Big plays help Lions pull away from Burnet
BURNET — Brownwood head football coach Sammy Burnett thought star running back Royshad Henderson had a chance to rush for 200 yards Friday night. Henderson proved his coach to be an accurate prognosticator.
The Brownwood Lions rallied from what seemed like an all-night deficit to beat the Burnet Bulldogs 36-22 in a nondistrict meeting of Class 4A Division I teams. Henderson was at the heart of Brownwood’s fourth-quarter rally, breaking a 90-yard touchdown that put the Lions ahead for good at 29-22 with 8:04 left to play.
Linebacker Blaize Espinoza supplied the clinching score when he scooped up a Burnet fumble and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown that gave the Lions a 36-22 lead with 3:40 left.
“I thought Royshad was going to rush for 200 yards. I told him that’s what I thought, and I told him that if he did it, we’d win the ballgame,” said Burnett, who returned to the Brownwood sideline after being quarantined at home for the last two games because of exposure to COVID-19.
“He’s a powerful runner, and with the way Burnet stunts, we thought if he could get past the first level of defenders and get out in space, that he could make some big plays,” Burnett said of Henderson, who finished with 253 yards on 20 carries. The 90-yard touchdown put him over the 200-yard mark, and a 37-yard run in the final minute enabled the Lions to kneel on their final offensive play.
Brownwood's Royshad Henderson (7) is tackled by a Midland Greenwood defender Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood.
Henderson’s 90-yard score came with the score tied 22-22 and after Burnet quarterback Jaxson Denton got off a 28-yard quick kick that left the Lions with the ball at their 10-yard line.
Down 29-22, Burnet came back with a nine-play drive that reached the Brownwood 15. The Bulldogs seemed to be running at will through the Lions’ defense, but on first-and-10, Denton dropped back to pass. Under a heavy rush, he tried to throw, but the ball fell out of his hands before he could get rid of it.
Espinoza scooped up the loose ball and raced down the sideline to extend the Lions’ lead to 36-22 with 3:40 left.
“That sealed it,” Burnett said of Espinoza’s score. “There was less than four minutes left, and they were down two scores. We tell our guys on defense to just worry about the next play -- regardless of where they are on the field. They gained some yards on us, but we kept them out of the end zone on that possession.”
Brownwood spent the first three quarters mostly frustrated. The Lions committed costly penalties that kept Bulldog drives alive, and Brownwood’s defense had trouble getting off the field when it had Burnet in third-down, fourth-down and long-yardage situations. Except for a 7-6 lead for about six minutes of the second quarter, the Lions either trailed or were tied for the first three quarters.
But in the fourth quarter, the floodgates opened, and the Lions outscored the Bulldogs 21-0 over the final 11:49.
On the final play of the third quarter, Brownwood quarterback Chance Jones threw a 33-yard deep pass to Dane Johnson, who wrestled the ball from a defender at the Burnet 18. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jones threw a lob pass for the end zone that fellow sophomore Jason Jackson caught for an 18-yard touchdown that tied the score at 22-22.
“In the second half, we stopped stepping on our own feet,” Burnett said of his young team that includes nine sophomores. “We had some of those same pass plays open in the first half, but we didn’t execute them. We have to mature out of beating ourselves.
“We also made a halftime adjustment and started giving the ball to Royshad going more to the outside than between the tackles.”
The Lions, who wanted to control the ball with their running game, beat Burnet with big plays in the second half Friday. Brownwood scored 29 points in the second half despite have the ball for only 14 offensive snaps during the final two quarters.
In the third quarter, Khyren Deal returned a kickoff 43-yards to midfield, and Jones passed 38 yards to Jackson on the next play. On the next play, Henderson finished the two-play scoring possession with a 10-yard run to pull Brownwood into a 15-15 tie with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
“I thought that sequence changed the momentum of the game,” Burnett said. “We had the belief that we’re a young team, but we can do this. Our kids are not real experienced, but they found a way to win. They’re great kids.”
The Lions (2-2), who didn’t reach 200 yards in total offense during their last two games, gained 379 yards against Burnet. Jones was an efficient 7-of-10 passing for 95 yards to complement Henderson’s running.
Burnet (2-2) scored two first-half touchdowns and led 12-7 at intermission despite gaining only 90 total yard during the first two quarters. The Bulldogs had only three offensive possessions in the first half and went 6 yards backwards on one of those.
On a 60-yard drive, the Bulldogs gained 20 of the yards on two penalties against Brownwood -- both of which gave Burnet a first down. Denton threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Gunnar Blair, who found an open spot in the middle of the Brownwood secondary, and Burnet claimed a 6-0 lead with 10:18 left in the second quarter.
The Lions rallied to take the lead by doing what they wanted to do -- run the football. Henderson carried seven times for 65 yards during a nine-play drive. He gained all the positive yardage during the drive and scored on a 5-yard run that, combined with Junior Martinez’s kick, gave Brownwood a temporary 7-6 lead with 6:26 left before halftime.
Burnet rallied for a 12-7 halftime lead as Denton passed short to Devonte Miller, who used Braeden Howell’s block to score on a 15-yard reception with 32 seconds left before halftime. The Bulldogs’ 73-yard drive was kept alive by a 12-yard pass interference penalty against the Lions that came on third-and-6 from Burnet 31-yard line.
Brownwood 36, Burnet 22
Brownwood 0 7 8 21 — 36
Burnet 0 12 10 0 — 22
BU — Gunnar Blair 12 pass from Jaxson Denton (kick failed), 10:18
BR — Royshad Henderson 5 run (Junior Martinez kick), 6:26
BU — Devonte Miller 15 pass from Denton (pass failed), 10:18
BU — Jose Flores 28 FG, 7:11
BR — Henderson 10 run, (Henderson pass from Chance Jones), 6:43
BU — Marcus Escamilla 2 run (Flores kick), 2:11
BR — Jason Jackson 18 pass from Jones (Martinez kick), 11:49
BR — Henderson 90 run (Martinez kick), 8:04
BR — Blaize Espinoza 56 fumble return (Martinez kick), 3:40
First downs 17 22
Rushes-yards 29-284 46-212
Passing yards 95 59
Total yards 379 271
Comp-att-int 7-10-0 6-16-1
Punts 2-17 3-30
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 6-57 2-10
RUSHING: Brownwood – Royshad Henderson 20-253, Chance Jones 7-39, Dane Johnson 1-(-)5, Team 1-(-)3. Burnet – Marcus Escamilla 25-139, Ethan Wolfe 9-70, Jaxson Denton 9-32, Team 2-(-)36.
PASSING: Brownwood – Jones 7-10-0 for 95. Burnet – Denton 6-16-1 for 59.
RECEIVING: Brownwood – Dane Johnson 4-41, Jason Jackson 2-56, Henderson 1-(-)2. Burnet – Devonte Miller 2-33, Braeden Howell 2-8, Gunnar Blair 1-12, Cade Rye 1-6.
RECORDS: Brownwood 2-2; Burnet 2-2.