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Lions fall to Wylie 28-7

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood Bulletin

You know it’s not your night when this happens:

Brownwood receiver Jason Jackson couldn’t hang onto a pass near the sideline in the fourth quarter Friday night. As he was headed out of bounds and the ball was falling to the ground, the ball hit Jackson’s foot and went right into the hands of Abilene Wylie defensive back Jahzair George.

George never hesitated. The senior defensive sprinted down the sideline, and his 52-yard interception return past a stunned Brownwood offense for Wylie’s final touchdown provided the exclamation point for the Bulldogs.

Wylie won its season opener by beating the Brownwood Lions 28-7 in Gordon Wood Stadium. Wylie was supposed to be the team having first-game jitters and having trouble hanging onto the football. Instead, it was Brownwood, which came with the experience advantage of having played four games that lost four fumbles, two interceptions and a muffed punt.

The Bulldogs converted the muffed punt into a first-half touchdown, then used George’s interception return clinched the win for Clay Martin in his debut as Wylie’s head coach. Martin had been the Bulldogs’ longtime defensive coordinator for 34-year Wylie head coach Hugh Sandifer, who retired earlier this year with 285 career wins.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic pushed backed the start of the Class 6A and 5A football season in Texas, 5A Wylie was playing its first game Friday.

“I don’t know why we had the turnovers, but we gave them up all night long,” Brownwood coach Sammy Burnett said after his team fell to 2-3 entering next Friday’s District 5-4A Division I opener against Stephenville. “Because of the turnovers, we left our defense on the field too long -- especially in the second half.”

Wylie ran 33 offensive plays in the pivotal second half compared to 21 plays for Brownwood.

Beside Brownwood’s turnovers, the story of the game was the performance of Wylie’s defense, which limited the Lions to 24 yards rushing and 182 total yards. The 24 yards rushing came after subtracting 43 yards lost with four sacks against Lions’ quarterback Chance Jones.

Royshad Henderson, who ran for 253 yards last week in Brownwood’s win over Burnet, was limited to 52 yards on 15 carries by Wylie.

Jones completed 15 of 19 passes for 158 yards, but the sophomore quarterback threw two interceptions, and the sacks kept the Lions’ offense from putting together any consistent drives. Jackson caught six passes for 76 yards to lead the Lions’ receivers.

The Bulldogs’ defense actually pitched a shutout since the Lions’ lone score was on an interception return by Khyren Deal.

“We threw up on ourselves offensively,” Burnett said. “We couldn’t run the ball. They (Bulldogs) were stunting and mixing up their fronts, but it’s nothing we haven’t already seen this year. We couldn’t protect the passer, and when we did complete a pass, we couldn’t hang onto the ball. The seven points we did score were by the defense.

“Our defense played hard. They played admirably. We just left them on the field for too long.”

Wylie took the lead for good midway through the third quarter when quarterback Balin Valentine threw deep for Creed Cooper. He was well covered, but Valentine threw to his back hip. Cooper adjusted to the ball, made the catch and turned the play into a 55-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead with 5:54 left in the third quarter.

Then in the fourth quarter, Wylie put together a 12-play, 81-yard drive against the weary Brownwood defense. Trey Gomez finished the deliberate drive with a 7-yard scoring run that extended the Bulldogs’ lead to 21-7 with 4:13 to play.

Valentine finished with 150 yards passing and 44 yards and a touchdown rushing.

The first half ended in a 7-7 tie after Wylie gained 87 total yards and lost two turnovers compared to Brownwood’s 85 yards and three turnovers. The first-half offensive struggles were so pronounced that Wylie was held on downs after being unable to gain 1 yard on three consecutive running plays from the Brownwood 14-yard line during the first quarter.

Brownwood scored on a defensive touchdown as Deal intercepted a pass in the middle of the field and raced 22 yards for a touchdown that staked the Lions to a 7-0 lead with 1:43 left in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs scored after Riley Hood recovered a muffed punt at the Lions’ 40. Runs of 13 yards by Trey Gomez and 11 yards by Valentine advanced the ball to the Brownwood 14. Valentine converted a fourth-and-1 from the Lions’ 5 with a 3-yard run, and the senior quarterback scored on a 1-yard run after he turned around, but found no running back available for a handoff.

Valentine’s touchdown tied the score 7-7 with 6:32 left in the second quarter.

Abilene Wylie 28, Brownwood 7

Score by Quarters:

Wylie 0 7 7 14 — 28

Brownwood 7 0 0 0 — 7

First Quarter

BR — Khyren Deal 22 interception return (Junior Martinez kick), 1:43

Second Quarter

WY — Balin Valentine 1 run (Grayson Bearden kick), 6:32

Third Quarter

WY — Creed Cooper 55 pass from Valentine (Bearden kick), 5:54

Fourth Quarter

WY — Trey Gomez 7 run (Bearden kick), 4:13

WY — Jahzair George 52 interception return (Bearden kick), 3:16

Wylie Bwd

First Downs 16 11

Rushes-Yards 41-134 28-24Passing Yards 150 158

Total Yards 284 182

Comp-Att-Int 11-24-1 15-19-2Punts 4-35 3-48Fumbles-Lost 1-1 5-3

Penalties-Yards 8-75 2-22

Individual StatisticsRUSHING: Wylie – Noah Beach 19-56, Balin Valentine 11-44, Trey Gomez 7-30, Josh Carpenter 2-6, Team 2-(-)2. Brownwood – Royshad Henderson 15-52, Blaize Espinoza 2-6, Khyren Deal 1-0, Chance Jones 9-(-)31, Team 1-(-)3.

PASSING: Wylie – Valentine 11-24-1 for 150. Brownwood – Jones 15-19-2 for 158.

RECEIVING: Wylie – Creed Cooper 3-84, Reed Hughes 3-40, Jahzair George 2-11, Landon Bailey 2-10, Gomez 1-5. Brownwood – Jason Jackson 6-76, Dane Johnson 5-43, Elias Huerta 2-27, Malachi Revada 1-15, Henderson 1-(-)3.

RECORDS: Wylie 1-0; Brownwood 2-3.