GRAHAM - If the Brownwood Lions have any hope of making the postseason, a drastic turnaround will have to occur during the final two weeks of the season.
A 41-point first-half performance was overshadowed by six consecutive turnovers to end the game, coupled with another miserable night defensively, as the Graham Steers stunned the Lions, 59-41, for just their second win of the season Friday at Newton Field.
The loss dropped the Lions to 1-2 in district (3-5 overall) with a pair of 2-3A games remaining against Sweetwater (7-1, 3-0) in the home finale next week, and at Snyder (5-3, 1-2) in the regular season finale Nov. 7. Graham (2-6, 1-2), meanwhile, pulled into a tie for third place with the Lions and Snyder.
Graham tallied the final 27 points and finished with 636 yards of total offense — 335 rushing and 301 passing. The Lions chalked up 542 total yards with 315 coming through the air and 227 coming on the ground.
Steers quarterback Case McCoy, the brother of University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, completed 15-of-20 passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns, while rushing for 56 yards and a score. Dylan Fulford grabbed six receptions for 193 yards with two scores, while Cameron Bailey rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns and Cody Parrilla added 88 yards and three scores.
The Lions received a season-high 110 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Rashad Deal, but only 5 of those yards came after halftime. Casey Pachall completed 22-of-36 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, but was picked off four times and fumbled once. Travis Holleman led the way with eight receptions for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“We’ve been down this road a few times these last few years, but tonight was as difficult as it’s been coming out of the (postgame) huddle in the end zone,” said Lions head coach Steve Freeman. “At the same time, I believe in what I’m telling these kids. There’s been a lot of great life lessons learned in this program, with seven state championships, but there were also some lessons learned tonight. Some people in this situation tonight would be looking to quit or for a place to hide, but we’re not. There will be a great response from this football team after tonight.”
The turning point in the game occurred on a play that wasn’t.
Clinging to a 41-39 halftime lead, Brownwood turned the ball on its first possession of the second half — its second straight giveaway. But Lion defensive end Ryan Elliott scooped up what appeared to be the Steers’ only turnover early in the third period. The fumble was reversed, however, due to an inadvertent whistle.
Graham continued the 66-yard, 11-play drive, which ended with a 6-yard touchdown run by McCoy that gave the Steers the lead for good, 45-41, with 5:48 left in the third period.
Brownwood’s next drive ended at the Graham 10 when Pachall was hit while trying to pitch the ball and Jordan Dies recovered.
The Steers then traveled 90 yards in 11 plays before Chris Harrison scored on a 1-yard run with 10:28 left to give Graham a 52-41 lead.
The Lions moved down to the Graham 13 on their next possession before McCoy picked off Pachall in the end zone.
Graham then drove 93 yards in 13 plays before Bailey sealed Brownwood’s fate on an 8-yard touchdown run that made the score 59-41 with 3:05 left.
“Without looking at the stats or the placements, most of the turnover percentage was inside the red zone as we were going in for the score,” Freeman said. “In the second half we were the ones who stopped us.”
Brownwood jumped out to a 28-19 lead after one quarter as it scored on 4-of-5 possessions in the opening period.
Down 7-0, the Lions answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Pachall to Holleman. The duo then hooked up again from 26 yards out to give Brownwood its first lead, 14-13, with 8:28 left in the quarter.
Pachall’s 1-yard plunge put the Lions in front, 21-13, while Deal’s 18-yard scamper closed the scoring in the first period.
Graham tallied three first-period touchdowns — passes of 64 and 56 yards from McCoy to Fulford, along with a 27-yard Parrilla run — but missed two extra-points.
Deal scored twice more in the second period on runs of 4 and 22 yards, but Graham answered with touchdown runs of 3 and 6 yards by Parrilla. Parrilla’s score with 1:03 left in the first half brought the Steers within two points.
The Lions quickly moved to the Steer 26, but Pachall was hit on a pass attempt and the ball floated and was intercepted.
That play, with 20 seconds left in the first half, resumed a nasty trend for the Lions, who in three district games have turned the ball over 11 times.
“I don’t know why fate takes the course it does,” Freeman said. “They didn’t make a lot of adjustments and played pretty much their base defense. They were bringing some heat from different places and we struggled with that some, but we were still able to move the football. Then we got into scoring position and we weren’t able to get in the end zone before the turnovers.”