Brownwood unable to contain Waco La Vega's freshman sensation

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
La Vega's Bryson Roland runs with the ball against Miller, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Buc Stadium. Waco La Vega won, 48-13.

BROWNWOOD – Waco La Vega head football coach Don Hyde said he was worried about the hits Bryson Roland, the Pirates 5-foot-5, 160-pound freshman running back, would take at the varsity level this season. Hyde shouldn’t worry too much. No one can run fast enough to hit Roland.

At least that was the case in the second half Friday night at Gordon Wood Stadium as La Vega beat the Brownwood Lions 49-33 in their District 5-4A Division I game.

After a pedestrian first half, Roland exploded for 245 yards and four touchdowns rushing on just eight carries in the second half. During a 12-minute and 41-second span of the second half, the freshman scored on runs of 39, 48, 65 and 66 yards that turned a 17-14 Brownwood lead into a 42-27 La Vega lead midway through the fourth quarter.

“We moved him to running back this year, but we were concerned about his size and the contact he would take on the varsity level,” Hyde said of Roland. “He has passed that test with flying colors. We’re not slow. We’ve got some speed.”

Roland, who played quarterback in the seventh and eighth grades for the Pirates, finished with 303 yards and four TDs on 19 carries.

As for his second-half outburst, Hyde said, “Sometimes, you can make this game too complex. We saw something we liked on certain formations. We were able to get one of their defenders out of the box, and we felt like we had numbers.

“If we can make a defender miss once or twice, we feel like we’ve got enough speed to take advantage of it.”

Brownwood's Riley Soto (77) leads the team out onto the field before Friday's game against Wylie at Hugh Sandifer Stadium on Sept. 24, 2021. The Lions couldn't overcome a 42-0 deficit in the 49-21 loss.

How about making Brownwood’s defense miss four times on the long touchdown runs, which added up to 218 of Roland’s 303 yards rushing. Roland also turned a short pass into a 67-yard play that set up La Vega’s first touchdown in the second quarter.

“He hides behind those big offensive linemen and once he hits a crease, he has the speed to take it to the house,” Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett said of Roland. “The difference in the second half was our inability to stop the big plays. We’ll have to watch the film to see exactly what happened.

“We knew they were going to run the zone and the counter. If they got to the second level in the first half, we were able to corral them and limit their big plays. We weren’t able to do that in the second half.”

The Pirates amassed 613 total yards as running back D’Eddrick Brawley added 107 yards on 11 carries, including TDs of 1 and 32 yards. Quarterback Robert Prescott finished 7-of-12 passing for 209 yards -- with 206 of that coming in the first half before he turned the game over to his freshman running back.

La Vega, state-ranked for much of this season, improved to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in district. Brownwood fell to 2-5, 0-2.

The Lions put up their share of offense as well, finishing with 508 total yards. Quarterback Chance Jones rushed for a career-high 194 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown. Jones also passed for 160 yards, including four completions for 127 yards to Jason Jackson. Jackson caught a 31-yard scoring pass, plus another 31-yard pass that set up another touchdown.

Brownwood’s Konlyn Anderson was limited for 49 yards in the first half, but the junior finished with 151 yards rushing and touchdowns of 1 and 5 yards.

“Our MO is to play fast on offense and try to wear down the other team in the second half,” Burnett said. “I thought we did that in the second half. We were able to move the ball for 5 or 6 yards a pop.”

The problem for Brownwood was that Roland was moving the ball at 30-plus yards a pop.

The Lions actually opened the third quarter with a methodical 61-yard drive and took a 17-14 lead on Junior Martinez’s 31-yard field goal.

But four plays after the ensuing kickoff, Roland broke a 39-yard touchdown run that gave the Pirates a 21-17 lead and start his prolific rushing performance. After a La Vega defensive stop, Roland broke a 48-yard scoring run to extend the Pirates’ lead to 2-18 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.

Brownwood pulled within 28-24 with Anderson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left in the third quarter. But before the quarter could end, Roland had broken a 65-yard that gave La Vega a 35-24 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Waco La Vega 49, Brownwood 33

La Vega    0    14    21    14 — 49

Brownwood    7    7    10    9 — 33

First Quarter

BR — Konlyn Anderson 5 run (Junior Martinez kick), 6:19

Second Quarter

LV — D’Eddrick Brawley 1 run (Juaquin Zarate kick), 11:32

LV — Stephon Nickerson 44 pass from Robert Prescott (Zarate kick), 9:19

BR — Chance Jones 7 run (Martinez kick), 5:46

Third Quarter

BR — Martinez 31 FG, 7:59

LV — Bryson Roland 39 run (Zarate kick), 6:51

LV — Roland 48 run (Zarate kick), 4:24

BR — Anderson 1 run (Martinez kick), 0:10

LV — Roland 65 run (Zarate kick), 0:00

Fourth Quarter

BR — Martinez 30 FG, 8:09

LV — Roland 66 run (Zarate kick), 6:10

BR — Jason Jackson 31 pass from Jones (Martinez kick), 5:02

LV — Brawley 32 run (Zarate kick), 4:43

                       LV    BRW

First Downs    19    25

Rushes-Yards    36-404    65-348

Passing Yards    209    160

Total Yards    613    508

Comp-Att-Int    7-12-    7-20-0

Punts    2-34    4-32

Fumbles-Lost    0-0    1-0

Penalties-Yards    7-45    4-33

Individual Statistics

RUSHING: La Vega – Bryson Roland 19-303, D’Eddrick Brawley 11-107, Naje Drakes 1-7, Nikzavyer Rice 1-2, Roderick Ridge 1-0, Robert Prescott 1-(-)4, Team 2-(-)11. Brownwood – Chance Jones 30-194, Konlyn Anderson 33-151, Jaylon Brown 2-3.

PASSING: La Vega – Prescott 7-12-0 for 209. Brownwood – Jones 7-20-0 for 160.

RECEIVING: La Vega – Stephon Nickerson 4-98, Brawley 2-44, Roland 1-67. Brownwood – Jason Jackson 4-127, Elias Huerta-Doud 3-33.

RECORDS: Brownwood 2-5, 0-2 in District 5-4A DI. La Vega 4-3, 1-1.