A combination of explosive scoring plays in the first half, and suffocating defense in the second allowed the Brownwood Lions to snap a two-game skid and earn a 29-15 homecoming victory over the Alvarado Indians Friday night at Gordon Wood Stadium.
The Lions (2-2) defense gave up just 204 total yards and limited Alvarado (0-4) to a mere 33 yards after halftime, while Brownwood’s offense scored all three of its touchdowns from at least 30 yards out.
“Any win is huge, and we’ve had four games where we played extremely hard and came up empty in two of them as a result of, in my opinion, penalties and turnovers,” said Lions head coach Chuck Howard. “We were able to limit the penalties tonight and it gave us a chance to be successful and stay in the game. We still had a couple of turnovers and we have to get that corrected, but every victory is huge when you have a young team like we’ve got. We’re getting better each week and as long as we do that, we’re going to have a chance to win.”
Colt Bertrand completed 12 of 18 passes for 244 yards with three touchdowns, while Connor Howard grabbed six receptions for 125 yards and two scores and Rylee Gregory finished with three receptions for 93 yards with a trip to the end zone.
Offensively, the Lions generated 323 total yards as Harley Price chipped in a team-high 75 yards rushing and caught a pair of passes totaling 27 yards.
Brownwood’s defense yielded 182 yards rushing on 46 carries — an average of less than 4 yards per carry — while Alvarado passed for just 22 yards, connecting on 6 of 13 attempts with an interception. The Lions defense also sacked Alvarado quarterback Brayden Ramsey six times.
Alvarado’s two touchdown drives covered a total of 18 yards as, after the Indians failed to convert on fourth-and-short situations in the red zone, the Lions first tossed an interception that was returned to the Brownwood 14, then fumbled at their own 4.
“As many yards as they had, they were able to drive to the length of the field but couldn’t score,” Howard said. “They scored on two short fields off turnovers.”
The Lions’ first two drives of the game netted just 11 yards, no first downs and one turnover. Meanwhile, Alvarado’s initial march lasted 16 plays, covered 78 yards and chewed 7:08 off the clock, but ended when Grant Lewis dragged down Adrian Hendrick for a 6-yard loss on fourth-and goal at the Lion 3.
Just three plays later, Alvarado had the ball back as Bertrand was intercepted by Dustin Abshire, who returned the ball to the Brownwood 14. Three plays after that Austin Morriel scored from 9 yards out, and the Lions were in a 7-0 hole with 1:01 left in the first period.
After a lackluster first seven plays, the Lions set the tone for the rest of the half on the second snap of their ensuing possession. Gregory raced past the Alvarado defense and was in the open field at the Indian 40, where Bertrand dropped a pass into the Lion receiver’s outstretched fingertips and he sprinted the rest of the way for a game-tying 69-yard touchdown. Brownwood needed only 39 seconds to pull even at 7 with 22 ticks left on the first-quarter clock.
“They were loading the box and going straight man and we have a lot of weapons on this team,” Howard said. “I felt like we could beat them on a post route and Rylee ran a great route. It was a great throw and catch and that got us rolling.”
Added Bertrand, “It was definitely a game changer and provided us with a huge momentum shift. Everyone was a little stale at first, but that play happened and the tide of the game completely changed.”
The Lions forced an Alvarado punt on the next possession, then traveled 64 yards in eight plays before seizing their first advantage. A 28-yard run by Price and a 16-yard toss from Bertrand to Gregory ignited the drive and moved the ball to the Indian 20. After a pair of sacks, however, the Lions were staring at fourth-and-20 from the 30. Bertrand threw a fade route to Howard near the goal line, where the Alvarado defender fell down, allowing the Brownwood sophomore receiver to stroll into the end zone. Lewis added the two-point run, and the Lions led 15-7 at the 7:56 mark of the second period.
“I was just trying to make a play on that,” Bertrand said. “I wasn’t looking for Connor, but all the sudden I saw him with a little bit space so I tried to throw it to his back shoulder away from the guy and he made a good play on it.”
Alvarado responded by marching 74 yards in 14 plays, eating 6:01 off the clock, before again failing to convert a fourth-and-short at the Brownwood 7. But the Lions put the ball on the ground on their second snap and the Indians recovered, setting up Morriel’s 4-yard touchdown run and tying two-point conversion with 1:11 left before halftime.
A short kick by Alvarado backfired as Tristan Duque returned the ball to the Indian 43. Two plays later, Bertrand found Howard — who snared the ball with his left hand and galloped to the end zone to complete a 38-yard scoring strike. Lewis added another two-point run, and Brownwood’s lead stood at 23-15 with 31 seconds left before the half.
“That was insane,” Bertrand said of Howard’s second touchdown reception. “I thought I overthrew him and then I saw him come down with it one-handed. That was an unreal catch by an unreal athlete.”
Two plays after the Lions’ touchdown, Aaron Jimenez picked off a Ramsey pass and returned it to the Alvarado 49 with 17 seconds left. Bertrand’s 8-yard toss to Gregory and a 30-yard catch and run by Howard put the Lions at the Alvarado 11 with one second left. Abraham Oviedo drilled a 28-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, as the Lions took a 26-15 lead into halftime.
Oviedo also booted a 34-yard field goal with 3:09 remaining for the only points of the second half.
Alvarado’s first play of the second half was a 20-yard carry by Hendrick, but the Indians managed only 13 yards and one first down the remainder of the contest, as the Lions dominated down the stretch.
As for the second-half defensive improvement, Howard said, “It’s what we weren’t doing in the first half. We were so conscientious of (Hendrick) being so fast that we over-pursued. We had too many guys outside. Our inside backers were outside, our safeties were outside and they were just cutting it back and gashing us. Once we got that corrected we were fine.”
The Lions will attempt to piece together their first win streak of the season as they travel to Burkburnett (1-3) — which suffered a 34-29 home loss to Bridgeport Friday night — next week. Brownwood will then conclude non-district action at Springtown on Friday, Oct. 3.
“It feels good to get this win and hopefully we can get two more and head into district with all the momentum we can,” Bertrand said.
Lions 29, Alvarado 15
Alvarado 7 8 0 0 - 15
Brownwood 7 19 0 3 - 29
A: Austin Morriel 9 run (Mason Robles kick), 1:01, 1st
B: Rylee Gregory 69 pass from Colt Bertrand (Abraham Oviedo kick), 0:22, 1st
B: Connor Howard 30 pass from Bertrand (Grant Lewis run), 7:56, 2nd
A: Morriel 6 run (Morriel run), 1:11, 2nd
B: Howard 38 pass from Bertrand (Lewis run), 0:31, 2nd
B: Oviedo 28 FG, 0:00, 2nd
B: Oviedo 34 FG, 3:09, 4th
First Downs 14 10
Total Offense 204 323
Rushes-Yards 46-182 26-79
Passing Yards 22 244
C-A-I 6-13-1 12-18-1
Fumbles Lost 0 1
Penalties 3-20 7-45
Punts 4-28.0 3-33.0
A: Adrian Hendrick 25-139, Austin Morriel 10-38, Aaron Estes 2-12, Brayden Ramsey 9-(-7). B: Harley Price 14-75, Connor Howard 3-24, Bruce Sterling 1-5, Colt Bertrand 8-(-25).
A: Ramsey 6-13-1-22. B: Bertrand 12-18-1-244.
A: Cres Land 2-6, Estes 1-10, Jax Isclaw 1-5, Braxton Fuller 1-1. B: Howard 6-125, Rylee Gregory 3-93, Price 2-27. Lewis 1-(-1).