Getting out to an early lead on in its bi-district playoff game against Wharton was just one of the goals of Bellville head coach Grady Rowe as he prepared for the ninth consecutive playoff appearance for the Brahmas.
Inside Columbus Memorial Stadium Thursday night, that’s just what visiting Bellville was able to do after winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half.
The Brahmas scored on their first five possessions, marching down the field the way they’ve done at ease out of their slot-T formation all year.
Richard Reese capped off a five-minute drive with a short-yardage touchdown, although Wharton’s Donovan Krushall hit Joerell Davis and once he made a man miss, he was off to the races to make it a 7-6 game after a failed point-after try.
Bellville took to the air for its second score with Jake Lischka lofting one up for Richard Briggs only to have a big connection from Krushall to James Jones tie the game at 14 with three minutes to play until halftime.
Kyle Peschel emerged through a cloud of dust from the half-yard line to put the Brahmas up but left 49 seconds on the clock for the Tigers to work their way down the field, which they did.
Once in the red zone, a couple of failed pass attempts left Krushall with a third-and-long and only six seconds to play. Although he tried to extend the play, the quarterback was ultimately corralled by Brahma All-State defensive lineman Grayson Mays to keep a lead for the visitors with the ball coming their way next.
“That was one of the things we talked about was getting going early,” Rowe said. “They came up with a big play or two early on to stick around and we tried not to give those up, but our offense kept us alive. That stop going into halftime was big for us, we knew we were getting the ball back with the opportunity to go up 14.”
Reese picked up his second score of the night and in the eyes of Coach Rowe, “I think that took the wind out of their sails a little bit,” with 28-14 in favor of the away team showing on the scoreboard.
On top of that, he added that the halftime adjustments made it so Wharton would have to maneuver through the teeth of the Bellville defense on the ground to emerge victoriously.
“Coming out of the half we established that they were going to have to run the ball to beat us and the way we lined up, up front we’re good enough to slow them down and that’s how it went,” said Rowe.
Reese finished with a hat trick of scores, Peschel picked up a pair, and the pass from Lishka to Briggs kept the Brahmas in front far enough so that a pass from Krushall to Ja’Shawn Nickerson off a broken play simply rounded the final score out to 42-20, advancing Bellville to the area round for the sixth year in a row.
“That’s just one of those things; we expect to be in and play a few rounds,” Rowe said. “It’s an expectation we’ve had and the kids are used to playing and going a few weeks deep every time.”
With Jasper pulling off a 51-27 win over Hardin-Jefferson on Thursday night as well, the Bulldogs will meet with the Brahmas for the second year in a row with an area championship on the line.
Last year, Jasper claimed the trophy by a 13-0 margin although fell to state quarterfinalists West Orange-Stark the very next round.
“They’ve got a lot of returners, they’re very similar to what they were last year, they’re averaging 40-plus points and not giving up very many,” Rowe said of the Bulldogs. “We know they’re good and they know we’re good. We’re going to have to play good defense the way we did last year but we’ll have to move the ball better this time to advance.”
The second-round showdown will take place in Conroe next Friday night, Nov. 22, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.