Lions claim Bi-District Championship
By LPR Staff
Hanging their hopes on a powerful ground game and a pitch-perfect defense, the Lions defied history on Saturday afternoon and powered their way through their first playoff game in six years.
With the defensive line on open display, the Lions came out of the tunnel at Rattler Stadium ready to win, and they ma
de their intentions known within the first moments of the game. After trading offensive blows in the first moments of the game, the Lions changed the tone and tenor of the game when Shea Brewer picked off the first of two interceptions the San Antonio Brackenridge Eagles would lose over the course of the day, opening the door to the Lions’ first scoring drive, and starting a momentum that the Lions would not lose until after the half.
“We have preached getting turnovers all year and Saturday we had two interceptions and three fumbles – more than we had all year,” Defensive Coordinator David Currey said. “The kids have been working hard to get better. I do not think that it was one specific thing that made it come together. I feel that our defense has been good all year, just on Saturday, the kids played great.”
Taking the ball from the Eagles’ 40-yard line, quarterback Nick Sanchez connected a 32-yard pass with Stephon Houston, putting the Lions in the red, and giving the offense the chance to push Curtis Hawkins into the end zone for the Lions’ first score on the night.
Kicker Enrique Villegas made good, putting the Lions ahead 7-0.
After the kick, the rattled Eagles fumbled at their own 45-yard line, and Lion Tyresse Purefoy claimed the ball, putting the Lions back in the drivers’ seat in the second quarter. The defensive lines on both sides of the field locked down, trading offensive drives that failed to produce, until another turnover put the Lions back in control once again.
Bailey Girouard recovered a Brackenridge fumble, giving the Lions possession at the Brackenridge 10-yard line. Hawkins powered the ball down to the 3-yard line, and Houston broke away around the end for another six points. Villegas once again performed, and put the Lions ahead 14-0.
The Lion defense continued to stymie the Eagles throughout the half, with broken passes and a sack by Darieus Shannon keep Brackenridge out of the end zone. The Lion offense stayed hot, making a hole for DJ Ellison to make a 61-yard scramble to put Lockhart at the 7-yard line. Ellison then jumped into the scoring fray, finding the end zone and setting the Lions up to take a 21-0 lead going into halftime.
On their first offensive drive of the second half, the Lions again made good, taking a three-minute, 82-yard trip up the field to take a 28-0 lead on another touchdown from Ellison.
The Lion defense forced a turnover on downs during the Eagles’ next possession, leading the Lions to another long, slow drive that led to a turnover on downs at the 2-yard line.
Stopping the drive seemed to spark momentum for the Eagles, who opened the fourth with a touchdown, and snagged an interception to return for yet another score, allowing the Eagles to cut the Lions’ lead by half and bring the score to 28-14 with 10:53 on the clock. A Lion fumble on the Brackenridge 49 gave the Eagles another shot to cut the lead again, but yet another Brackenridge fumble gave the Lions possession again.
The Eagles’ defense wanted no part of allowing the Lions to score again, and ended the ensuing drive with a fourth-and-10, and a punt.
Moments later, Bailey Girouard would swing the momentum back in the Lions’ favor, as he picked off an interception at the Brackenridge 45-yard line, and returned it for a touchdown. Villegas returned to the field to do his job, and increased the Lions’ lead to 35-14.
On their next possession, the Eagles answered back, overcoming several stops for losses and a sack by Andy Dorado to find the end zone with 4:28 left on the clock.
Darius Jones recovered the onside kick for the Lions at the Lockhart 49-yard line, and Head Coach Brian Herman opted to run the clock, calling plays that had Hawkins inching the Lions forward, finally closing the game with one more touchdown, and 28 seconds on the clock.
Herman said afterward that the entire atmosphere in Rattler Stadium brought the Lions to victory and let them be crowned Bi-District Champions.
“Saturday was a great program win for the Lions,” he said. “Everyone stepped up, the players, coaches and ALL the crowd from Cheer, Band, Lionettes, Trainers, students, family and everyone in attendance. The atmosphere was electric for the entire game.”
On Saturday, the Lions will try to keep that momentum going as they play for an Area Championship against the Austin Vandegrift Vipers.
The Vipers, who finished their District season in third place at 9-2 (5-2), are a strong offensive team that averages 242 receiving yards and 309 rushing yards per game. One Lion fan referred to the Vipers as “Tivy, only in different jerseys.”
“Once again we face an explosive offense averaging 500 yards plus per game and averaging 50 points scored per game,” Herman said. “They will not make the mistakes that Brackenridge did. We will have to be ready for everything and limit their opportunities with the ball as much as possible.”
(Additional information courtesy of Steve Johnson)