Brownwood outscored 23-6 in second half of season-ending loss
ABILENE — “We had all the momentum and it can change in a heartbeat, and we found that out tonight.”
Brownwood second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield's statement summed up what turned out to be a tale of two halves, as the Lions were unable to maintain the momentum established in the first half as the Wichita Falls Hirschi Huskies rallied for a 44-34 victory in Class A Division I Region I bi-district playoff action Friday night at Abilene Christian University's new Wildcat Stadium.
Leading 28-21 at halftime, and stuffing Hirschi on its first possession of the second half at the Huskies 45 yard line, Brownwood advanced to the Hirschi 4 looking to extend its advantage to a pair of touchdowns.
Faced with a fourth-and-goal at the Hirschi 5, the Lions passed on a 22-yard field goal attempt that could have increased the advantage to double figures at the midway point of the third period. Instead, the Lions opted to go for the jugular — but the play backfired and Brownwood's momentum vanished. A direct snap to Gavin Jefferson sailed over the running back's head and he was tackled for a 13-yard loss, ending the Lions' scoring threat while beginning an unwelcome stretch of misfortune.
“We just didn't execute the play,” Maxfield said. “We felt like the play was there. We were going for the throat because we knew how explosive they were on offense, and we knew we had to get points when we could. We just made a bad mistake at the wrong time. I'm not saying if we score right there it puts the nail in the coffin, but we'd be feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
As for possibly attempting a field goal, Maxfield said, “We thought about a field goal, but we felt like we had the right play called and that was the decision we went with.”
Hirschi followed with an 82-yard, eight-play drive that was capped by an 11-yard touchdown run by quarterback Martez V'rana as the Huskies drew even at 28 with 2:18 left in the third period.
Brownwood went three and out on the ensuing drive, but that wasn't the worst part of the possession. Dropped back in punt formation, Rylan Reagan's kick was blocked by Ezekiel Holmes, who scooped up the ball and raced 39 yards to the end zone to give the Huskies the lead for good, 35-28, with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.
“The blocked punt just threw gas on the fire and got their chili hot,” Maxfield said. “Against a good team like that, you can't make critical errors.”
Though the Lions finished with 32 first downs and 480 yards of total offense — with 304 coming in the first half alone — Brownwood mustered just 37 yards over four possessions between the ill-fated fourth down attempt and the last touchdown drive of the game in the final two-plus minutes.
“The first drive of the second half we still had the momentum, but when they got the momentum their defense cranked it up,” Maxfield said. “We had them on their heels in the first half and when they got a little confidence and a little momentum they caught fire on defense.”
With the Brownwood offense sputtering, Hirschi was able to pad its lead to 41-28 after the Lions failed to convert a fourth-and-4 from midfield with 7:56 left. Four plays later, Daimarqua Foster scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 25-yard scamper with 6:01 to go. Foster, who entered the game with 2,483 rushing yards — including a 580-yard effort against Decatur — rushed for 276 yards and three scores on 21 carries, and added another touchdown on a punt return.
“Foster is the real deal, he's so hard to tackle,” Maxfield said. “I knew it would take more than 34 points to win. The defense played well at times, but we still gave up some big plays.”
The Huskies had marched to the Lion 29 on the previous possession, but Patrick Nash recovered a fumble — the second takeaway of the game and 18th of the season for Brownwood — after a 17-yard completion.
Hirschi later concluded a string of 23 unanswered points with a 28-yard field goal by Jhaidon Duran with 2:48 left, increasing the margin to 44-28. Lloyd Murray recovered a fumble by Lions quarterback Tommy Bowden, just the sixth turnover all season for Brownwood, to set up the field goal.
The Lions then marched 80 yards in 11 plays, with Bowden connecting with Jefferson on a 8-yard touchdown pass with 50 seconds left. The two-point attempt failed, however, leaving Brownwood still down by two scores, 44-34.
Brownwood managed to recover the ensuing onside kick and reached the Hirschi 15 before time expired.
During the first half, the Lions moved the ball at will the majority of time, rushing for 216 yards and scoring four touchdowns on the ground en route to a 28-21 halftime edge.
Behind the offensive line of Wyatt Jacobs, Blaize Infinger, Colby Coppic, Liam McCraw, Rylan Reagan and Carlos Benites, the Lions rushed for 320 yards on 57 carries. Jefferson led the way with 173 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, while Bowden added 145 yards and two scores on 18 attempts.
