RELENTLESS EFFORT

No. 6 Lions notch second shutout of season, stuff Wylie, 33-0

Derrick Stuckly dstuckly@brownwoodbulletin.com
Landon Harris (24), Kris Hobbs (38) and the rest of the Brownwood Lions defense allowed just 110 yards of total offense in posting their second shutout of the season, 33-0 at Abilene Wylie Friday night. [Photo by Derrick Stuckly]

ABILENE — The Class 4A Division I No. 6 Brownwood Lions are off to their best start since the state semifinals season of 2010, posting their second shutout of the year in a lopsided 33-0 triumph over the 5A Division II Abilene Wylie Bulldogs Friday night.

The Lions (5-0) scored four of their five touchdowns in the first half, while holding Wylie (0-5) — which dropped its 17th consecutive contest — without a point for the third week in a row.

“Overall I thought it was good effort by everybody,” said Lions second-year head coach Sammy Burnett. “We're blessed there's no doubt about it. But we have to continue to grind and continue to work if we want to reach our goal of becoming district champs.”

Despite the final outcome, Burnett noted several areas where the Lions could have performed better.

“I don't think we moved the ball like I wanted to, but we moved the chains and got points on the board when we had to,” Burnett said. “We didn't have to throw the ball as much which is a good thing.I believe in running the football, I think that sets up the pass. But we were behind the chains a few times on second down which I want to fix.

“I also thought we lost the special teams games in the fact that we were pinned down inside our own 20 several times. We need to do a good job on that, keep working on that, and I thought we didn't do a good job on kickoffs.”

As for the defensive effort, however, the Lions received rave reviews.

“The defense showed up and played like champions again today,” Burnett said.

Wylie threatened to score only once, that coming early in the fourth period as the Bulldogs advanced inside the Brownwood 20. Seven consecutive plays, including two snaps inside the 5, failed to yield points for Wylie, as through five games the Lions have still surrendered just 32 points — 6.4 per outing.

“I don't care about the shutout so much as the mentality of the kids saying it doesn't matter where we are on the field we can make plays,” Burnett said. “We got the shift in the (third and fourth) quarter and I met them out there and told them to remember our mentality — it doesn't matter where you are, it matters how you play the next play — and they stopped them, which is a testament to their character and what they've decided to do.”

The Lions took over possession at their own 4 with 10:20 remaining, snapped the ball 16 times and advanced 82 yards to the Wylie 14 before running out the clock without giving the ball back to the Bulldogs.

Behind the line of Ethan Pesina, Theo Bryant, Brad Robinson, Tyler Tiner and Jimi Brown, the Lions produced a season-high 454 yards of total offense — 254 on the ground and 200 through the air.

“We're not the biggest guys but we get it done,” Robinson said. “We work hard in practice. The running game in the first quarter really wasn't there, but we talked about coming out heavy and just pounding the rock.”

Brownwood also reached the midway point of the season without committing a turnover.

“We preach that,” Burnett said. “We talk to them all the time about protecting the football. Every time we're on the field field we're talking about protecting the football, every time we finish a run we're talking about protecting the football.”

Defensively, the Lions did not force a turnover for the first time this season but limited Wylie to 110 yards — 77 passing and 33 rushing on 19 carries — which is Brownwood's best performance to date in terms of yardage surrendered. The Bulldogs generated 45 yards on one pass play to set up their lone scoring threat, while their other 37 snaps netted 65 total yards — 1.7 yards per play.

“We were getting off the ball as soon as they snapped it and we were going hard every play,” said defensive lineman Ezequiel Ibarra.

Linebacker Cooper Swanzy added, “It was really fun. We're just doing our thing, getting to the ball, playing good defense and being a bunch of animals.”

Brownwood's offense needed just one play to produce all the points it would require. After forcing a three-and-out on Wylie's first possession, the Lions took over on their own 29. On the first snap for the Lions, quarterback Drew Huff tossed a short pass to A.J. McCarty, who broke a couple of tackles and outran the Wylie defense 71 yards to the end zone for a 6-0 Brownwood lead just 1:55 into the contest.

