CLIPPED IN A CLASSIC: Mraz, Academy rally, but late Diboll field goal stops Bees' playoff run, 37-34
Updated: Dec 1, 2021
VALIANT PERFORMANCE: A week after he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in Academy's area-round playoff win against Winnie East Chambers, senior Blake Bundy made eight tackles while playing the entire game on defense at safety and kicked two extra points in the Bumblebees' 37-34 loss to Diboll in a Class 3A Division I Region III semifinal at College Station High School. Competing in the third round of the playoffs for the first time in program history, Academy (11-2) overcame a 15-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to create a 34-34 tie before Bryan Patlan's 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds left won it for the Lumberjacks (10-3). (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
COLLEGE STATION – Entering Friday night, Academy never had played 13 games in a football season and Diboll had done so only one time, 39 years ago.
The intensity and desire of both teams to earn the opportunity to play a 14th game was clear for all to see in their Class 3A Division I Region III semifinal on a chilly evening at College Station High School’s Cougar Field.
On Academy’s side, that spirit was exemplified by senior Blake Bundy, who made eight tackles while playing the whole game on defense at safety and kicked two extra points a week after he suffered a torn ACL and a torn meniscus in his right knee during the Bumblebees’ 42-33 area-round playoff win over Winnie East Chambers.
Academy trailed bigger, stronger Diboll – which didn’t allow a point in its first two playoff wins – 14-0 with 8 minutes gone and 34-19 after three quarters, but the resilient Bees battled back behind sophomore quarterback Kasey Mraz. They used his 10-yard touchdown pass to junior Scout Brazeal and Mraz’s 1-yard TD run to force a 34-34 deadlock with 2:50 remaining.
However, Diboll displayed its own competitive grit when it absolutely needed to.
James Johnson Jr. and the Lumberjacks drove swiftly from their 25-yard line to Bees’ 11, and Bryan Patlan kicked the go-ahead 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds left before Zach Phipps intercepted Mraz’s long pass as time expired as Diboll outdueled Academy 37-34 in a third-round classic.
“It’s just what we are. We don’t quit. Our kids don’t quit. When you’ve got that ingredient in your program, you’ve got a chance,” Academy second-year head coach Chris Lancaster said after the Bees’ seven-game winning streak ended despite Mraz passing for 366 yards and four touchdowns, concluding their breakthrough season with an 11-2 record.
Academy never led against bi-district opponent Yoakum until Mraz’s touchdown pass to Brazeal in overtime gave the Bees a 28-22 win, and they had to overcome a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to advance past East Chambers. As such, Academy senior defensive end John Tomasek wasn’t at all surprised that the Bees went from getting controlled early by Diboll to eventually pushing the Lumberjacks all the way until the end.
“We’ve had that spirit all season. It’s just never say die,” said Tomasek, whose team had won seven consecutive games. “It’s not over until the last whistle, and we stand by that.”
Although Academy eventually caught up to Diboll (10-3) after another slow start, Lancaster lamented the fact that the Bees – who rushed for only 31 yards on 20 carries – essentially played from behind the entire night.
“I didn’t think in the first half that we played with our second-half spark. We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason, so maybe that’s a bad job on me as a coach. I’ve got to find a way to get our ballclub more charged,” Lancaster said. “I’m not a big rah-rah coach. I think that’s done during the week, so we had to stick with what we do.
“Offensively we did some things in the throwing game and ran it just efficiently enough when we had to. Defensively we made a couple of stops, but we just didn’t make enough stops. And we played a good football team.”
District 9-3A Division I champion Diboll posted its ninth straight win and earned a shot against fifth-ranked Lorena (11-2) – which clobbered No. 6 Columbus 62-13 earlier Friday in San Marcos – in next week’s Region III final, with a state semifinal berth at stake. Diboll and Lorena will clash at 7 p.m. next Friday at Bryan's Merrill Green Stadium.
“I’m so happy for Diboll, this community and these kids. Right now, they can say they’re the best team in the history of Diboll. And that means a lot,” Lumberjacks eighth-year head coach Blake Morrison said after his team's ninth straight win. “I love sitting back and watching the reaction and the jubilation. It’s unbelievable.”
