SNYDER — The Brownwood Lions withstood an early barrage from the Snyder Tigers, then went on to tally the final 49 points — thanks in part to seven takeaways — en route to a 63-17 victory in the District 3-4A Division I and regular season finale Friday night.
With the win, the 3-4A runner-up Lions (5-3, 3-1) will face 4-4A third-seed Sanger (6-4, 3-2) —a 58-31 Week 11 loser to Decatur — Friday night in Weatherford in Class 4A Division I Region I bi-district play action.
The Lions found themselves in a 10-0 hole against Snyder (1-7, 1-3) just 2:18 into the contest thanks to a pair of early turnovers, as Brownwood gave the ball away three times overall — all in the first half.
“I kept telling myself to keep your composure so the kids will keep their composure and they did,” said Lions first-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “For it to end up the way it did you never would have thought we were down 10-0, so that’s a credit to our guys.”
On the third snap of the game, Jaden Samaniego returned an interception 10 yards for a Snyder score then, after the Lions lost an option pitch on the ensuing drive, Jarrett Reneau booted a 22-yard field goal to give the Tigers a double-digit cushion.
The Lions’ third possession came up a yard short of the goal line on a failed fourth and goal rush, but Brownwood’s offense soon found its rhythm. Brownwood finished with 426 total yards, including 251 rushing, behind the blocking of Liam McCraw, Blaize Infinger, Colby Coppic, Carson Benedict and Wyatt Jacobs.
The Lions finally reached the end zone with 32 seconds left in the opening quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback McLane Moore, who also completed 6 of 11 passes for 175 yards with three scores. Moore’s run capped a seven-play, 47-yard trek after a 30-yard Snyder punt.
The first of Brownwood’s seven takeaways set up the go-ahead touchdown as Hunter Mares — who recovered three fumbles and intercepted a pass — pounced on a loose ball at the Snyder 38.
A 37-yard carry by Jeremy Brown set up the first of three touchdown runs for Harley Price, who finished with a season-high 145 yards on the ground. Price’s 1-yard dive pushed Brownwood in front, 14-10, with 10:11 left before halftime.
Snyder regained a 17-14 edge with 4:12 left in the half thanks to a blocked punt, coupled with a personal foul against the Lions — one of 10 penalties for 115 yards — after a tackle for loss on a third and long, which prolonged the drive. Christopher Depaz scored on a 2-yard carry, but the Tigers never reached the end zone again.
The Lions grabbed the lead for good, 21-17, with 2:40 left in the second period on a 20-yard scoring toss from Moore to tight end Rylan Reagan.
The two teams traded turnovers on the next two snaps, then three plays later Hunter Leonard picked off a Reneau pass at the Snyder 17 with 44 seconds left to set up the Lions’ final points of the opening half. Following a 16-yard jailbreak screen from Moore to Corleone Pressley — who finished with a team-high three grabs for 65 yards — Price’s second 1-yard plunge with 25 seconds left increased Brownwood’s halftime lead to 28-17.
“McLane had a rocky start but he was able to come back and turn it around and make some good throws,” Maxfield said. “It’s also really good to see Harley get into a groove the last two weeks.”
Coming out of the halftime locker room, Brownwood dominated the third period with a trio of touchdowns that stretched the advantage to 49-17.
The Lions defense — which yielded just 178 total yards Friday and has created 15 turnovers over the last three contests — stuffed Snyder on a fourth and 1 at the Tiger 44 just 1:49 into the second half.
“Going into the playoffs with the defense playing the way it is gives the whole team confidence,” Maxfield said. “We just have to keep going. If you win the turnover margin, you’re going to put yourself in pretty good shape.”
Two plays later, Moore connected with Blaine Hughes on a 45-yard jailbreak screen as the Lions increased the lead to 35-17.
Snyder’s next drive ended in its fourth turnover as Devon Jefferson recovered a fumble to set up the Lions at the Tiger 37. A penalty didn’t deter the Lions as Moore floated his second 45-yard scoring toss to Brown, as Brownwood’s lead stood at 42-17 with 7:42 left in the third.
“Our o-line did a great job and the receivers made plays after they caught it, one move and gone,” Moore said. “I always want to do more, but it was a pretty good night.”
Brownwood’s next possession covered 44 yards in five plays as Price found the end zone for the third time from 13 yards out to boost the advantage to 49-17 with 4:13 left in the third.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a game like this, but this feels great,” Price said. “I feel like I’m back to my old self again. The line came up clutch. I love those guys and they work their butts off every day.”
On the first snap of the fourth period, Xavier Armenta — who rushed for 67 yards on just five carries — scored from 5 yards out to push the lead to 56-17, as the 72-yard scoring drive was set up by a Mares interception.
The Lions capped the scoring with 8:12 left on a 67-yard pick six by Caydon Vara, who weaved his way through Tiger players after intercepting back-up quarterback Logan Greene.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Lions coming out of Friday’s victory is injuries, as leading rusher Gavin Jefferson went down on the first snap and did not return.
“We’re a little banged up, more than we have been all year,” Maxfield said. “We just need to get some guys healed and ready to go. Gavin is going to be fine, we were just being cautious. With him and Harley as a 1-2 punch, we’ll be facing a formidable opponent so we’ll need everybody.”