“It was initially a run play, but Drew threw me a good ball and I made a few moves and took it to the house,” said McCarty, who finished with six receptions for 147 yards. “Our team blocked amazing downfield and made it possible for me to score on that play.”

Burnett added, “They came out in a set we hadn't seen. They dropped three safeties with two corners and left the bubble open on the side which, in our RPO, if you're going to give it to us we're going to take that. With a guy like A.J. in space he can create some big plays and that's what he did.”

The Lions' second drive was more methodical, taking 11 plays to cover 77 yards before quarterback Drew Huff — who rushed for 79 yards to go along with an 11 of 14, 200-yard passing effort — broke free on a 34-yard scamper for the first of his two touchdowns on the ground.

The first of two Lion punts followed on the next possession, but with 8:23 left before halftime Brownwood capped a five-play, 69-yard scoring drive with a 36-yard gallop by Reece Rodgers — who again led Brownwood with 124 yards on the ground and two scores.

Brownwood's last possession of the first half was its most impressive, a 92-yard, 11-play, 5:59 journey to the end zone that culminated with a 2-yard plunge by Huff. Passes of 34 and 9 yards from Huff to McCarty, a 13-yard keeper by Huff and a 17-yard carry by Royshad Henderson — who contributed 51 rushing yards — were among the highlights of the drive.

Leading 26-0 at halftime, the Lions had outgained Wylie 311-33 in total yards and 13-4 in first downs. Three of Wylie's first downs in the opening two quarters came via penalty as Brownwood was flagged nine times for 73 yards. The Lions — who committed just one penalty for 10 yards in last week's 37-15 win over Wichita Falls Rider — were not whistled for a penalty in the second half.

Brownwood opened the second half with a 55-yard scoring drive, following a kick return by Rodgers to the Lion 45. Six plays after the kickoff, Rodgers scored his second touchdown on a 6-yard plunge with 8:26 left in the third quarter.

“We stayed in our big package or our tight end set,” Burnett said. “They loaded the box and we had opportunities to throw the ball, but being up I wanted to control the clock so we kept pounding and got some big first downs and runs.”

The Lions, who have already eclipsed their 2018 win total, return to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Taylor in a neutral site contest against first-year program Conroe Grand Oaks (3-1), which will compete at the UIL 6A level next season. The game will wrap up the pre-district slate for the Lions, who then host Gatesville in the District 5-4A Division I opener on Oct. 11.

•••

LIONS 33, WYLIE 0

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Brownwood 13 13 7 0 - 33

Wylie 0 0 0 0 - 0

SCORING SUMMARY

B: A.J. McCarty 71 pass from Drew Huff (kick failed), 10:05, 1st

B: Huff 34 run (Blaize Espinoza kick), 2:24, 1st

B: Reece Rodgers 36 run (Espinoza kick), 8:23, 2nd

B: Huff 2 run (kick failed), 1:12, 2nd

B: Rodgers 6 run (Zach Strong kick), 8:26, 3rd

TEAM STATS B W

First downs 23 6

Total offense 454 110

Rushing 42-254 19-33

Passing 200 77

C-A-I 11-14-0 6-19-0

Fumbles lost 0 0

Punts 2-31.5 5-38.4

Penalties 9-73 3-25

PLAYER STATS

Rushing – B: Reece Rodgers 25-124, Drew Huff 7-79, Royshad Henderson 10-51. W: Jackson Smith 7-11, Jaxon Hansen 6-11, Balin Valentine 5-11, Cason Hanna 1-0.

Passing – B: Huff 11-14-0-200. W: Valentine 4-10-0-68; Hansen 2-9-0-9.

Receiving – B: A.J. McCarty 6-147, Zach Strong 2-18, Landon Harris 1-18, Isyah Campos 1-11, Parish White 1-6. W: Creed Cooper 3-53, Smith 1-9, Reed Hughes 1-6, Noah Beach 1-5, Hanna 1-4.