Johnson, a 215-pound senior, rushed 28 times for a game-high 171 yards and one touchdown for Diboll and threw a 33-yard TD pass to fellow senior Jacoby Watts. Watts also caught a 49-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Rey Arellano a minute into the game and turned a lateral into a 20-yard TD run for the Lumberjacks’ final touchdown late in the third quarter.
“It was tough. They’re good, they’re all good players and we all respect them,” said Brazeal, also a standout safety. “We made a couple of mistakes there, and I think if we cut those mistakes out it’s a different ballgame.”
Academy was denied a rematch with district rival Lorena. The Leopards’ 34-17 win at John Glover Stadium in Little River-Academy on Sept. 24 was the runner-up Bees’ only loss in 11-3A D-I.
“Our team, just all around I knew they were going to fight to the end, and that’s what we did,” wide receiver Brazeal said after catching nine Mraz passes for 124 yards, highlighted by touchdowns of 12, 17 and 10 yards against a defense that had recorded four shutouts in its previous five games. “I knew it was going to be back and forth in the second half, and we’re a second-half team. They just got it there at the end.”
AERIAL ATTACK: Academy sophomore quarterback Kasey Mraz was 37-of-43 passing for 366 yards and four touchdowns in the Bumblebees' 37-34 loss to Diboll in a Class 3A Division I Region III semifinal Friday night at College Station High School's Cougar Field. Mraz completed nine passes to junior Scout Brazeal for 124 yards and three TDs and connected with senior Darion Franklin 11 times for 112 yards and one score. Mraz added a 1-yard touchdown rush as the Bees produced a 34-34 tie with 2:50 remaining. The left-hander passed for 2,973 yards and 33 touchdowns in his first varsity season. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Mraz was outstanding as Academy’s left-hander completed 37 of 43 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns against a sturdy, athletic Diboll defense that had four shutouts in its previous five games. Using precision and touch, Mraz connected with senior receiver Darion Franklin 11 times for 112 yards and a 26-yard TD and threw to sophomore tight end Luke Tomasek seven times for 62 yards. Mraz’s lone interception came on the game-ending heave that a leaping Phipps caught at Diboll’s 28-yard line.
“That dude’s phenomenal. He’s going to be a great player,” Brazeal said about Mraz, who passed for 2,973 yards and 33 touchdowns in his first varsity season. “He’s just a sophomore and he keeps his head. His mind’s always straight. The dude’s a player and we’re going to be back next year.”
Said Bundy about Mraz: “He’s an athlete. He’s going to do special things in these years coming up. He’s growing into his spot more and more every day. He’s got a great O-line in front of him that’s going to be with him the whole time, and they’re really going to do some great things the next couple of years.”
Academy received a major emotional and on-field boost from the presence of Bundy, who was limited by his injured right knee against Diboll but performed well on defense and kicked two second-half extra points. The versatile senior – son of Academy special teams and defensive backs coach Byron Bundy – usually also plays receiver, kicks off and punts.
“They gave me a brace and I did a couple walkthroughs and then the coaches trusted me to make my own decision on it with how I felt. I couldn’t see myself not playing,” said Bundy, who also plays soccer and aims to play college football. “I mean, it hurts. Adrenaline gets it up and going, and some Advil, too. But I tried to forget about it in the game and just trusted the brace. I’m very pleased and glad I got to get in at least on defense as much as I could.”
Tomasek said he and the Bees were inspired by Bundy’s willingness to keep playing through his major injury that likely will require reconstructive surgery.
“It meant the world to me. He could have easily sat it out,” Tomasek said of Bundy, who totaled 89 points this season and entered the Diboll game with 97 tackles and three interceptions after missing the last nine games of his junior season with a foot injury. “I know he’s a senior and he wouldn’t want to sit it out regardless, but it made me happy. I love playing with him and I’m glad that he was on the field for our last game.”
Added Brazeal about fellow safety Bundy: “The dude’s a different breed. He came out here and fought, played with a huge heart and he was just willing to do whatever he needed to do to get the game won. We needed him so bad to win.”
Academy fell behind almost immediately against Diboll after winning the coin toss and deferring its option to the second half. With the strong-legged Bundy not being used on kickoffs because of his injured knee, the Lumberjacks returned the opening kickoff to their 44.
