Derrick Stuckly-Brownwood Bulletin

SAN ANGELO – The odds were definitely not in the Brownwood Lions’ favor heading into halftime Friday night at San Angelo Stadium, but the latest chapter in what is turning into a storybook season featured the most dramatic reversal of fortune to date.

Trailing 28-14 at intermission after allowing a staggering 351 yards of total offense in the first two quarters, the Brownwood defense pitched a second-half shutout and gave up just 71 yards, while the Lion offense literally ran wild.

The end result for Brownwood was 27 unanswered points and a thrilling 41-28 come-from-behind area championship victory over the Seminole Indians, as the Lions extended their win streak to six games and reached the 10-win mark in a season for the first time since 2003.

Next up for the Lions (10-2) is a Class 3A Division II, Region I semifinal showdown with the Wimberley Texans (8-4) at 2 p.m. Friday in Copperas Cove.

“I’m as proud of this football team as any I’ve ever coached,” said Lions first-year head coach Bob Shipley. “It would have been easy to fold up the tent and say it’s been a good season, but they weren’t ready to do that and I’m so thankful they didn’t. They came out and fought hard in the second half and won the game by two touchdowns. That’s just amazing.”

Brownwood compiled a season-best 338 yards rushing on 34 carries, led by 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Stehl Ratliff. Derek Longoria chipped in 58 yards and three touchdowns.

“I don’t know how many yards anybody had, I just know it was great seeing guys running up and down the field,” Shipley said. “We weren’t perfect, but we did as good of a job as we’ve done all year running the ball.

“I think it was a record for Coach (offensive coordinator Jeff) Merket for the number of rushes he’s ever called in a game. They weren’t going to let us throw it too much, but our linemen did a great job and our backs did a great job of running.”

Added Ratliff, “I give all the glory to God and my offensive linemen. Those holes, you could drive a truck through them. We bring it every game. We can pass, but we’ve also made some adjustments and we can be a running machine.”

Another outstanding effort from Longoria on special teams is what swung the momentum in favor for the Lions for good.

Longoria blocked the extra point that resulted in a 28-27 Brownwood victory over Graham, and Friday night he got his hands on another kick.

Seminole’s only scoring threat of the second half was a 10-play, 73-yard trek that moved the ball to the Brownwood 12 with 6:54 remaining and the game knotted at 28-all. There the drive stalled, and Reed Layton attempted the go-ahead 29-yard field goal for the Indians.

Longoria, however, sprinted around the right side of the Seminole line, extended his arms and batted down the kick, giving Brownwood what turned out to be insurmountable momentum.

“It was tied so I knew I had to do something,” Longoria said. “The block right wasn’t working so I had to call block left, and it finally worked. I knew we needed something to get pumped up and win the game.”

Following the block, the Lions took over at the Seminole 27 and marched 73 yards in just four plays - all on the ground – to take their first lead. Vance McShan began the drive with a 25-yard quarterback draw, Ratliff followed with a 19-yard gain, then Longoria rumbled 24 yards down to the 5. On the next play, Longoria stormed into the end zone to give Brownwood a 35-28 edge with 5:59 remaining.

On Seminole’s ensuing possession, the Indians tried a desperation fake punt from their own 2, but punter Andrew Peterson’s pass was intercepted and returned 13 yards for a touchdown by Logan Gough.

Luke Chastain added an interception on Seminole’s next drive to cap a remarkable defensive turnaround for the Lions.       

“Our defensive coaches made some great adjustments,” Shipley said. “We started pressing their receivers and not giving them free releases and obviously that made a big difference.”

Added Longoria, “We went into the locker room at halftime and the coaches gave us new plays and changed the way we lined up on defense. It was the perfect game plan. We shut them out.”

Down by two touchdowns at halftime, the Lions wasted little time in turning the tide. Following a kick return to the Seminole 48 by Dillon Ellis, Ratliff darted through the Indian defense for a 52-yard touchdown on the first snap of the third period to cut the deficit to 28-21.

“Coach Shipley came in at halftime and said that we were a second-half team,” Ratliff said. “He told us that we’ve proved it all season, let’s prove it again. The linemen, all the backs and all the receivers, we made a statement that we were going to bust it and we did.”

The Lions did not pull even until the first snap of the fourth period as Brownwood capped a six-play, 49-yard drive when Longoria scored on a 3-yard counter, which made the score 28-all after Ellis’ PAT.

“The counter was unbelievable. It worked every time,” Longoria said. “The lineman were blocking unbelievably. It was the perfect set up.”

The first half was a nightmare defensively for the Lions as Seminole scored on its first four possessions – drives that covered 66, 85, 88 and 76 yards. Quarterback Michael Navarro completed 12-of-15 passes for 211 yards and rushed for 60 yards in the first half. Navarro finished the game with 280 passing yards and an interception, and netted just 24 yards rushing after being sacked a handful of times in the second half.

Trailing 7-0 early, the Lions answered with an eight-play, 68-yard drive that ended on a 3-yard Ratliff run.

Seminole tallied the next two touchdowns before Longoria scored on an 8-yard run with 8:46 left in the first half to trim the deficit to 21-14.

The Indians tacked on a final touchdown with 4:14 left in the second period on a 5-yard Chago Gomez run, but Seminole never reached the end zone again.

“Seminole played really hard and we knew they were going to coming in,” Shipley said. “They’ve got a really good football team and they had a great game plan. The advantage was theirs the first half, but our coaches made adjustments and our kids had the never say die attitude. The fans were also really behind us, and that made a huge difference.”

Added Longoria, “We’re going to keep fighting and we’re never going to give up. I tell all my teammates that and they tell me the same thing. We’re never going to give up and we’re never going to quit fighting.”