Brownwood tallies final two touchdowns to snap two-game slump

After dropping their first two District 3-4A Division I contests by seven points each, the Brownwood Lions stepped away from district competition Friday night and recorded the final two touchdowns to rally past the Alvin Shadow Creek Sharks for a 28-21 non-district victory at Gordon Wood Stadium.

“This was a huge win for the morale of our players, our staff and our community that's seen these kids play their hearts out,” said Lions second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield, whose team evened its overall record at 4-4. “The most satisfying part of this win is we've been in ball games like this and just couldn't get over the hump to get the 'W.' Tonight, we responded every time and then held on at the end to finish it off.

“Hopefully this is just a beginning, that's the way we're looking at it. That's a very talented team that has a lot of speed and we're going to see that down the road. This gives us a spark going into these last two district games that we need to get us where we want to go.”

Knotted at 21 early in the fourth period, the Lions produced the decisive touchdown on a third-and-12 from the Shadow Creek 22 as quarterback Tommy Bowden managed to scramble away from a swarming defense and found Grayson Swanzy wide open near the sideline at the 10. Swanzy made the grab, then fought through a couple of Shadow Creek (3-3) defenders and into the end zone to push Brownwood in front, 28-21, after a Zack Smith extra point with 8:32 remaining.

“I was just scrambling around and Swanzy did a great job on the scramble drill,” said Bowden, who completed 17 of 24 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. “We've been working on that and he did the rest — caught it and got in.”

“I don't even know how Tommy got away, it was incredible,” said Swanzy, who made just his second catch of the season. “Then I see the ball there and I just grabbed it and knew I had to make a play after that. It was good ol' willpower. I wanted to score a touchdown for my team. I'd do anything for these guys, I'll do whatever it takes for us to win, and to see these guys happy like this, it's awesome.”

Maxfield added, “We'd like to take credit for that as coaches, but you can't coach that and you can't defend it. It's just about being a competitor and finding a way to make a play.”

The game-winning touchdown was set up when Shadow Creek, facing fourth-and-19 from its own 40, fell victim to the second punt block of the night by Hunter Leonard, and Dylan Hickey pounced on the ball at the Sharks 20.

“We put on a new punt block this week with me and (Hayden) Tunnel in both A gaps,” Leonard said. “It's just full speed ahead as fast as you can go.”

“We felt like we could get one the way they protect,” Maxfield said of the punt blocks. “Credit goes to our staff for putting a scheme together and the kids for executing it.”

Trailing for the second time, 21-14, midway through the third period, the Lions' longest play of the night resulted in the tying touchdown.

Facing a third-and-6 from their own 27, Bowden hit A.J. McCarty in stride on a slant pattern and the Brownwood sophomore outran the entire Shadow Creek defense to the end zone to complete the 73-yard scoring toss. Smith's extra point evened the score at 21 with 2:46 left in the third period.

“I saw the safety roll down and I knew Tommy could deliver the ball, he's been doing it all year,” McCarty said. “After that I knew it was time for me to run and score a touchdown.”

“We don't have as much team speed as they do, certainly at some positions, but we showed we have a couple of guys that can run a little bit,” Maxfield added.

The Lions finished with 313 total yards — 236 passing and 77 rushing, though the ground game was hampered due to the loss of center Wyatt Jacobs to an injury. Maxfield was uncertain after the game when Jacobs might return.

“The running game wasn't what it was after Wyatt got hurt and we knew we'd have to find different ways to move the ball,” Maxfield said. “Our kids responded and we spread the wealth pretty good.”

Braden Jetton led the Lions with six receptions for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns while McCarty added three grabs for 75 yards with the trip to the end zone. Gavin Jefferson rushed for a team-best 53 yards while McCarty added 31 and Cain Kittrell chipped in 28 yards.

Defensively, the Lions yielded 255 yards — 222 through the air and 33 on the ground on 23 carries — and Kirk Vickers recovered a fumble in the closing moments to give Brownwood its 13th takeaway and a plus-9 edge in turnover differential for the season.

Despite Brownwood boasting an average starting field position of the Shadow Creek 46 on its seven first-half drives, a few missed opportunities and a couple of big plays by the Sharks resulted in a 14-all tie at halftime.

“There were a couple of times we got into red zone and they were so fast on defense that we'd go from second-and-4 to third-and-12,” Maxfield said. “We had some negative plays we need to eliminate, but made some plays when we had to.”