After Johnson’s 7-yard run, Arellano hit Watts with a short pass to the left side and the speedy senior broke several attempted tackle and sprinted away for a 49-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with only 56 seconds gone after the first of Patlan’s four extra points.
Academy picked up just one first down on its first possession against Diboll’s beefy defense and the Lumberjacks again began on their 44 after a 26-yard punt – the only punt of the night by either team. Running behind a large line that drastically outweighed the Bees’ defensive front, the rugged Johnson gained 7, 18 and 7 yards before he coasted in for a 1-yard touchdown rush and a 14-0 Lumberjacks advantage with 4 minutes remaining in the opening period.
“(Johnson) was definitely a really good player. But their line, hat’s off to them,” John Tomasek said. “They formed holes for him that were great. We should’ve done a lot better up front.”
Trailing by two touchdowns, Academy needed a spark and got it when Mraz passed to a slanting Franklin for a 6-yard gain on fourth-and-3 from the Bees’ 49. They connected again for 17 yards before Mraz was sacked, pushing the ball back to the 26. On the first play of the second quarter, Mraz rolled to his left and fired a pass that a sliding Franklin caught on the left side of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown, his 12th TD reception this season. Holder Alex Lawton was tackled short of the goal line when he picked up the snap and ran, keeping the score 14-6.
After another short kickoff, Diboll drove from Academy’s 48 to the 13, but after a false start the Lumberjacks faced fourth-and-6 from the 18 and Tomasek, Franklin and junior tackle Daniel Munoz-Garcia stopped Johnson for no gain on a toss play to the right for a crucial turnover on downs.
SUCCESSFUL SEASON: Academy junior wide receiver Scout Brazeal made nine catches for 124 yards and touchdowns of 12, 17 and 10 yards from sophomore quarterback Kasey Mraz in the Bumblebees' 37-34 loss to Diboll in Friday night's Class 3A Division I Region III semifinal in College Station. Brazeal, also a starting safety who was among the team's leading tacklers, finished the season with 75 receptions for 1,395 yards and 18 touchdowns for the 11-2 Bees of head coach Chris Lancaster. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Mraz’s series of crisp passes to Lawton, Brazeal, Luke Tomasek and Franklin then pushed the Bees to the Diboll 22 before Mraz rushed up the middle for a 10-yard gain on third-and-4. Mraz then escaped pressure, rolled left and threw to Brazeal, who beat his defender near the goal line for a 12-yard touchdown 2:13 before halftime. Mraz’s 2-point pass was incomplete, leaving Diboll ahead 14-12.
"I worked over the summer and knew I wanted to be in a place like this," said Brazeal, who completed his stellar junior season with 75 receptions for 1,395 yards and 18 touchdowns. "I wanted to just better the team, and whatever I could do to better the team . . . if our offense is scoring, I don’t care if I’m getting the ball. Our whole offense was just great.”
Undeterred, the Lumberjacks had a fast response. Johnson rushed for 24 yards, then Kolby Stewart caught Arellano’s pass on a deep post route for a 37-yard gain to the 9. Johnson ran for 5 yards before Arellano kept off left tackle for a 4-yard touchdown and a 21-12 advantage 1:04 before halftime.
Diboll then stripped the ball from Brazeal on an 11-yard reception and Phipps recovered at the Lumberjacks’ 48 with 37 seconds left, but Brazeal cut over, jumped and broke up Arellano’s pass just inside the goal line as first-half time expired.
Diboll added to its lead and momentum on the second half’s first possession after stopping sophomore Zane Clark for no gain on fourth-and-1 at Academy’s 37. Facing fourth-and-6, Johnson took a toss to the right, stopped and lofted an accurate pass that Watts caught in coverage at the goal line for a 33-yard touchdown. The holder was tackled on the conversion run, keeping the Bees’ deficit 27-12 at the 7:39 mark.
“The thing I like about Diboll’s offense is they run the ball very effectively, and they throw it just enough to keep you honest,” Lancaster said. “You can’t overload them or they’ll take advantage.”
