ABILENE - Looking for their first district championship since 2003, the Brownwood Lions’ path to the title just got a lot tougher.
Two of Brownwood’s four turnovers occurred in the fourth period, which aided the No. 7 Abilene Wylie Bulldogs’ comeback as they wrestled away a 31-28 victory in the District 2-3A opener at Bulldog Stadium.
Despite out gaining the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-0) in total yardage, 409-357, the Lions (2-4, 0-1) lost the ball twice in the fourth period, which resulted in 10 of Wylie’s 17 fourth-quarter points.
“There’s never anything good with a turnover, and obviously tonight some seemed to be worse than others,” said Lions head coach Steve Freeman. “We had opportunities to take control of the game tonight, we just simply didn’t get it done. And that’s my job, to get that done.”
The Lions owned a 21-14 lead heading into the fourth period, but things began to go south 1:18 into the final stanza when Brownwood quarterback Casey Pachall was sacked and coughed up the ball at the Lion 20.
Wylie needed just four plays to travel those 20 yards as quarterback Matt Preston, who rushed for a team-high 119 yards, scored on a 9-yard bootleg to tie the game at 21-all with 10:32 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Rashad Deal dribbled the ball into the end zone, then tried to return it, but was taken down at the Brownwood 4. The Lions were able to move the ball out to the 21, but were then forced to punt.
Wylie got the ball back at its own 34, then marched 66 yards in seven plays and 3:05 to regain the lead, 28-21, with 3:48 left.
The drive was highlighted by rushes of 24 and 26 yards by Kris Gilmore, who was injured on the last play of the first half and was using crutches to get around early in the third period. Gilmore finished with 78 yards on 12 carries, and 64 yards came after intermission.
Gilmore’s 24-yard run set up back-up quarterback Jackson Minor for a 2-yard plunge that resulted in Wylie’s final touchdown.
Trailing 28-21, Brownwood’s next drive ended on the first play as Pachall - who completed 17-of-32 passes for 273 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions - was picked off for the second time. Michael Seidensticker returned the pick 25 yards to the Lion 15.
Wylie then milked the clock and set up Austin Gray for a 27-yard field goal, which increased the Bulldog lead to 31-21 with 2:31 left.
The Lions took the ensuing drive 80 yards in eight plays, with Pachall completing 5-of-7 passes for 77 yards, before a 3-yard run by the quarterback cut the deficit to 31-28 with 1:08 left.
Wylie was able to recover the onside kick, however, and ran out the clock.
Tied at 14 at halftime, the Lions took a 21-14 advantage with 4:01 left in the third period. Deal ran in from 2 yards out to cap an eight-play, 81-yard march. A 38-yard toss from Pachall to Shelby Miller, who caught six passes for 117 yards, moved the ball into the red zone.
Brownwood also owned the first lead of the opening half as the Lions moved 76 yards in just six plays before Pachall scrambled in from 4 yards out to give Brownwood a 7-0 edge at the 9:25 mark of the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 43-yard pass from Pachall to Bubby Harrell the play prior to Pachall’s scoring run.
Wylie answered in just four plays as Gilmore scored on a 6-yard run to even the score at 7-all with 7:38 left in the first period. The drive began with a 62-yard scamper by Preston, who moved the ball to the Brownwood 18.
The Bulldogs forged in front for the first time, 14-7, at the 8:35 mark of the second period after an 11-play Brownwood drive stalled at the Wylie 23 thanks to a pair of penalties. A 17-yard Levi Perez run down the Bulldog 10 was negated by a holding penalty, while an illegal procedure also side tracked the drive.
Two plays after a Miller punt bounded into the end zone, Wylie struck on a 79-yard screen pass from Preston to Gilmore. Gilmore appeared as though he would be tackled for little or no gain, but weaved through a couple of Brownwood defenders and raced to the end zone.
Brownwood dodged a bullet when Pachall fumbled at the Lion 39 while trying to elude the Bulldog pass rush. Wylie’s Josh Light pounced on the loose ball, but the Bulldogs were unable to gain a first down. Facing a 4th-and-1 at the Lion 30, Gilmore was stuffed by Tracer Skelton and Hayden Hewitt.
The Lions then turned around and traveled 70 yards in 3:31 before Pachall hooked up Travis Holleman on a 9-yard scoring toss that evened the score at 14-all with 1:08 left until halftime.
Prior to Wylie’s tying touchdown in the fourth period, Brownwood held the Bulldogs without a point for six straight possessions.
“The defense has weathered a lot of storms, and this is what we’ve been waiting for and looking for,” Freeman said. “They were flying around and breaking up plays. The biggest thing is the defense was putting the ball back in our hands. The down side is we weren’t doing as well with the football as we have the last several weeks.”
No. 7 Abilene Wylie 31,
Brownwood 7 7 7 7 - 28
Ab. Wylie 7 7 0 17 - 31
B — Casey Pachall 4 run (Shelby Miller kick), 9:25, 1st
W — Kris Gilmore 6 run (Austin Gray kick), 7:38, 1st
W — Gilmore 79 pass from Matt Preston (Gray kick), 8:35, 2nd
B — Travis Holleman 9 pass from Pachall (Miller kick), 1:08, 2nd
B — Rashad Deal 2 run (Miller kick), 4:00, 3rd
W — Preston 9 run (Gray kick), 9:04, 4th
W — Jackson Minor 2 run (Gray kick), 3:48, 4th
W — Gray 27 FG, 2:31, 4th
B — Pachall 3 run (Miller kick), 1:08, 4th
First Downs 27 13
Total Yards 409 357
Rushes-Yards 37-136 40-255
Passing Yards 273 102
C-A-I 17-32-2 4-10-1
Penalties 4-40 5-50
Punts 4-45.5 4-37.0
Fumbles/Lost 4/2 1/0
Rushing — B: Derek Longoria 6-50, Rashad Deal 8-49, Casey Pachall 20-29, Levi Perez 3-8. W: Matt Preston 11-119, Kris Gilmore 12-78, Cory Ramos 11-57, Jon Miller 2-6, Chance Perkins 1-1, Jackson Minor 4-(-6).
Passing — B: Pachall 17-32-2-273. W: Preston 4-9-1-102, Minor 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — B: Parker Taylor 7-70, Shelby Miller 6-117, Travis Holleman 3-43, Bubby Harrell 1-43. W: Gilmore 1-79, Luke Howell 1-9, Michael Seidensticker 1-9, Ramos 1-5.