HEWITT — A season that started with a state ranking ended without a post season trip for the Brownwood Lions.
Needing either a win or a loss by 10 points or less if University defeated Killeen, neither scenario came to pass as the Midway Panthers steamrolled Brownwood, 36-22, Friday night at Panther Stadium.
The loss was the fourth in the final six games for the Lions (6-4, 2-3), who missed the post season for just the second time in Steve Freeman’s 10 years as head coach.
“Ultimately, it was a real disappointing night,” Freeman said. “I hold myself accountable for how we play, how we respond and how we get things from the practice field to the playing field. We just didn’t get it handled tonight and right now, I’ve got a little bit of a sick feeling inside.”
Midway (5-5, 2-3) advanced to the playoffs due to its win and Killeen’s 35-34 overtime victory over University. The Panthers — who finished tied with the Lions and Killeen (6-4, 2-3) for third place, but knocked off both teams — would have moved on even if University had won, as Midway needed to win by at least 11 points to secure the points tiebreaker.
Midway’s John Hubert rumbled for 213 yards and four touchdowns, which made him the second running back in as many weeks to eclipse 200 yards and find the end zone four times against the Lion defense. The Panthers finished with 302 yards on the ground and 394 yards of total offense, 257 of which came in the second half.
“It took a little while for us to get squared away and get used to the speed of the Hubert kid, but the defense did give us some opportunities,” Freeman said. “We were just unable to capitalize on them and feed the defense.”
Brownwood’s offense turned the ball over four times and mustered just 48 of its 250 total yards after half time. In the Lions’ four losses, they turned the ball over at least three times in each game.
“Any time we’ve been in a turnover mode this year in any capacity it’s been detrimental to us, and tonight that was the case, too,” Freeman said. “Offensively, we were unable to establish a rhythm where the run fed the pass and the pass fed the run. We were never in command of the momentum and the second half just wasn’t good.”
Trailing 21-14 at half time, the tide appeared to turn in the Lions’ favor after the defense made a marvelous goal line stand. With the Panthers facing second-and-goal from the 1, three Hubert runs netted zero yards.
But on first-and-10 from inside the Lion 1, quarterback Casey Pachall was tackled in the end zone for a safety, pushing Midway’s lead to 23-14 with 5:15 left in the third period.
The teams then traded punts four times — with the Lions losing 19 yards on their two possessions — before Midway scored its fourth touchdown.
Hubert scored on a 5-yard run, which capped a six-play, 59-yard march. But Brownwood’s Kenny Vaccaro blocked the extra point and Jason Maldonado scooped up the loose ball and returned it for two points, which left the Panthers ahead by a 29-16 count with 9:33 left in the game.
Brownwood managed a total of just 4 yards on its next three possessions, two of which ended on interceptions by Jacob Hoeffner and Matt Davis.
Davis’ pick with 2:39 left began a six-play, 50-yard scoring drive that ended with a 36-yard Hubert run, which made the score 36-16 with 39 seconds left. The most crucial moment of the drive occurred when the Lions were flagged for 12 men on the field — one of their five penalties for 50 yards. The penalty was called coming out of a time out with Midway lined up to punt the ball away at the Lion 43 with 1:28 remaining.
The Lions tacked on a final touchdown with no time left as Chris Munson — in relief of an injured Pachall, who completed 7-of-24 passes for 126 yards with three interceptions — hit Parker Taylor on a 16-yard scoring toss. Taylor led all Lion receivers with four catches for 71 yards.
Brownwood’s Corey Burr topped the 1,000-yard mark rushing as he finished with 106 yards on 19 carries, but he left the field in an ambulance following the game with an undisclosed injury.
Midway — which was embarrassed, 60-10, by the Lions at Gordon Wood Stadium last season — never trailed and owned a two-touchdown advantage less than eight minutes into the game.
The Panthers scored on their first two possessions of the game, marching 55 yards both times before Hubert capped the marches with long touchdown runs.
Hubert’s 40-yard sprint at the 6:44 mark of the first quarter ended a five-play drive that took 1:41 off the clock.
After Brownwood went three-and-out on its second possession, Hubert reeled off a 32-yard sprint to complete a three-play scoring drive as Midway took a 14-0 lead with 4:46 left in the first period.
Brownwood responded by cutting the deficit in half on its third possession, moving 59 yards in 10 plays. Pachall finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with six seconds left in the first period, leaving the Lions behind 14-7.
The Lions’ next drive lasted just one snap as a busted play resulted in Pachall eventually being stripped of the ball, which was scooped by Marc Martinez and returned 38 yards for a Midway touchdown.
Trailing 21-7 with 11:01 left in the first half, the Lions pieced together a 12-play, 69-yard drive the resulted in Brownwood’s second touchdown. Facing fourth-and-goal from the Midway 5, Munson scored on a fake field goal with 5:48 left in the half, running the ball in from his holder’s position.
Brownwood had a chance to pull even before half time as it marched to the Midway 5, but Pachall was picked off by Patrick Murphy in the end zone with 10 seconds left in the first half.
The Lions can start looking ahead to a return to Class 3A, which is likely to happen when the UIL realigns in February. Brownwood turned in an enrollment number of 901 in October, and the Class 4A cut off was at 950 two years ago.
“Right this minute it’s hard for me to really think about that,” Freeman said. “I’m just proud of the way the program has been consistent and resilient and continued to find its way. We’ll find all that out in February.”
Midway 36, Brownwood 16
Brownwood 7 7 0 8 - 22
Midway 14 7 2 13 - 36
M — John Hubert 40 run (Ryan Kelly kick), 6:44, 1st
M — Hubert 32 run (Kelly kick), 4:46, 1st
B — Casey Pachall 5 run (Jarrod Howey kick), 0:06, 1st
M — Marc Martinez 38 fumble return (Kelly kick), 10:49, 2nd
B — Chris Munson 5 run (Howey kick), 5:48, 2nd
B …?? Safety: Pachall tackled in end zone, 5:15, 3rd
M …?? Hubert 5 run (kick blocked, returned for 2 points by Jason Maldonado), 9:33, 4th
M — Hubert 36 run (Kelly kick), 0:39, 4th
B — Parker Taylor 16 pass from Munson (pass failed), 0:00, 4th
First Downs 17 14
Total Yards 250 394
Rushes-Yards 38-108 42-302
Passing Yards 142 92
C-A-I 8-25-3 4-11-0
Penalties 5-50 4-40
Punts 6-41.7 5-33.2
Fumbles/Lost 1/1 0/0
Rushing — B: Corey Burr 19-106, Zach Green 5-8, Chris Munson 1-5, Casey Pachall 13-(-11). M: John Hubert 24-213, John Williams 7-62, Todd Glaesmann 11-27.
Passing — B: Pachall 7-24-3-126, Munson 1-1-0-16. M: Glaesmann 4-11-0-92.
Receiving — B: Parker Taylor 4-71, Munson 1-23, Jarrod Howey 1-21, Shelby Miller 1-15, Jacob Allen 1-12. M: Trey Graham 3-85, Ahmad Dixon 1-7.