Academy bounced right back, though, as Mraz hit Brazeal for 22 and 13 yards before Brazeal slanted in from the left and snared Mraz’s strike at the goal line for a 17-yard touchdown with 5:10 remaining in the third. Bundy then made his first kicking appearance of the night and made the extra point to trim the Bees’ deficit to 27-19.
“This morning before we left, they brought me outside to see if I could kick extra points,” Bundy said. “I just tried to help out as much as I can and do my job.”
Diboll countered on its ensuing possession, using key plays by Johnson and Watts to reach Academy’s 20. Arellano then threw behind the line of scrimmage on the right side to Watts, who took the lateral and knifed through defenders for a 20-yard touchdown run and a 34-19 lead with 1:55 left in the third.
“We knew they couldn’t stop us offensively. That’s what we knew. And if we could have one or two or three stops, we thought we could win this game,” Morrison said.
However, Diboll couldn’t stop Academy’s next two possessions.
Mraz hit Franklin for 11 and 8 yards and connected with Luke Tomasek three times for 31 yards as the Bees reached the 10 before Mraz found a sprinting Brazeal on the left side of the end zone for a touchdown 9 seconds into the fourth quarter. Mraz threw to a wide-open Lawton in the back-right corner of the end zone for the 2-point conversion and a 34-27 game.
“Kasey’s surrounded by a lot of talent and I thought the offensive line gave him ample time to do that. We did some formations and spread them out and put them in some binds, some matchups we thought we could take advantage,” said Lancaster, who calls Academy's plays on offense. "They had 3-on-2 (coverage) the whole time on Darion and Scout and we saw 2-on-1 on Scout, so some other guys had to step up.
"But the key goes back to the offensive line doing a great job of protecting. We knew it was going to be tough sledding running the football. Our tight end Luke Tomasek had a big night and we were able to find our tailbacks out of the backfield.
Said John Tomasek about the contributions of Luke Tomasek, his younger brother: “I couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s really made this season amazing. It’s special, getting to play with your own brother.”
Academy’s defense delivered a vital stand on Diboll’s next possession. After Munoz-Garcia and senior Carson Costa tackled Johnson for a 1-yard gain, Watts shifted to quarterback on fourth-and-6 from the Bees’ 38 and his pass across the middle was intercepted by diving junior linebacker Lane Ward (13 tackles) at the 24.
Mraz and Academy then put together a methodical drive that featured Brazeal’s 15-yard reception on third-and-14 from the Bees’ 46. Mraz’s passed to Clark for 10 yards, rushed for 8 and hit Lawton for 4 yards to get first-and-goal at the 1 before Mraz followed his line’s surge for a touchdown. Academy finally caught Diboll at 34-34 when Bundy made the extra point with 2:50 remaining.
“We always say we’re a second-half team, and we always prove it. We always say, ‘No one can hang with our throwing game.’ We’ve got Darion and Scout making plays constantly and a stud quarterback who can get the ball to them,” Bundy said. “Those sophomores on the (offensive) line, they’re some of the hardest workers. They’re lifting every day and they want it for us. That’s special to have a team that bonded together.”
Lancaster said he was tempted to go for a 2-point conversion and the lead but opted to take the tie, given Academy’s recent trend of winning close games.
“We probably scored too soon, and truthfully, I probably should’ve gone for 2 right there,” Lancaster said. “I had a trick (extra point) I wanted to do, but again, we’ve won a playoff game in overtime and if we got it into overtime I figured we could do it (again).”
Morrison gave Mraz and Academy’s ball-control passing attack credit for making life difficult for his previously dominant defense.
“We were going to give them the underneath stuff and rally (to the ball), maybe get some strips. I thought we could get them in the red zone and then tighten everything up, but evidently I need to take that gameplan and flush it down the toilet,” Morrison said with a chuckle. “They did a good job.”
The main problem from Academy’s perspective was that the Bees couldn’t prevent Johnson and Diboll from getting where they wanted to go. With the Lumberjacks starting from their 25, Johnson rushed for 10, 8 and 10 yards and Arellano passed to Phipps for 17 yards as Diboll reached the Bees’ 28 with 40 seconds remaining.
“We were all over the place,” John Tomasek said of Academy’s defense on Diboll’s final drive. “They were penetrating the middle really well. Hat’s off to (Johnson and Watts) from their team, because they really made that game.”
