WICHITA FALLS — With just under eight minutes left in regulation, the Brownwood Lions had surrendered a pair of touchdowns and a field goal in the second half, while amassing just 30 yards after halftime as the Class 5A Division II Wichita Falls Rider Raiders owned a 10-point advantage.
At the end of the evening, however, it was the Lions who were celebrating a Thursday night victory as Brownwood rallied to stun Rider, 20-16, at Wichita Falls Memorial Stadium.
“The kids never doubted themselves and had a winners’ mentality,” said Lions first-year head coach Sammy Burnett, who earned his second victory at his alma mater. “We found a way to win and I’m proud of their perseverance even though we were off. We won two of three phases most of the night and toward the end we won it all”
On a night when the Brownwood (2-2) offense was inconsistent at best, the Lions — who led 6-0 at halftime — showed their first signs of offensive life in the second half trailing 16-6 with 7:57 left, despite exceptional starting field position on most of their possessions.
The Lions journeyed 75 yards in just seven plays as quarterback Tommy Bowden capped the drive with a 26-yard scramble for a touchdown on a second and 10 call. Bowden — who completed 19 of 34 passes for 264 yards — connected with A.J. McCarty — who grabbed nine receptions for 128 yards — on catches of 13 and 15 yards during the drive, and Ben Kallman on an 18-yard catch and run. Bowden, who rushed for 77 yards overall, added another 16-yard run on the drive as well.
“We just had a little bit of execution,” Burnett said “We weren’t getting penalties off the jumps like we were when they were steaming us and we were jumping and getting behind the chains. Then we started catching the ball when we needed to, moving the ball 3-4 yards a pop and next thing you know we get seven. “
The touchdown brought Brownwood within 16-13 with 6:05 left, then Brownwood opted for a pooch kick that Clayton Bertrand eventually came up with, giving the Lions the ball at the Rider 39.
“With the wind blowing the way it was, they put four up and two deep and we tried to put it in a spot where they would struggle to catch it and it would hit and bounce back to us and we capitalized on it,” Burnett said.
A 34-yard screen pass from Bowden to Zach Strong — who grabbed three passes for 56 yards — moved the ball to the Rider 13. The drive appeared to stall a yard short of a first down, and Zack Smith came on to convert what appeared to be a tying 21-yard field goal. Rider (1-3) was flagged for roughing the kicker, however, and the Lions got a fresh set of downs at the Raiders 2. Two snaps later, Bowden dove into the end zone from a yard out and Smith booted the PAT to give the Lions a 20-16 edge with 2:30 to go.
“They were going to give us first and goal from the 2 and we were going to take our chances,” Burnett said of taking the tying points off the board. “We’re not going for a tie, we’re going for a win right there. The defense was playing great and I felt like they could stop them.”
With one last gasp for Rider, the Lions defense came through again as it had for most of the night. Facing a second-and-10 at the Brownwood 33 with 65 seconds left, Strong intercepted Rider quarterback Jacob Rodriguez — returning from a foot injury that kept him out of the lineup for two weeks – to seemingly clinch the win.
“Our defense stepped up all night long,” Burnett said. “They kept Rider out of the end zone until midway through the third quarter. We were sputtering on offense but the defense and special teams made some plays and were able to get some turnovers.”
There was a brief bit of controversy at the end of the game as on fourth down with four seconds left, Bowden scrambled around and threw the ball away as time expired. The pass didn’t reach the line of scrimmage, so Bowden was flagged for intentional grounding. The Rider catching staff wanted to play one untimed down, but the game can end on an offensive penalty.
“Tommy got a little too crafty. He did what we wanted him to do we just didn’t want him to throw it,” Burnett said. “But we knew the game could end on an offensive penalty so it was in our favor. They talked about extending the game but you can’t extend it on an offensive penalty.”
The Lions jumped out to a 6-0 lead on their first possession of the game, as Bowden connected with McCarty on a 47-yard catch and run just 1:59 into the contest.
“We scored early and ran a route that A.J. adjusted to, and he broke a tackle and took it into the end zone and used his skill to do that,” Burnett said. “After that we went into a lull and weren’t functioning like that engine should. We were dropping balls, busting assignments.”
The score remained the same until the 7:36 mark of the third period on a 6-yard touchdown run by Rider’s Samuel Manuel the put the Raiders in front, 7-6. Then, with 1:29 to go in the third, Kyler Spear caught a lateral from Rodriguez and fired down field to Noah Randall for a 50-yard touchdown and a 13-6 Raider cushion. Colsen Welch later booted a 33-yard field goal to give Rider a double-digit advantage.
Behind the line of Dawson Evans, Ulysses Villarreal, Brandon Farrow, Theo Bryant and Jacob Ruiz, among others, the Lions finished with 355 yards of total offense — 264 passing and 91 rushing — with a pair of turnovers.
Defensively, the Lions yielded 314 yards — 204 on the ground and 110 through the air — while forcing three turnovers. Coming into the game, Brownwood had created two takeaways in its first three games.
The Lions will attempt to stretch their win streak to three games next Friday when winless Class 5A Division II Abilene Wylie (0-3) visits for homecoming.
WF RIDER 16
SCORE BY QUARTER
Brownwood 6 0 0 14 - 20
WF Rider 0 0 13 3 - 16
B: A.J. McCarty 47 pass from Tommy Bowden (kick failed), 10:01, 1st
R: Samuel Manuel 6 TD run (Colsen Welch kick), 7:36, 3rd
R: Noah Randall 50 pass from Kyler Spear (kick failed), 1:29, 3rd
R: Welch 33 FG, 7:57, 4th
B: Bowden 26 run (Zack Smith kick), 6:05, 4th
B: Bowden 1 run (Smith kick), 2:30, 4th
First Downs 14 19
Total Offense 355 314
Rushing Yards 28-91 42-204
Passing Yards 264 110
C-A-I 19-35-1 7-17-2
Fumbles Lost 1 1
Punts 5-32.5 5-23.6
Penalties 11-99 5-57
B: Tommy Bowden 20-77, Reece Rodgers 2-12, A.J. McCarty 2-1, Joseph Johnson 1-1, Ian Moreno 3-(-4).
R: Tre Byrd 21-145, Samuel Manuel 13-45, Jacob Rodriguez 5-16, Nick Darcus 1-8, Desmond Sanders 1-3, Jack Cantrell 1-(-2), Team 1-(-10).
B: Bowden 19-34-1-264, McCarty 0-1-0-0.
R: Kyler Spear 1-1-0-50, Rodriguez 6-12-2-45, Cantrell 1-3-0-15
B: McCarty 9-128, Zach Strong 3-56, Ben Kallman 3-44, Braden Jetton 2-24, Ian Moreno 2-12.
R: Noah Randall 2-55, Ranse Radtke 2-29, Spear 1-26, Tre Hoskin 1-2, Darcus 1-(-2).