The Brownwood Lions gave the favored Glen Rose Tigers all they wanted in Stephenville during Friday’s bi-district contest, but when the dust settled it just wasn’t enough against the red team.
While the Brownwood (6-5) defense had more success against Glen Rose (10-1) than any previous foe, the Tiger defense was even more dominant for a 14-10 victory. Brownwood finished with just 97 yards of offense and mustered only one first down after leading 10-7 at halftime, which helps explain how Glen Rose won despite losing the turnover battle 3-0.
“I told the kids we have a lot to be thankful for,” said coach Tommy Dunn. “We’re practicing on Thanksgiving, playing the day after and the defense definitely stepped up at the right time with an outstanding game. The offense did enough to score 14 points and fortunately that’s all it took.
“I thought (Brownwood’s) whole defense was stout. Everything we got, we had to earn.”
With eight catches for 133 yards, Justin Weatherley produced considerably more offense than Brownwood’s entire team. His 42-yard reception in the third quarter set up the game-winning touchdown, and six of his catches produced first downs.
“The offensive line did a great job of blocking for Colton (Bretton), and that allowed me to get open for those first downs,” Weatherley said. “I could’ve had 20 yards (Friday); we got the W and I’m happy.”
Dunn wouldn’t have had it any other way on the crucial 42-yard gain down to the Lion 3.
“Colton had Justin over the top,” the coach said. “The ball might have been underthrown just a little bit with Colton being pressured, but Justin is the go-to guy and he made a play.”
With 19 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown in addition to two grabs for 25 yards, Cody Burtscher also easily outproduced Brownwood’s offense. Make no mistake, however, none of his yards were easy. Taking into account four sacks of Bretton, the Tigers needed 27 carries to reach 70 yards.
“It was really tough (running the ball),” Burtscher said. “They really tried to shut me down, so in the second half we had to hit them in other places.”
Brownwood’s defense didn’t exactly deal with Burtscher well early, as his first carry went for an 18-yard touchdown.
“It was wide open up the middle and (the defender) tried to take my legs out, but from past experience I’ve learned to jump over the top of him,” Burtscher said. “It was really good blocking up front.”
Dunn was pleased with the entire offense on that play.
“Good field position makes a world of difference, and Cody did a great job,” the coach said. “Colton changed the play at the line to make it a better (play) and the offensive line did its part to allow Cody to squirt through and score.”
Bretton faced his greatest adversity of the season with three first-half interceptions, as he ended up completing 13 of 20 passes for 164 yards in addition to a three-yard rushing score to win the game. He completed six of eight passes in the second half.
“Every quarterback goes through rough stretches,” Burtscher said. “He hasn’t gone through many this year, but he came out strong in the second half and led us to victory. It all starts with him.”
Dunn appreciated the way his signal caller responded after halftime.
“Colton has come through all year long,” he said. “I told him at halftime that he had to be more careful with play selection and that I was going to put it in his hands whether we won or lost. He played much better the second half.”
Glen Rose began its last drive at the 50 with 6:08 left to play, and Burtscher ran for two of the three Tiger first downs – including a fourth-down conversion – to cement the victory so Bretton could take a knee at the Lion 7.
“That last drive was about heart,” Burtscher said. “The game was on the line and we wanted it more than they did.”
In defense of Tiger pride
There were numerous impressive stats for the Tiger defense, including nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the first three quarters. Brownwood had just four double-digit gains, including a single pass completion for more than nine yards.
“Our whole defense was unbelievable,” Dunn said. “We knew that Brownwood’s defense was one of the most physical we would see, but I thought our defense exceeded what they brought.”
Brownwood quarterback Chris Keesee completed 13 of 16 passes, but for just 92 yards and a touchdown. Due in part to a 22-yard loss on a botched punt that turned into a run, the Lions compiled a measly five rushing yards on 26 carries. The top Lion rusher was Braxton Kilgo (13-35), while Cooper Howey was the main receiver (5-48).
Jared Thames paced the Tiger defense with two-and-a-half sacks and a half tackle for loss.
“I remember (the offensive lineman I faced) from last year and I tore him up,” Thames said. “They had a bunch of big guys who weren’t bad, but they had slow feet. I used my hands to slap them aside and there I was in the backfield. We took it upon ourselves (defensively) to get it done and we played with fanatical effort.”
Dunn is used to Thames being a one-man wrecking crew.
“Jared is one of the best defensive tackles in the state and he showed it (Friday),” the coach said.
Kevin Uehlein notched a sack and made the tackle for loss on the failed Brownwood punt.
“We’ve been getting after it all week in practice and it pays off,” Uehlein said of the Glen Rose defensive effort. “He punted it into his own guy (in the first quarter), so I just started chasing him after he picked up the ball and tackled him. I was glad I could make that play.
“I get more and more confident with every game. I was pretty nervous early in the season because I didn’t have any (varsity) experience, but that’s not a big deal for me anymore.”
Keith McAnally and Burtscher each notched a sack, while Ryan Lamb shared a sack with Thames.
“I’m so happy for Keith,” Dunn said. “He has a huge heart and he just fights.”
