COLLEGE STATION — The Brownwood Lions’ bid for a Division II 7-on-7 state championship was derailed by the eventual state champion Crane Golden Cranes Friday, but not before the Lions reached the semifinals of the tournament.
The Lions rolled over Rockdale, 62-19, and held off Class A Normangee, 34-30, before Class 2A Crane rallied late for a 38-34 victory. The Golden Cranes went on to defeat Navasota, 38-27, at Kyle Field in the state championship game.
“You hate to lose, but if you look at the big picture this is a tool we try to use to get better, and I think we got better,” said Lions 7-on-7 coordinator and offensive coordinator Mitch Moore. “We didn’t end like we wanted to end, but I believe this is the first time we made the final four down here.
“We were a stop away or a touchdown away from playing in the finals of 7-on-7, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the fall and gaining ground this summer with some guys that are younger and some guys that haven’t been involved with football in a couple of years. We got to a point where I think we benefited.”
The Lions trailed Crane by a dozen points, 32-20, three possessions deep into the second half, but Brownwood’s defense stiffened. A scoring toss from Casey Pachall to Shelby Miller brought the Lions within 32-27, then Derek Longoria intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown to give Brownwood a 34-32 edge.
“I was proud of Derek Longoria for picking off that pass that put us ahead at the end of the game,” Moore said of the Lions’ only interception Friday. “That was a big play for a sophomore and a guy that’s about to make a contribution this season. It got us back in the game.”
Emotions ran high late in the contest — especially over the final five minutes — and the Lions struggled to keep theirs in check as personal foul penalties mounted against Brownwood and allowed Crane to continue its winning drive.
The Golden Cranes scored the go-ahead touchdown with just over one minute left, and that play turned out to be the final snap as bickering between the players and the fans from both sides allowed the clock to expire.
The Lions had plenty of chances to put Crane away throughout the contest. After scoring on 14-of-15 possessions (93 percent) in their first two games, the Lions scored on just 4-of-8 against Crane. Twice Brownwood was turned away with four downs inside the Crane 3, and Pachall’s lone interception of the day occurred in the Lions’ finale and was returned for a touchdown.
“The last game we got down by two touchdowns, but we had opportunities to score,” Moore said. “We were inside the 3-yard line twice and didn’t get it done. Opportunities early cost us and that will hurt you every time. You’ve got to cash in the times you get down in the red zone, especially in 7-on-7.”
Offensively as a whole, the Lions scored on 78 percent of their drives (18-of-23) Friday and received another solid performance from Pachall, who was 72-of-94 (77 percent) with 17 TDs. Graylon Brown also completed all three of his pass attempts, including one for a touchdown.
On the receiving end, Miller and Parker Taylor each grabbed 16 receptions, with Miller hauling in seven scoring receptions while Taylor caught three touchdown passes. Rashad Deal also contributed 14 receptions and a touchdown.
Travis Holleman added six catches and a score, Bubby Harrell and Cade Johnson finished with five catches and one touchdown apiece and Vance McShan and Kenny Vaccaro caught four passes each with three touchdowns between them. Zac Fulton added three catches and Luke Chastain finished with two receptions.
Pachall and Taylor were named to the all-tournament team.
Brownwood’s day began with a 43-point thrashing of Rockdale in a rematch of the Lions’ 43-42 loss in the semifinals of the Gatesville state qualifier. The Lions scored on all nine possessions and the defense gave up touchdowns on just three of eight Rockdale drives.
Pachall was 27-of-34 with eight touchdowns, while Miller caught a team-high nine passes and four TDs as Brownwood raced out to a 27-6 halftime lead.
“Rockdale was a little thorn in our side from the Gatesville tournament,” Moore said. “We felt like we really should have qualified at Gatesville and the kids knew in the back of their minds they didn’t play their best that game. Today’s result is probably what could have happened the first weekend. It got us off to a good start today.”
Against Normangee, the Lions rallied from an 18-14 halftime deficit and held on down the stretch. Vaccaro broke up the potential winning TD for Normangee in the final minute.
Pachall connected on 25-of-31 passes with five touchdowns. Deal and Taylor caught seven passes each and combined for three touchdowns.
“I was proud of our whole weekend,” Moore said. “We played seven games and that’s one short of the most you can play. We got some good work in today, but nobody likes to lose. I don’t like to lose and the kids don’t like to lose.
“Now we’ve got three weeks until the real deal. We’ll all come back and add the other aspects of the game, like the running game, and the defense will finally get to hit somebody after a few months of just touching. They want to pop somebody’s head off and you just can’t do that. But they gave a good effort and tried hard.”