Winning formula for young Lions
The Brownwood Lions discovered a winning formula with a sophomore quarterback making his first varsity start: Rely on your defense and running game.
Brownwood beat the Midland Greenwood Rangers 35-15 Friday night at Gordon Wood Stadium as the Lions defense forced three turnovers that the offense converted into 21 points on short scoring drives of 21, 5 and 29 yards. On the other side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Chance Jones handed the ball to Royshad Henderson 28 times Friday, and the senior responded with 124 yards rushing and touchdowns of 3, 15 and 8 yards.
“I was so pleased with those defensive guys,” said David Jones, the Lions’ defensive coordinator. “We brought some more sophomores up from the JV this week, and some of them played virtually the whole game. Our secondary was able to come up and help defend the run, yet still read their keys so they didn’t get the ball thrown over their heads on the play-action passes.”
The Lions’ defense and Henderson’s running brought a happy ending to a week filled with bad news for the Brownwood football program. The three-person radio crew for Brownwood football, including legendary broadcaster Dallas Huston, tested positive for COVID-19 this week and, obviously, missed the game. The crew also includes color analyst Carl Wayne and Dallas’s wife, Linda Huston, who serves as the crew’s spotter.
Dallas Huston is in his 58th season calling Brownwood football games on the radio.
Then on Thursday, Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett was informed that he had to be quarantined because he had participated in an in-person interview with Wayne during their weekly coach’s show. Burnett also missed Friday’s game.
“Our prayers are with those that have been infected by this virus,” said Jones, who filled in for Burnett as acting head coach Friday. “I was with Coach Burnett when they (high school principal and school nurse) came in Thursday and told him that he had to go into quarantine for two weeks because he had been exposed to positive testers.
“The thing is, Coach Burnett feels perfectly fine. But the safety of our kids is his No. 1 concern. He’ll do what he had to take care of them.”
Back on the field, Brownwood converted Malachi Revada’s interception and fumble recoveries by Christian Chambers and Kris Hobbs into three touchdowns. The Lions also converted a muffed punt recovered by Cade Jetton into an 8-yard scoring possession that Henderson finished with one run. His 8-yard score secured the Lions’ win with a 35-15 lead with 3:48 to play.
Chambers’s recovery on a fumble forced by Hobbs came at the Rangers’ 5-yard line with 41 seconds left before halftime. On third-and-goal, Chance Jones looked to pass, but instead scrambled for a 3-yard touchdown run as the Lions were able to extend their lead to 21-2 with only 22 seconds left before halftime.
Converting Greenwood miscues into touchdowns enabled Brownwood to score 35 points despite gaining only 184 total yards.
“We needed to get in the win column,” Coach Jones said. “This was like a shot of good medicine. We have nine sophomores on the varsity, and this game was a step in their maturation process.”
Chance Jones completed five of his first six passes, including a 10-yard touchdown strike to fellow sophomore Jason Jackson that staked the Lions to a 14-2 second-quarter lead. But as the game played out, Brownwood relied on its veteran running back, and Henderson scored on runs of 3, 15 and 8 yards.
“That was a tough 124 yards for Royshad because we didn’t break too many long runs,” Coach Jones said. “He came up big for us tonight, but we’ve got to run the ball more consistently and break some longer plays.”
In addition to forcing three costly Greenwood turnovers, Brownwood’s defense limited Trey Cross, the Rangers’ all-state running back from last year, to 110 yards on 27 carries. They Lions also kept Cross, who last year averaged 192 yards per game and scored 35 touchdowns, out of the end zone.
“We were able to force some turnovers, and to hold that running back in check was huge,” said Coach Jones, whose defense limited the Rangers to 178 total yards. “When he can run the ball effectively, that’s where their play action passes can really hurt you.”
Cross often was pursued by three or more Brownwood defenders on Friday, and the 5-foot-8 runner often had to reverse his field or break for the sideline in unsuccessful attempts to escape the Lions’ determined defense.
Brownwood’s defense surrendered 556 yards and 55 points last week against state-ranked Lampasas. In that game, played in 100-degree heat, the Lions played with seven two-way starters. On Friday, though, the Lions played with no two-way starters, and only Henderson played both ways with cameo appearances in the defensive secondary.
Greenwood (1-1) started a sophomore quarterback of its own in 6-foot-3 Ty Flowers, and he threw a 23-yard scoring pass to Cade Carrell in the third quarter. Later in the third quarter, Izaiah Ramirez returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Rangers within 28-15.
But except for the third quarter, Brownwood’s defense handcuffed Greenwood.
Brownwood led 21-2 after the first half, which began the Lions taking the opening kickoff and methodically driving 62 yards in 5:37. Brownwood was 3-of-3 on third-down conversions during the 12-play drive, including Jones completions to Elias Huerta and Dane Johnson. Henderson scored on 3-yard run, and the Lions led 7-0 with 6:23 left in the first quarter.
From there, Brownwood’s defense took over. On a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak, Greenwood sophomore Ty Flowers met a wall of defenders that stopped the Rangers’ best offensive threat of the first half.
Even though Brownwood surrendered a safety when Henderson was tackled in the end zone on the next play, the Lions escaped poor field position with minimal damage and a 7-2 lead.
A deep free kick by Blaize Espinoza and sure tackle by Hunter Day forced Greenwood to start its next possession at its 27. Malachi Revada’s 21-yard interception return to the Rangers’ 21 set up the Lions’ next touchdown. Two sophomores combined for the score as Jones threw to Jason Jackson, who bobbled the hard throw by held on for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-2 Brownwood lead with eight minutes left before halftime.
Brownwood 35, Greenwood 15
Score by Quarters:
Greenwood 0 2 13 0 — 15
Brownwood 7 14 7 7 — 35
B — Royshad Henderson 3 run (Junior Martinez kick), 6:23
G — safety. Henderson tackled in end zone by Greenwood defense, 10:32
B — Jason Jackson 10 pass from Chance Jones (Martinez kick), 8:00
B — Jones 3 run (Martinez kick), 0:22
G — Cade Carrell 23 pass from Ty Flowers (run failed), 8:01
B — Henderson 15 run (Martinez kick), 1:16
G — Izaiah Ramirez 97 kickoff return (Ramirez kick), 1:00
B — Henderson 8 run (Martinez kick), 3:48
First Downs 9 15
Rushes-Yards 38-115 39-109 Passing Yards 63 75
Total Yards 178 184
Comp-Att-Int 5-12-1 10-16-1