KENNEDALE – A trying 2020 football campaign – marred by a 17-day quarantine for the varsity due to COVID-19 during District 5 action, which followed a two-week quarantine for third-year head coach Sammy Burnett during the pre-district portion of the schedule – reached its conclusion Friday night with a 44-7 loss to the District 6 champion Kennedale Wildcats in Region II-4A Division bi-district competition.
An emotional Burnett said when reflecting upon the 2020 season, “I think they’re all winners. They overcame adversity, they never made excuses, they just came out and fought as hard as they could, and I’m proud of them.”
On the field, the Achilles’ heel for the Lions – particularly on the offensive end – had been the turnover bug, which reared its ugly head again in the season finale.
Kennedale intercepted five Brownwood passes and returned three for touchdowns as the Lions finished the season with a 4-6 overall record, and 26 turnovers – five more than the 2018 and 2019 seasons combined.
“They were huge for them,” Burnett said in regard to Kennedale collecting the takeaways. “We had a young man that went out there and gave everything in his heart, he did the best he could, it just didn’t work out for us. I support him, he’s the guy we went with and I support him 100 percent. We lost this game as a team, it wasn’t on him.”
Blaize Espinoza competed 15 of 38 passes for the Lions for 226 yards with one touchdown and the five picks, while Jason Jackson grabbed five catches for 33 yards, Dane Johnson pulled down four for 40 and Malachi Revada finished with three catches for 99 yards and Brownwood’s lone touchdown.
On the ground, the Lions mustered just 34 yards on 27 carries and were limited to negative-9 yards rushing in the first half. Royshad Henderson led Brownwood with 56 yards on 19 carries while Brownwood lost 22 yards on its other eight rushes. Henderson eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier with 1,029 yards and 14 touchdowns for the season.
“We went with Royshad and I thought he did OK,” Burnett said. “When we put Konlyn (Anderson) in I didn’t think there was much difference but Royshad has worked for four years and been a bedrock of our program and deserved the right to get in there and make those plays, and I thought he did a good job and showed a winner’s heart playing with a bum ankle.”
The Lions finished with 260 yards of total offense and 14 first downs – just 50 yards shy of Kennedale’s offensive output with five more first downs – but mustered just one touchdown despite four trips inside the red zone.
“That’s their M.O., they’re good defensively and they’ve held teams to 15 points or less most of the season,” Burnett said.
Meanwhile, the Lions defense yielded 310 yards, with 302 coming on the ground, but Kennedale’s offense scored just two touchdowns and settled for three field goals.
“Honestly I thought our defense played well a lot of the time,” Burnett said. “Offensively at times we put them in bad positions, but I think the difference in the ball game was we didn’t execute offensively. We gave them too many touches, and gave them opportunities to put points on the board. They just outplayed us tonight honestly.”
The Lions spotted Kennedale the first 23 points of the game before the offense showed its first signs of life on Brownwood’s final possession of the first half.
Aided by a Kennedale personal foul – one of 10 flags for 115 yards against the Wildcats – that led to Brownwood’s initial first down of the contest, Espinoza hurled a 35-yard pass to Revada on third-and-24. The duo then connected again three plays later for a 25-yard scoring strike that trimmed Kennedale’s lead to 23-7 with 1:22 left in the second quarter.
The game then completely turned on the first drive of the second half as the Lions marched to the Kennedale 14, but on third-and-10 Tyler Choice picked off Espinoza and returned the interception 101 yards for a touchdown as Brownwood faced a 30-7 deficit with 5:50 left in the third period.
The Lions’ next possession stalled at the Kennedale 10, and Cameron Lyles – who led the Wildcats with 152 yards on the ground – reeled off a 70-yard carry on the first snap. Two plays later, quarterback Jeremiah Myers scored on a 20-yard keeper to boost Kennedale’s lead to 37-7 with 11:20 left in the contest.
Kennedale scored once more with 8:16 left on a 25-yard interception return by Braden Waters.
In the first quarter, the Lions held Kennedale to a pair of field goals – 22 and 26 yards by Aidan Barr – and trailed just 6-0 heading into the second period.
Brownwood’s offense continued to sputter early in the second period, while Kennedale picked up its first touchdown on a 22-yard carry by Marlete Joyner – who amassed 104 rushing yards – to boost its lead to 13-0.
Kamerson Sallis then recorded the first of his two interceptions on the night and returned it 35 yards for six points as Kennedale’s cushion reached 20-0 a minute into the second quarter.
The Wildcats’ opening run of 23 points concluded with a 33-yard Birr boot with 6:23 left in the half.
Kennedale (10-0-1) will advance to face Melissa (10-1) – a 62-20 winner over Dallas Carter – in the area round next weekend.
Kennedale 44, Brownwood 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Brownwood 0 7 0 0 – 7
Kennedale 6 17 7 14 – 44
K: Aidan Birr 22 FG, 7:56, 1st
K: Birr 26 FG, 1:28, 1st
K: Marlete Joyner 22 run (Birr kick), 11:54, 2nd
K: Kameron Sallis 35 interception return (Birr kick), 11:00
K: Birr 33 FG, 6:23, 2nd
B: Malachi Revada 25 pass from Blaize Espinoza (Junior Martinez kick), 1:22, 2nd
K: Tyler Choice 101 interception return (Birr kick), 5:50, 3rd
K: Jeremiah Meyers 20 run (Birr kick), 11:20, 4th
K: Braden Waters 25 interception return (Birr kick), 8:16, 4th
First Downs 14 9
Total Offense 260 310
Rushes-Yards 27-34 33-302
Passing Yards 226 8
C-A-I 15-38-5 1-5-0
Fumbles Lost 0 0
Punts 3-37.6 2-55.5
Penalties-Yards 2-25 8-60
RUSHING: Brownwood – Royshad Henderson 19-56; Konlyn Anderson 1-0; Blaize Espinoza 7-(-22). Kennedale – Cameron Lyles 11-152, Marlete Joyner 12-104, Jeremiah Meyers 4-21, Kenaj Washington 2-16, J.D. Coffey 2-5, Darryan Franklin 2-4.
PASSING: Brownwood – Espinoza 15-38-5-226. Kennedale – Myers 1-5-0-8
RECEIVING: Brownwood – Jason Jackson 5-33, Dane Johnson 4-40, Malachi Revada 3-99, Elias Huerta 1-42, Henderson 1-11, Anderson 1-1. Kennedale – Coffey 1-8.