The Lions needed just four plays to reach the end zone on their opening drive, as a 48-yard scamper by Bowden on the second play led to a 12-yard touchdown run by the Brownwood quarterback two plays later.
Hirschi immediately responded as Foster sprinted 62 yards on the Huskies' first play of the game to knot the score at 7 just 1:54 into the contest. Hirschi finished with 445 yards — 367 rushing and 78 passing.
Late in the first period the Lions turned away the Huskies as Foster fumbled at the Brownwood 32, which was recovered by Kirk Vickers. The score remained knotted at 7 until early in the second period as Foster bounced back with 80-yard punt return for a touchdown, pushing Hirschi in front for the first time, 14-7, at the 9:01 mark.
“You can't give good teams like that those big plays, but we did, and it was at crucial times,” Maxfield said.
The Lions pulled even at 14 just 58 seconds after they fell behind. Following a 38-yard toss from Bowden — who completed 14 of 33 passes for 160 yards — to A.J. McCarty, Jefferson rumbled into the end zone from 13 yards out with 8:03 left in the half.
Brownwood stopped Hirschi on the next possession, then took over at its own 41. Eleven plays later, the 59-yard trek ended with a 1-yard plunge by Bowden, which put the Lions back in front, 21-14, with 3:05 left in the half.
Another one-play touchdown drive was the response by Hirschi, as Foster galloped 75 yards to even the score at 21 with 2:48 remaining in the second period.
The Lions were able to tack on another touchdown before halftime, however, as a six-play, 57-yard journey ended with a 1-yard run by Jefferson with 58 seconds left in the quarter. Bowden got the ball rolling with a 36-yard keeper on the first play of the possession.
With the loss, Brownwood was denied its third consecutive bi-district championship, and second under Maxfield, as the Lions finished with a 6-5 overall record.
“I'm really proud of these seniors, they gave everything they had and I think that was obvious on those last two drives,” Maxfield said. “I couldn't more proud of them and they'll go on to do great things.”
Hirschi (9-2) will face Lubbock Estacado (10-1) — a 45-0 winner over Clint Mountain View Thursday night — in the area round of the playoffs next weekend.
WF Hirschi 44, Lions 34
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Brownwood 7 21 0 6 - 34
WF Hirschi 7 14 14 9 - 44
B: Tommy Bowden 12 run (Zack Smith kick), 10:33, 1st
H: Daimarqua Foster 62 run (Jhaidon Duran kick), 10:06, 1st
H: Foster 80 punt return (Duran kick), 9:01, 2nd
B: Gavin Jefferson 13 run (Smith kick), 8:03, 2nd
B: Bowden 1 run (Smith kick), 3:05, 2nd
H: Foster 75 run (Duran kick), 2:58, 2nd
B: Jefferson 1 run (Duran kick), 0:58. 2nd
H: Martez V’rana 11 run (Duran kick), 2:18, 3rd
H: Ezekiel Holmes 39 blocked punt return (Duran kick), 0:51, 3rd
H: Foster 25 run (kick failed), 6:01, 4th
H: Duran 28 FG, 2:58, 4th
B: Jefferson 8 pass from Bowden (pass failed), 0:55, 4th
First Downs 32 16
Total Offense 480 455
Rushes-Yards 57-320 31-367
Passing Yards 160 78
C-A-I 14-33-0 12-15-0
Fumbles Lost 1 2
Penalties 2-10 7-55
Punts 3-41.3 2-30.0
B: Gavin Jefferson 30-173, Tommy Bowden 18-145, Cain Kittrell 6-8, A.J. McCarty 2-7, Team 1(-13).
H: Daimarqua Foster 21-276, Martez V’rana 9-78, Javen Banks 1-13.
B: Bowden 14-33-0-160.
H: V’rana 12-15-0-78.
B: Nick Salazar 4-40, Braden Jetton 4-29, Patrick Nash 2-24, A.J. McCarty 1-38, Hunter Leonard 1-22, Jefferson 1-8, Kittrell 1-(-1).
H: Xavier Wilson 6-43, Javen Banks 3-25, Isaiah Esquibel 2-7, Tian Harrell 1-3.