A 20-point fourth quarter paved the way to a regional-semifinal berth for the first time in more than 20 years for the Brazos Cougars.
Jaylin Vela recently stepped into quarterbacking duties following Luke Demny’s injury and played a hand in each of the scores in the final frame to erase a 27-18 deficit.
“We just had to see who wanted it most,” said Vela, who is only a junior. “Every game we’re confident.”
He started things off with an 18-yard connection to Kolton Marek and also crossed the goal line for a two-point conversion to make it a one-point game.
After that, Cougar defense got the ball right back to him and the offense after a tipped pass courtesy of Jaeden Ward found Edward Hatton who returned the interception to the 6-yard line and Vela needed to hear no more.
Although Holland answered back to take the lead back with 5:02 showing on the clock, that was more than enough for Vela to concoct another scoring drive of his own, albeit needing a fourth-down conversion to find the end zone.
Sitting on the Hornets’ 9-yard line and fourth-and-4 staring him in the face, Vela found Mikey Gonzalez in the corner of the end zone to grab a 38-35 lead with only 1:10 left to play.
Looking to ice the game, the Brazos defense came through again, forcing a fumble to not even allow Holland to cross midfield on their final drive to secure the Area Championship and continue the postseason run for Head Coach Ned Barrier and the Cougars.
“It was a great game, the ball bounced our way,” Barrier said. “We’ve talked about just keep playing and good things happen to people who don’t fold. My hat’s off to Holland, they played phenomenal.”
Brazos moves on to a matchup with the 12-0 Mason Punchers who won Class 2A’s District 14 and are fresh off a 35-6 win over the Weimar Wildcats who finished just ahead of the Cougars in District 15.
The Cougars and Punchers kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Judson ISD’s D.W. Rutledge Stadium in Converse.