LAMPASAS — Brownwood coach Sammy Burnett knew there’d be some growing pains with a young team this fall.
Playing Lampasas — one of the favorites in Class 4A Division I — to open the year, those growing pains arrived early.
The Lions produced several big plays on offense, but they didn’t have any answer for the Badgers on defense during a 55-23 loss in the season opener at Badger Field.
"Tip of my hat to them, they beat us tonight," Burnett said. "We got some young kids on the field that just got a dose of what it’s like to play on Friday night. They’re either going to grow and get there, or we’re going to switch some seats around on that bus. We’re going to get right, I promise you that. But if you want to play at that level, we just found out what we’re going to have to do. And I think we can, to be honest."
Senior running back Royshad Henderson had a big game with a 70-yard touchdown run and 55-yard scoring reception, and the Lions offense produced five plays of at least 30 yards. But Lampasas ran for more than 450 yards, had 562 yards of total offense and returned a kickoff for a score.
"We lost all three phases of the game," Burnett said. "We let them return a kickoff, gave them a big play on defense and didn’t find a way to get off the field. And on offense we missed some opportunities."
Still, Brownwood had the ball inside the Lampasas 10 midway through the third quarter with a chance to cut its deficit to 42-28, but it turned the ball over on downs at the 2 and the Badgers carried all the momentum after that.
"We got in the red zone twice in the second half and only came away with three points, and that’s on the coaching staff," Burnett said. "We were having issues getting kids in the right spot, and I’ll take the blame for that. We’re a family, it’s all our fault. But when we get in the red zone, we need to score."
The teams combined for eight touchdowns in the first half as the Lions (0-1) never led in the contest.
Jack Jerome — who paced the Badgers with 199 yards on the ground — sprinted 71 yards to open the scoring for Lampasas (1-0), with Henderson answering for Brownwood on his 70-yard jaunt.
Case Brister plunged in from the 1 for the Badgers a short time later, then Henderson recorded his second big play on the night, juking a defender and doing most of the work on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Blaize Espinoza.
Ace Whitehead, beginning his third year starting at quarterback for the Badgers, reached the end zone for the first time this season on a 4-yard run midway through the second quarter, with Brister’s 19-yard scamper minutes later putting Lampasas ahead 28-13.
Jason Jackson pulled down an 18-yard scoring strike from Espinoza — who threw for 184 yards — late in the first half for the Lions’ final touchdown.
However, the Badgers quickly responded marching 72 yards in barely more than two minutes, taking a 35-20 lead into the break as Whitehead hit Michael Murray on a TD pass from the 15.
Jerome’s 7-yard touchdown run on Lampasas’ first possession of the second half gave the Badgers their first three-score lead, then when the Lions couldn’t convert on fourth down deep in Badger territory, Whitehead reeled off a 92-yard scoring run a few moments later to put the hosts ahead 48-20.
Brownwood’s only points after halftime came on Junior Martinez's 34-yard field goal, while Brister’s 97-yard kick return rounded out the scoring.
"I was proud of the resilience of some of our seniors for just grinding and playing both ways and on special teams," Burnett said. "I thought we did some good things in the (secondary), but we got a long ways to go. … Those younger kids will have to pick it up because that’s what we got and that’s what we’re going to have to play with."
Henderson ended with 108 yards rushing, with Jackson catching three passes for 65 yards and Dane Johnson making six receptions for 62 yards.
Brownwood hosts Midland Greenwood in week 2.
"We got a lot of bright spots and in the moment of adversity we saw a lot of things that are good," Burnett said. "We saw some things that we needed to see that weren’t good. … You learn from your trials and we’re going to lick our wounds and (get ready for next week)."