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Brownwood burned by No. 9 Waco La Vega

Mike Lee
Special to the Brownwood Bulletin
Brownwood High School Lions Football

WACO — Ninth-ranked Waco La Vega scored five touchdowns in its first 17 offensive plays, and the Pirates cruised to a 62-6 win over the injury-depleted Brownwood Lions in Monday night football.

Starting quarterback Ara Rauls III, who missed six games earlier this season with a broken non-throwing arm, completed 9 of 10 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns — all in the first half. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Rauls threw first-half touchdown passes of 64 and 38 yards to Jai’Brian Bouye, and 72 and 54 yards to Stephon Nickerson as La Vega built a 49-6 halftime lead.

The Pirates finished the first half with 433 total yards before filling the game with reserves during the second half. The Lions also had multiple reserves playing the entire game because of injuries to running back/cornerback Royshad Henderson, safety Khyren Deal and defensive end Zach Bond. Brownwood also lost receivers Jason Jackson and Malachi Revada, along with lineman Tyler Tiner, to injuries during Monday’s game.

La Vega finished its regular season 7-2 overall and 4-1 in District 5-4A Division I. The Pirates, the 2018 Class 4A DI state champion and 2019 state runner-up, will enter the playoffs this year as a No. 2 seed behind district champion Midlothian Heritage.

Brownwood, which saw its two-game win streak stopped, fell to 4-5 and 2-2. The Lions will be the No. 4 seed for this year’s playoffs in qualifying for the postseason for the 12th consecutive season. Brownwood will face Kennedale, the No. 1 seed from District 6-4A, in bidistrict at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at Kennedale.

Sophomore Konyln Anderson, who made his first varsity start in place of Henderson, led Brownwood with 130 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

“We started six sophomores on defense, and when you have young kids in there, they’re going to miss some tackles,” Brownwood coach Sammy Burnett said on his KOXE radio postgame show. “A team with La Vega’s speed and talent will turn those missed tackles into big plays. A 2-yard play can become a 50-yard play.

“It was trial by fire for those sophomores, but they didn’t put their hands down. They kept their hands up and kept fighting.”

Rauls’s 64-yard scoring pass to Bouye came on La Vega's first offensive play from scrimmage. Running back Jar’Que Walton scored on a 62-yard run on the Pirates’ third offensive play as they took a 14-0 lead in the opening 3:07.

Anderson, who ran for 72 yards in the first quarter, led a brief Brownwood comeback with a 23-yard run that set up his 6-yard touchdown run that pulled the Lions within 14-6 with 5:14 left in the opening period.

But the Pirates returned the ensuing kickoff to the Lions’ 34-yard line, and Walton scored four plays later on a 9-yard run that returned the momentum to La Vega with a 21-6 lead with 3:45 left in the first quarter.

The Lions came back again as Anderson broke a 22-yard run to jump-start a drive that reached the Pirates’ 29. But on fourth-and-2, Brownwood quarterback Blaize Espinoza was stopped for a 1-yard gain — and the game quickly got away from the Lions.

Walton finished a methodical 72-yard, nine-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that extended La Vega’s lead to 28-6 with 10:50 left in the second quarter.

Rauls then showed why his return figures to make La Vega a legitimate threat to make another deep postseason run as he threw back-to-back touchdown passes of 72 and 54 yards to Nickerson. The two long-distance scores extended the Pirates’ lead to 42-6, but they weren’t finished with their dominating first half.

With a chance to practice the two-minute drill, Rauls completed 3 of 4 passes, including a 38-yard touchdown to Bouye that made it 49-6 with 17 seconds left before halftime.

Walton finished the first half with 67 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, while teammate Jordan Rogers ran for 93 yards and a score. La Vega scored on all seven of its first-half possessions, and put up 49 points without the help of a Brownwood turnover. La Vega scored 48 unanswered points after Brownwood pulled within 14-6 in the first quarter.

Espinoza finished with 24 yards rushing on seven carries, and the senior quarterback was only 2-of-15 passing for 12 yards and two interceptions. Espinoza had thrown for 200-plus yards in Brownwood wins over Alvarado (Oct. 23) and Waxahachie Life (Oct. 28).

“We moved the ball fairly well on the ground, but we didn’t execute in the passing game,” Burnett said. “We ran wrong routes, made wrong reads and dropped balls. Those are things we have to correct before the bidistrict game.”

Linebacker Reece Bolton and lineman Tyler Tiner constantly made tackles for Brownwood’s defense, but the Lions were unable to slow down La Vega. Tiner left the game in the second half with an injury.

Brownwood’s final regular-season game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Midlothian Heritage. However, that game became optional with the Lions’ loss to La Vega because it can’t impact any team’s playoff seeding. By agreement of the two schools, Heritage will decide if Saturday’s game will be played.