Curry Mapes tallied a tackle for loss and Logan Douglas split one with Thames.
“Curry definitely played a good game,” Thames said. “We compliment each other (on the defensive line).”
The Tigers had plenty of penalty issues (8-53), but Brownwood struggled even more in that department (11-73).
“We have to correct that,” Dunn said. “I don’t know if it was first playoff game jitters, but I think a lot of really good teams have to win a game like this. Hopefully it makes a difference somewhere down the road.”
Speaking of the road, the Tigers will now face Graham on Friday at 5 p.m. in Springtown. Graham (10-1), which has only lost to Abilene Wylie, comes in off a 44-7 win over Lake Worth.
“We clearly played one of our worst games and we still came out victorious,” Burtscher said. “We have to work harder and push through it to prepare for the next game. We don’t want this to happen again, so it will fuel our fire.”
Dunn believes his team can hang with Graham.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be ready,” he said.
Three of Brownwood’s seven overall first downs came on the opening drive, but it ended with punter Howey booting the ball into his offensive line and eventually being brought down by Uehlein at the Brownwood 33.
“Kevin really worked to earn his starting spot and he hasn’t looked back,” Dunn said. “All that kid does is make plays.”
After a 19-yard Burtscher reception on second down, the tailback took a handoff left and burst 18 yards to paydirt (7-0, Martin De Los Santos kick).
On the heels of a Lion punt to the Tiger 3, Bretton went deep to Weatherley on first down. Unfortunately, cornerback Howey made an outstanding one-handed interception at the Tiger 36 and returned the ball all the way to the Glen Rose 13.
“They gave us bad field position the whole game and I put us in a bad spot trying to be too aggressive, but that’s what we’ve done all year,” Dunn said.
Thanks in large part to a tackle for loss on second down by Thames and Douglas, Brownwood was compelled to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Matt McCrane (7-3).
Though Weatherley made a couple of first-down grabs late in the first quarter, Brownwood managed to intercept a Bretton screen pass early in the second and set up shop at the Tiger 37. A Mapes tackle for loss and a Burtscher sack forced another Lion punt.
On third down for the Tigers, a Bretton pass down the middle was intercepted at the Tiger 32. The Glen Rose defense continued to stand tall, as a sack from Lamb and Thames brought about yet another punt.
The Tigers couldn’t escape their end of the field, however, and after a punt Brownwood got started at the Tiger 35 with 3:04 left in the half. Brownwood overcame a McAnally sack when Howey caught a pass on fourth-and-six and sped wide 28 yards to the Tiger 3. On the next play, Keesee threw a touchdown pass to Mac Monsen in the back of the end zone with 23 seconds left (7-10, McCrane kick).
Glen Rose obviously didn’t take kindly to falling behind, considering it marched down the field to open the second half. On a fourth-and-one, Burtscher flew down the middle for the game’s longest run of 26 yards. Three plays later, Bretton put up a deep ball down the middle and Weatherley’s supreme concentration allowed him to defeat two Lion defenders for 42 yards to the Lion 3.
“I knew we had to get something going for the offense coming out of the half,” Weatherley said. “Colton could throw it wherever he wants; I’m going to come up with that ball, especially when we need a big play.”
On the next play, Bretton called his own number up the middle and bulled his way across the goal line for the winning points (14-10, De Los Santos kick).
Thames and Uehlein each delivered a sack during the final three plays of the quarter.
“I had to come in the B-gap and the quarterback was rolling out,” Thames said. “After I got past the last lineman, I saw him standing there and I went ‘he’s mine’. Coach (Todd) Swearengin did a great job of calling the stunts; he had me in the right gap to make plays. If I see daylight, I go through and the quarterback was there.”
Uehlein recalled his takedown well.
“I was rolling down the middle and I thought the quarterback was about to rush,” he said. “I saw an opportunity and I took it.”
Thames had a good look at the play.
“Kevin flew in out of nowhere to hit the quarterback; it was awesome,” he said.
Early in the fourth, Brownwood continued its tremendous punting to pin Glen Rose at the Tiger 2. On third-and-10, Bretton was able to connect with Weatherley down the middle for 29 yards and Brownwood committed a personal foul on the play.
“Colton came through with a big-time throw and Justin made the big-time catch,” Dunn said. “That changed field position (88) yards because we punted and backed them up to the (Lion) 10 yard line.”
On Brownwood’s last possession of the game, Austin Gibson and Mapes made key tackles before a Thames third-down tackle three yards short of a first down brought about the final Brownwood punt.
“I came off my (Lion) and I saw a helmet bobbing around and thought ‘he must have the ball’,” Thames said. “(Kilgo) bounced it outside and I grabbed his arm and took him down.”
Brownwood had every chance to get the ball back, but just couldn’t get a stop. Three plays after Burtscher ran to convert a fourth-and-one, Bretton completed a 13-yard pass to Weatherley on third-and-six.
“That was a great juggling catch while fighting with their corner to give us another first down,” Dunn said.
On second down, Burtscher sped right for 13 yards to the Brownwood 7 and the Lions were sunk with mere seconds remaining.
“Cody is just a warrior and we needed him there at the end,” Dunn said.