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Brownwood Lions beat Waxahachie Life to extend playoff streak

Mike Lee
Special to the Brownwood Bulletin
Brownwood's Dane Johnson (15) goes up to try and make a catch during Friday’s game against Wylie at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood on Sept. 25, 2020. The Bulldogs won 28-7 to open their year while the Lions fell to 2-3.

With bell-cow running back Royshad Henderson out early with a leg injury, the Brownwood Lions leaned on the running of backup Konyln Anderson and passing of Blaize Espinoza to extend their playoff streak.

Brownwood beat the Waxahachie Life Mustangs 48-14 Wednesday night at Waxahachie to clinch a playoff berth for the 12th consecutive season. The Lions, who improved to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in District 5-4A Division I, joined Midlothian Heritage, Waco La Vega and Stephenville as playoff qualifiers from the district. The postseason seedings are still being determined.

Brownwood will play at La Vega on Monday.

Henderson, who entered Wednesday’s game with 945 yards rushing, left after just two carries for 28 yards with an ankle or leg injury. But Anderson, a little-used sophomore who had carried just nine times with no touchdowns prior to Wednesday, stepped up with 116 yards rushing and TDs of 1 and 43 yards on 16 carries.

Brownwood receiver Jason Jackson (18) goes up to make a catch during Friday’s game against Wylie at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood on Sept. 25, 2020. The Bulldogs won 28-7 to open their year while the Lions fell to 2-3.

Espinoza finished 12-of-22 passing for 236 yards and four touchdowns on throws of 38 and 21 yards to Malachi Revada as well as throws of 56 and 40 yards to Jason Jackson. Jackson finished with three receptions for 120 yards while Revada had three catches for 64 yards. Dane Johnson added four catches for 46 yards.

Espinoza, who topped 200 yards passing for the second straight game, also ran for a touchdown, giving the senior quarterback five passing touchdowns and three rushing TDs in the Lions’ last two games.

“Blaize did a good job of getting the ball down the field,” Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett said on his postgame radio show on KOXE-FM. “Malachi Revada rose up and played big for us, and Dane Johnson made some tough catches and took some big hits. And Jason Jackson was Jason Jackson.”

Playing the first of three rescheduled road games in 11 days because of a COVID-19 quarantine, the Lions finished with 448 total yards and 20 first downs.

“The kids played well,” Burnett said. “We made some mistakes in the first half, but we played with heart and we put (27) points on the board. They (Mustangs) ran some things we hadn’t seen before, and we made good adjustments at halftime.

“The offensive line obviously played well for us to run the ball like we did. Konyln still runs a little high, but he sure runs hard. He carried us tonight because he allowed us to run the ball, which is what we always want to do.”

After allowing Life 14 points and running back Jalen Mann 127 yards rushing in the first half, Brownwood’s defense pitched a shutout in the second half. The Mustangs were limited to 95 total yards in the second half. Life, which finished its season Wednesday at 2-7 and 1-4, scored on Colby Grmela’s 9-yard pass to Mann and Elyjah Berry’s 3-yard run.

Brownwood blew open the game with a 21-0 run in the third quarter, which began with Espinoza throwing a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jackson that extended the Lions’ lead to 34-14 just 2:19 into the second half.

The Lions then converted two Life turnovers into two touchdowns scored just 24 seconds apart to officially make it a rout. Zaiden Lopez’s fumble recovery at the Mustangs’ 20-yard line set up Espinoza’s 21-yard scoring pass to Revada that increased Brownwood’s lead to 41-14 with 3:28 left in the third quarter.

On Life’s next possession, Revada, who doubles as a cornerback, intercepted Grmela at the Mustangs’ 43. On the next play, Anderson ran through the fading Mustangs’ defense for a 43-yard touchdown that extended Brownwood’s lead to 48-14 with 3:04 left in the third quarter.

In the first half, Brownwood took advantage of good field position to score four touchdowns. The Lions’ scoring drives began at their 44, 38 and 43 as well as the Mustangs’ 43. Two of the touchdown possessions came after defensive stops and two came after kickoff returns of almost 40 yards by Jackson and Anderson.

Espinoza ran 1 yard for Brownwood’s first touchdown, and Anderson ran 1 yard for the Lions’ second score. Espinoza threw scoring passes of 38 yards to Revada and 56 yards to Jackson during a 20-point second quarter.

“Our defense is getting better, and amazingly, they’re doing it on short notice,” said Burnett, whose defense allowed 14 points to both Alvarado and Life. “They had two days to prepare for Alvarado and five days to get ready for this one. They’re grinding, and they’re coachable.”