SAN ANTONIO - The No. 7 Brownwood Lions displayed their dominance early, then overcame bouts of inconsistency to notch a 35-24 victory over the Burnet Bulldogs Saturday at the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Kickoff Classic at the Alamodome.
The Lions evened their all-time record at the Classic to 1-1, avenging a 2002 season-opening 35-32 defeat to Fort Worth Dunbar.
Quarterback Casey Pachall was named player of the game after throwing four touchdown passes and completing 14-of-21 attempts for 175 yards. Three of his scoring tosses came in the opening period, as the Lions jumped out to a 21-0 lead and were never threatened.
“It’s a great honor,” said Pachall, who has verbally committed to TCU, of receiving the MVP award. “We had a great game plan. They did exactly what we thought, and we took advantage of it. As the game progressed, they started to pick up a few things and we had to change some stuff, but we still had a good outcome.”
Brownwood (1-0), which finished with 360 yards of total offense, was on the verge of running Burnet (0-1) off the field in the first half, but a pair of lost fumbles and a missed field goal to close the half allowed the Bulldogs to remain within 18 points, 21-3, at intermission.
“The first part of the first half was real good, but we can’t get complacent with success,” said Lions head coach Steve Freeman. “We left at least two scores out there, but our defense did a good job of holding its own.”
Burnet closed the gap to 11 points, 21-10, midway through the third period, but the Brownwood defense forced its only turnover - a Bubby Harrell interception - which swung the momentum back in the Lions’ favor as they went on to build a 25-point cushion.
A pair of Burnet touchdowns just 52 seconds apart in the final four minutes made the final score closer than the play on the field indicated.
Brownwood took the game’s opening possession 77 yards in six plays to grab a 7-0 lead just 2:16 into the contest.
A 24-yard reception by Shelby Miller - who finished with a team-high five catches for 77 yards - on the Lions’ initial third down conversion attempt moved the ball to midfield.
Following runs of 19 yards by Rashad Deal and 7 yards by Levi Perez, Pachall connected with Parker Taylor on a 24-yard scoring reception, the first of Taylor’s two touchdown catches.
“Casey and I have been playing catch for five years, and all of us are like brothers,” Taylor said.
The Lions’ second drive started on the Burnet 49, and a 17-yard toss to Miller set up Pachall’s 21-yard scoring strike to Travis Holleman. The touchdown occurred at the 6:21 mark of the first period, and allowed the Lions to surpass their point total from last year’s 12-9 win at Burnet.
Brownwood’s final drive of the opening period began on the Lions’ 41 and lasted just six plays. Pachall hit Derek Longoria for a 20-yard gain to start the march, while Perez added a 12-yard shuffle. Taylor then made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone from 8 yards out, tapping his toes inbounds on the final snap of the quarter.
“I think I might have got lucky with the ref not looking,” Taylor said.
Poised to take a four-touchdown lead midway through the second period, the Lions’ first miscue resulted in a fumble at the Burnet 29. The Bulldogs capitalized by moving to the Brownwood 7 before the Lions’ defense stiffened. Burnet settled for a 24-yard Tyler Clark field goal at the 6:06 mark of the second period.
The Lions’ next possession moved inside the Burnet 20, but a Josh Berrera 92-yard interception return of a Pachall pass was negated by an offsides call. With a second chance at points, Miller’s 33-yard field goal attempt came up short, and the Lions’ lead remained 18 points.
Burnet took the opening drive of the second half and moved 57 yards in six plays - with 54 yards coming through the air - before quarterback Dillon Chaffin connected with Hunter Ullman on a 9-yard touchdown pass to trim the Lions’ lead to 21-10 at the 9:42 mark of the third period.
The Lions’ first drive of the second half stalled, but Harrell’s interception of Chaffin’s first pass attempt since his first touchdown set up the Lions at the Burnet 4. Playing in the middle of a zone, Harrell looked as if he was the intended target at the Burnet 24, and he raced 20 yards after the pick.
Two plays later, Pachall and Holleman again hooked up on a 6-yard scoring toss, pushing the Lions’ lead back to 18 points, 28-10, with 8:06 left in the third period.
Brownwood’s next snap turned into a coming out party for running back Tyler Harth, as the sophomore took his first varsity carry 78 yards for a touchdown and a 35-10 Lions’ lead with 4:36 left in the third period.
“I just had great blocking,” Harth said. “I’ve been working on my cuts all week in practice. I just cut and the blocking was there. I saw the end zone and ran to it. That meant a lot to me.”
Burnet tacked on two touchdowns in the final four minutes, but Taylor recovered his second onside kick with 2:46 remaining to seal the victory for the Lions.
“The first one I got hit in the head, and the second I got a helmet to the back, but I should be good,” Taylor said.
The Lions will open the home portion of their schedule Friday when they host No. 3 La Vega at 7:30 p.m. at Gordon Wood Stadium.