The Class 3A Division II state semifinal round again is the East Bernard Brahmas’ stumbling block for the second straight season after falling to the Omaha Paul Pewitt Brahmas, 24-18, at the Waco ISD Stadium, on Friday, Dec. 13.
Trailing late in the fourth quarter, East Bernard had what it wanted, two shots at the end zone on two separate drives. However, the Brahmas came up short in both instances. One potentially could have been overturned with replay (ironically, replay will be used in the state championship games), the other fell just out of the reach of Brahma arms in the end zone.
"We had our chances to make plays, things didn't work out our way tonight," East Bernard coach Wade Bosse said. "I'm super proud of these kids, especially our seniors. They fought their tails off all night long. We had some chances, we had some bad breaks, but that's the way it goes in a big ball game like this. You just got to make one more play than the other team and unfortunately for us, tonight (Paul Pewitt) made one more play."
East Bernard led 18-16 at the half and received the ball to start the third quarter.
After a first-down to start its drive, East Bernard looked to be gaining some steam. A holding call on third down and 2, stopped the momentum, making third and manageable, third and long (12 yards). After a deep pass by quarterback Dallas Novicke was off-target, East Bernard punted.
Paul Pewitt and its rushing offense that averaged over 400 yards a game this season, woke up on its first drive to open the half from its own 22-yard line.
Paul Pewitt didn't break anything long on the Brahmas defense, but it grounded out a long 18-play drive that drained the remaining time in the third quarter and ate into the fourth. Paul Pewitt scored on a short three-yard run and after a converted two-point play, it led 24-16 with 11:24 left in the fourth quarter.
East Bernard answered right back with a time-consuming drive on 12 plays. If the Brahmas were going to score and tie the game, they weren't going to leave much time on the clock for Paul Pewitt.
On third and goal from the five, junior Kameron Matthews had a run to the half-yard line and as he was angling for the pylon, he fumbled the ball out of bounds. Or so it seemed, the referee signaled the ball was recovered by Paul Pewitt and awarded the team possession.
The defense, which had been East Bernard's calling card all season, was called on once more to force a three and out with time running out.
East Bernard held and forced a punt. With less than four minutes to play in the game, senior Reagan Whitley made a catch and got a good return but was tackled as he went out of bounds at the 30-yard line. The Paul Pewitt personal foul gave East Bernard an extra 15 yards with time ticking down.
On third and five at the 10-yard line, senior Tanner Baggett got the ball, as he was looking for the corner, he went too wide and was tackled for a loss with 1:40 remaining. With a final play left in their season, Novicke saw Baggett in the end zone, but the ball was a hair long and East Bernard turned the ball over on downs.
With 1:31 left, Paul Pewitt ran out the clock after getting a first down.
East Bernard's defense played big for the majority of the game, getting stops on fourth and one's on back-to-back Paul Pewitt drives in the first half. Offensively Paul Pewitt was held to 237 yards on 58 carries, all on the ground.
Quarterback Cross Holder attempted four passes but didn’t complete any.
Kadrien Johnson had two scores, having rushes 11 times for 67 yards. Holder rushed 17 times for 60 yards and La-Jathan Allen 87 yards off 22 carries.
"I felt like we fought hard through all 48 minutes, just things didn't go our way at times," Bosse said.
Senior Carson Little led East Bernard with 108 rushing yards on 10 carries. Little also threw for a touchdown. Mid-way through the second quarter, Novicke tossed the ball to Little on a sweep, hit a wide-open senior Reagan Whitley for a 27-yard pass to put the Brahmas up 18-8 with 6:20 before halftime.
The defense held for large stretches of the game but Paul Pewitt was still able to tag East Bernard for three touchdowns, one on a short interception return on East Bernard's first drive of the game, the other on a 25-yard touchdown run towards the end of the first half. Paul Pewitt's final score gave it the final lead in the fourth.
Paul Pewitt is the first team to score more than one touchdown on the East Bernard defense in the playoffs.
It will play Gunter in the state championship game this Thursday, Dec. 19 at A&T Stadium in Arlington.
East Bernard will say goodbye to a talented senior class of Carson Little, Douglas Grymes, Ryan Morse, Kameron Matthews, Tanner Baggett, Ethan Hlavinka, Shane Hlavinka, Reagan Whitley, Colby Jedlicka, Cody Hillman, Cole Lee, Talon Sanders, J.R. Schauer and Trey Steffens.
"What a super class, they've come a long way since junior high, so proud of each and every one of them," Bosse said. "The confidence that grew within the entire time they were East Bernard Brahmas it's just a special group."
Roland Orsak provided game summary