What has become a familiar sight in 2019 continued Friday night for the No. 6 Brownwood Lions, who opened the District 5-4A Division I portion of their schedule with a third consecutive shutout, and fourth overall, 49-0 over the Gatesville Hornets at Gordon Wood Stadium.
The Lions (7-0, 1-0) yielded a season-low 88 yards of total offense, including 21 in the second half, and forced their 14th turnover of the season.
On the offensive end, the Lions also turned in their best effort of the year with 508 total yards — 285 rushing and 233 passing — against the Gatesville (0-7, 0-1) defense, averaging 12.4 yards per play on 41 snaps.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” said Lions second-year head coach Sammy Burnett, whose record at his alma mater now stands at 11-6. “The defense did a fine job as usual and I thought we did a better job tonight in the special teams, which is huge. Offensively we were clicking, we hit them big early. We were a little sluggish at times running the ball in the first half, but we came out in the second half and were explosive.”
Behind the blocking of linemen Ethan Pesina, Theo Bryant, Brad Robinson, Jimi Brown and Tyler Tiner, tailback Reece Rodgers rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, giving him 950 yards and 14 touchdowns in seven games.
“I can't thank the line enough, they've been working it all week,” Rodgers said. “Coach had been saying we have to start off district strong and I guess that's what we did.”
Burnett said of Rodgers, “If he gets to the second level he's good enough to make one or two guys in the secondary miss and turn a 5-yard play into a big play and he showed that again tonight. He's a special kid and does a great job running the football.”
Quarterback Drew Huff connected of 10 of 15 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns — all to different receivers. Dane Johnson caught a season-high six passes for 90 yards and scored, A.J. McCarty reeled in three grabs for 107 yards with a trip to the end zone, and Zach Strong finished with a pair of receptions covering 24 yards and one touchdown.
“I'm thankful for the line and thankful for the receivers making me look good,” Huff said. “A big focus all week has been making sure guys were picking up blitzes. They knew how to prepare before we snapped the ball and they did a really good job of that tonight.”
Burnett said of the passing attack, “It was important to get other people touches and I thought we did a pretty good job of that. We want to be able to spread the ball around and show that we're versatile and not just a one-receiver team. Drew made some great reads, and I thought we ran some pretty good routes and executed well. The quarterback had time to throw it which is big, too.”
Defensively, to go along with their four shutouts this year, the Lions have allowed a touchdown or less five times, and no opponent has reached the end zone more than twice in a game this season. Wichita Falls Rider's 15 points back on Sept. 20 was the most allowed by the Lions all year, and when Brownwood takes the field again Oct. 25 at Stephenville it will have been more than a month since the team has yielded point.
“I think they're special because they're listening to Coach (David) Jones, Coach (Brett) Mouser, Coach (Derrick) Stacks, Coach (Darren) Bailey, Coach (Jesse) Villalobos and Coach (Brian) Harris,” Burnett said. “They're doing a great job of being disciplined and doing what they're being taught. They're not trying to peek and see what they can see and maybe try something they shouldn't. They do a great job of being disciplined and having strong eyes, and I think that's where our success is coming from.”
The Hornets punted eight times and did not reach Brownwood's end of the field until 1:30 remained in the third period, thanks to a kick return to the Gatesville 41 coupled with a personal foul against the Lions. Starting the drive at the Brownwood 44, Gatesville wound up punting from its own 49 after a three-and-out.
The possession prior, Bryant recovered a Gatesville fumble at the Hornet 36 with 4:47 left in the third period, which set up Brownwood's fifth touchdown two snaps later.
“The shutouts makes us feel great, they make us feel nasty,” Strong said. “The Brock game was bend but don't break, but the other three shutouts we've played great defense and haven't allowed many yards. Our front seven is insane.”
The Lions took their opening drive of the game 87 yards in five plays as Huff connected with McCarty on a 38-yard touchdown on the first pass attempt of the night, making the score 7-0 at the 6:26 mark.
Brownwood's next drive covered 70 yards in just three plays as Rodgers scored on a 36-yard sprint with 38 seconds left in the first period.
The Lions tacked on their final touchdown of the first half with 7:38 left in the second period as a six-play, 64-yard march ended with a 14-yard scoring connection from Huff to Strong on fourth-and-5.
Up three touchdowns at halftime, Brownwood took the initial possession of the second half 73 yards in seven plays as a 16-yard touchdown toss from Huff to Johnson increased the lead to 28-0 at the 7:38 mark.
“Drew put it in good places and I got a lot of balls tonight,” Johnson said. “Like the coaches said we had to come out in the first district game and ball out and we did.”
Gatesville turned the ball over on the next drive and Rodgers scored on a 21-yard carry to boost the advantage to 35-0 at 4:24 of the third.
Then, after a 19-yard Gatesville punt, the Lions needed just two plays to move 36 yards as Royshad Henderson scored his first touchdown of the season on a 26-yard carry with 90 seconds left in the third period.
Brownwood scored for the final time with 10:53 remaining as Rodgers' 58-yard touchdown scamper capped a two-play, 63-yard trek.
After next week's bye, the Lions visit Stephenville (4-2, 1-0), a 21-0 winner over China Spring Friday; host La Vega (5-1, 0-0), which had a bye Friday; then travel to China Spring (2-5, 0-1) as they pursue the program's first district championship since 2010.
“It's going to be a gauntlet and I think we're going to be ready for it,” Burnett said. “We need some time off to recover first. Our kids are tired, they've been going since August and they've done everything we've asked them to do. It's been a struggle a little bit the last couple of weeks to keep their attention and focus because they're tired, and the coaches are tired, too. But I thought they did a great job finishing so we can get to the break and now we're going to take a couple of days off and rest and recover physically and mentally.”
LIONS 49, GATESVILLE 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Gatesville 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brownwood 14 7 21 7 - 49
B: A.J. McCarty 38 pass from Drew Huff (Zach Strong kick), 6:26, 1st
B: Reece Rodgers 36 run (Strong kick), 0:38, 1st
B: Strong 14 pass from Huff (Strong kick), 7:39, 2nd
B: Dane Johnson 16 pass from Huff (Strong kick), 7:38, 3rd
B: Rodgers 21 run (Strong kick), 4:24, 3rd
B: Royshad Henderson 26 run (Strong kick), 1:30, 3rd
B: Rodgers 58 run (Strong kick), 10:53, 4th
TEAM STATS G B
First Downs 7 22
Total Offense 88 508
Rushing Yards 31-70 24-285
Passing Yards 18 223
C-A-I 6-12-0 12-17-0
Fumbles Lost 1 0
Penalties 3-25 6-60
Punts 8-32.5 1-38.0
Rushing – G: Hayden Mooney 8-28, Tyler Godfrey 6-13, Chris Nashif 5-11, Aveyn Sarinara 2-11, Logan Edwards 6-5, Gabe Retana 1-3, Gabe Fails 2-0, Isaiah Nevajas 1-(-1). B: Reece Rodgers 15-215, Royshad Henderson 6-55, Drew Huff 2-14, Blaize Espinoza 1-1
Passing – G: Edwards 6-12-0-18. B: Drew Huff 10-15-0-182, Espinoza 2-2-0-41.
Receiving – G: Jacob Baker 4-18, Retana 1-1, Godfrey 1-(-1). B: Dane Johnson 6-90, A.J. McCarty 3-107, Zach Strong 2-24, Rodgers 1-2.