 2nd

S: Blake Lindsey 40 pass from Jones (Carrillo kick), 10:45, 2nd

B: Gavin Jefferson 18 run (Smith kick), 6:08, 2nd

B: Jefferson 3 run (Smith kick), 11:01, 4th

TEAM STATS

S B

First Downs 11 13

Total Offense 447 280

Rushes-Yards 21-57 40-132

Passing Yards 390 148

C-A-I 16-21-1 12-21-0

Fumbles Lost 0 1

Penalties 10-63 8-55

Punts 6-36.0 6-37.0

PLAYER STATS

Rushing

S: Krece Nowak 16-33, Easton Jones 4-13, Blu Caylor 1-11

B: Gavin Jefferson 20-89, Cain Kittrell 9-20, Tommy Bowden 9-17, A.J. McCarty 2-6.

Passing

S: Jones 16-21-1-390.

B: Bowden 12-21-0-148.

Receiving

S: Kyle Lindsey 6-146, Blake Aragon 3-110, Nowak 3-43, Kade Averhoff 2-88, Gage Graham 2-3.

B: Braden Jetton 4-68, Nick Salazar 4-29, McCarty 2-42, Hunter Leonard 2-9.