Shadow Creek regained a 21-14 edge when quarterback Jamarian George connected with Rodgers — who caught seven passes for 142 yards — on a 60-yard scoring strike with 6:35 left in the third period. Aside from two long touchdown passes, the Sharks managed just 151 yards on 54 snaps — an average of 2.8 yards per play.

“Our defense played lights out,” Maxfield said. “Their speed was a little bit of a problem for us, but really the only thing we needed to be better at tonight was third and long. It seemed like they converted more third and longs against us than usual.”

“The past few weeks the outcome hasn't been what we wanted, but we still felt like the defense has been on fire,” Leonard added. “We played pretty good tonight, gave up a few big plays, but it was about consistency and wearing them down in the fourth quarter.”

A pair of personal fouls — two of the 18 penalties for 180 yards against Shadow Creek — set the Sharks up with a second-and-44 late in the first half. But George — who completed 15 of 25 passes for 215 yards — connected with Jared Jackson on third-and-30 for a 41-yard touchdown that evened the score at 14 with 1:13 left in the first half.

The first points for Shadow Creek — led by head coach Brad Butler, a former Brownwood Lion quarterback — were the result of a 8-yard touchdown pass from George to Rogers with 11:04 left in the first half. The score was set up when Rylan Reagan's 43-yard field goal attempt was blocked and run back to the Lion 5 by Kelechi Anyalebechi.

McCarty then returned the ensuing kick to the Shadow Creek 46, and three plays later Bowden connected with Jetton, who wrestled the ball away from a Shark defender at the 15, for the tying touchdown. Smith's kick at 9:31 of the second quarter made the score 7-7.

“It was an amazing throw by Tommy,” Jetton said. “He put it right where it needed to be, I just had to make a play on the ball.”

Then, with 3:22 left in the half, Bowden and Jetton hooked up again for a 32-yard touchdown pass that gave Brownwood its first advantage, 14-7.

“I caught the ball and saw that Gavin made a great block on the corner,” Jetton said. “I got past him and made a move on the safety and it was all green from there.”

Next week, Brownwood (4-4, 0-2) resumes district action at winless Big Spring (0-9, 0-3), which suffered a 71-0 loss to Stephenville Friday night.

“We have to be careful because we know where we want to go, but it's going to be one day at a time and one game at a time,” Maxfield said. “We're going to get everybody's best shot, we know that, we just have to take it one step at a time and get better each day.”

•••

Lions 28, Alvin Shadow Creek 21

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Shadow Creek 0 14 7 0 - 21

Brownwood 0 14 7 7 - 28

SCORING SUMMARY

S: Malik Rodgers 8 pass from Jamarian George (T.J. Sanders kick), 11:04, 2nd

B: Braden Jetton 46 pass from Tommy Bowden (Zack Smith kick), 9:31, 2nd

B: Jetton 32 pass from Bowden (Smith kick), 3:22, 3rd

S: Jared Jackson 41 pass from George (Sanders kick), 1:13, 2nd

S: Rodgers 60 pass from George (Sanders kick), 6:35, 3rd

B: A.J. McCarty 73 pass from Bowden (Smith kick), 2:46, 3rd

B: Grayson Swanzy 22 pass from Bowden (Smith kick), 8:32, 4th

TEAM STATS

B S

First Downs 14 10

Total Offense 313 255

Rushes-Yards 35-77 23-33

Passing Yards 236 222

C-A-I 17-24-0 16-33-0

Fumbles Lost 0 1

Penalties 4-40 18-180

Punts 5-34.0 8-29.7

PLAYER STATS

Rushing

B: Gavin Jefferson 17-53, A.J. McCarty 2-31, Cain Kittrell 6-28, Tommy Bowden 10-(-35).

S: Jay’Veon Bell 2-23, Marquez Huland 6-11, Malik Rodgers 1-3, Zion Buckley-Sneed 5-2, Jamarian George 9-(-6).

Passing

B: Bowden 17-24-0-236.

S: George 15-25-0-215, Buckley-Sneed 1-8-0-7.

Receiving

B: Braden Jetton 6-104, Nick Salazar 4-14, McCarty 3-75, Kittrell 2-13, Grayson Swanzy 1-22, Hunter Leonard 1-8.

S: Rodgers 7-142, Jared Jackson 3-57, Axel Cruz 2-3, Bell 1-9, Jahkin Middleton 1-7, Huland 1-4, Ketrick Buckhalter 1-4.