Athens (4-6) vs. Waco LaVega (6-4)
2 p.m. Saturday, Mesquite’s Hanby Stadium
Brownsboro (8-1) vs. Lorena (7-3)
8 p.m. Saturday, Tiger Stadium, Corsicana
BROWNSBORO — It was every bit the heavyweight fight many envisioned it would be.
But in the end, the Brownsboro Bears — who have tasted defeat only once this season — had the punching power to outlast the Athens Hornets Friday night at Bear Stadium, 27-21.
The Bears (8-1, 4-1) clinched a co-championship in District 20-3A, sharing the title with Palestine, which hammered Westwood, 49-7, Friday. Strange as it sounds, Palestine needed that win to qualify for the playoffs.
The Hornets, who had already clinched a playoff spot with a win over Palestine last week, held a 21-6 first half lead before the Bears stormed back to score 21 unanswered points over the final two and a half quarters.
“I’m so proud. These kids have more character than any I’ve ever had here,” Brownsboro Head Coach John Settle said. “They just weren’t going to quit. They deserve this.”
Athens absolutely dominated the game in the first 20 minutes. The Hornets took the opening kickoff 75 yards in 11 plays and scored on Jack Barkley’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Courtney Whitehead. The Hornets then went up 14-0 on Justin Hofstetter’s 6-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.
By the middle of the second quarter, Athens had run 41 plays to just nine for the Bears (thanks, in part, to a lost fumble on a punt).
The Bears got on the board midway through the second quarter when quarterback Zach Bailey found Deondre Taylor on an 80-yard bomb right down the heart of the field, cutting the lead to 14-6.
Athens answered with another impressive drive, this one a 10-play, 62-yard march that ended with tight end Matt Jordan’s 21-yard touchdown catch from Barkley to make it 21-6.
But then the Bears — who had found new life on offense via their passing game — began to swing momentum in their direction.
Getting the ball back with 2:41 left in the second quarter, reserve quarterback Ryan Owens — who shares snaps with Bailey — completed all four of his passes on a drive that ended with his touchdown pass to tight end Brad McDonald. McDonald’s six-yard catch cut the lead to 21-13.
The Bears then got the ball first in the second half and made a few adjustments with a running game that had gained just 14 first-half yards. Cameron Warren, who has just 11 yards rushing in the first half, began taking direct snaps. Before long, it was the Bear offense that was moving the ball down the field and the Hornet offense that was struggling.
Still, both defenses held their own. Brownsboro finally broke through, however, on an outstanding throw and catch from Owens to Cody Strickland that tied the game at 21-21 as time in the third quarter expired. Owens, who was rushed heavily on the play, stepped up in the pocket and found Strickland down the right sideline for the score.
The Bears took the lead with 3:04 left in the game on Warren’s one-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.
The Hornets had one more shot in the closing seconds to score and, with an extra point, take a lead. Athens drove from its own 35 to a first-and-goal situation at the Bear eight-yard line. A four-yard Hofstetter gain took the Hornets to the four, but he was stopped for just a one-yard gain on second down. The Hornets went to the air and threw incomplete passes at the goal line on third and fourth down.
“We had our opportunities, but (Brownsboro) just made some plays and we didn’t at the right time,” said Athens Head Coach Paul Essary, who has led the Hornets to the playoffs in his first season.
BEARS 27, HORNETS 21
First Downs 20 17
Rushing Yards 106 114
Passing Yards 203 245
Total Yards 309 359
Passes Attempted 25 21
Passes Completed 16 14
Interceptions 0 0
Fumbles/Lost 0/0 5/1
Penalties 3/40 2/23
Punts 4/38.0 2/41.5
Score By Quarters
Athens 7 14 0 0 — 21
Brownsboro 0 13 8 6 — 27
AHS — Courtney Whitehead 11 pass from Jack Barkley (Zabdiel Mota kick)
AHS — Justin Hofstetter 6 run (Mota kick)
BHS — Deondre Taylor 80 pass from Zach Bailey (run fails)
AHS — Matt Jordan 21 pass from Barkley (Mota kick)
BHS — Brad McDonald 6 pass from Ryan Owens (Jose Mendez kick)
BHS — Cody Strickland 37 pass from Owens (Owens to Strickland pass good)
BHS — Cameron Warren 1 run (kick fails)
Brownsboro scores 21 in row to win
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The No. 1-ranked Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals survived a ferocious attack by the Jacksonville Lady Jaguars in the semifinal round of the Region XIV conference tournament with an 84-73 victory at UT-Tyler.
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Athens lifter Jose Rodriguez and Brownsboro lifter Aaron Chitwood advanced to the Class 3A state meet March 22 in Abilene.
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The Athens Hornets won their first two games in the Princeton tournament on Thursday.
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The No. 8-ranked Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals advanced to today’s semifinal round with a sweep of the Lee College Runnin’ Rebels at UT-Tyler’s Herrington Patriot Center.
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The Eustace LadyDogs and Bulldogs finished as the top two teams at the Eustace Bulldog Relays Feb. 27.
3-7 East Texas Fishing Report
Here is the East Texas Fishing Report for this week:
ATHENS — Water level is at normal level and fairly clear. Water temp in the 40s, 50s. No report available from Lake Athens Marina.
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When you get to the conference tournament, the motto of survive and advance is the No. 1 thought on any team’s mind.
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Brownsboro’s Ashley Hernandez and Mabank’s Deana Lane qualified for the Class 3A state meet on March 15 with top finishes at the Class 3A, Division II regional championships on Saturday.
HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER: Athens soccer swept by Whitehouse Tuesday night
The Athens Lady Hornets are now 8-8-3 overall and 5-3 in District 31-4A play with a 4-1 win over the Lindale Lady Eagles and a 7-0 loss to Whitehouse.
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