After the Lumberjacks used their final timeout with 35 seconds left, Arellano passed to Phipps for 10 yards and Johnson ran for 3 to reach the 11 with 17 seconds showing. The play clock nearly expired before sophomore Patlan made his 28-yard field goal to give Diboll a 37-34 lead with 13 seconds left, prompting a wild celebration by the Lumberjacks’ sideline and crowd.
“I should’ve called a timeout to ice it,” Lancaster said, “but we shouldn’t have let them get down there.”
Said Morrison: “I didn’t want to throw the ball to the end zone and have a chance to get it picked, so we might as well take a shot at it and see what (Patlan) could do. I told him, ‘Look, it’s nothing but an extra point. That’s all it’s going to be.’ And then we had to hang on, because they have an unbelievable kicker.”
After Mraz hit Franklin for 10 yards, Academy had one final play from its 35 with 7 seconds remaining, but Phipps elevated in traffic and intercepted Mraz’s deep pass at Diboll’s 28 as time expired to end the Bees’ dream season.
END OF THE ROAD: Academy's football team stands for its school song after the Bumblebees lost 37-34 to Diboll in a Class 3A Division I Region III semifinal Friday night at College Station High School. Following close playoff victories against Yoakum and Winnie East Chambers, Academy finished 11-2 in its second season with head coach Chris Lancaster and recorded its most wins since the 1961 Bees went 12-0 with coach John Glover. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Academy had only nine seniors on its roster and just six healthy seniors who played key on-field roles in the finale. Lancaster praised that small-but-reliable group for its contributions to the Bees’ successful run.
“We’re still young, but No. 1, we want to thank our seniors. They’re the reasons why we did this. Even with all this young talent we’ve got, they were our leadership,” Lancaster said. “They’re done with football right now, but we’re going to challenge them to keep representing Academy in whatever sport they’re going to now, whether it’s basketball, powerlifting, track and field or baseball. We want them to uphold the same standards and we expect the same attitude and the wins that they gave us here.”
Still with one more season to look forward to, Brazeal said Academy’s senior group leaves a well-earned legacy that the returning Bees will aspire to live up to.
“They’re my best friends, they’re great players and they’re awesome to play with,” Brazeal said. “I don’t how it’s going to look next year. It’s going to be a lot different playing without them.”
Said John Tomasek after his final game: “They’ll be solid. They’re going to have a tough road next year, but I have full faith and confidence that they’re going to do amazing.”
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
CLASS 3A DIVISION I
REGION III SEMIFINAL
DIBOLL 37, ACADEMY 34
Diboll 14 7 13 3 – 37
Academy 0 12 7 15 – 34
Diboll – Jacoby Watts 49 pass from Rey Arellano (Bryan Patlan kick), 11:04.
Diboll – James Johnson Jr. 1 run (Patlan kick), 4:01.
Academy – Darion Franklin 26 pass from Kasey Mraz (run failed), 11:54.
Academy – Scout Brazeal 12 pass from Mraz (pass failed), 2:13.
Diboll – Arellano 4 run (Patlan kick), 1:04.
Diboll – Watts 33 pass from Johnson (Patlan kick), 7:39.
Academy – Brazeal 17 pass from Mraz (Blake Bundy kick), 5:10.
Diboll – Watts 20 run (Patlan kick), 1:55.
Academy – Brazeal 10 pass from Mraz (Alex Lawton pass from Mraz), 11:51.
Academy – Mraz 1 run (Bundy kick), 2:50.
Diboll – Patlan 28 field goal, 0:13.
First downs: Diboll 18; Academy 24.
Rushes-yards: Diboll 39-262; Academy 20-31.
Passing yards: Diboll 179; Academy 366.
Completions-attempts-interceptions: Diboll 11-16-1; Academy 37-43-1.
Total plays-offensive yards: Diboll 55-441; Academy 63-397.
Punts-average: Diboll 0; Academy 1-26.
Fumbles-lost: Diboll 0; Academy 2-1.
Penalties-yards: Diboll 3-15; Academy 0.
Rushing – Diboll: Johnson 28-171, Watts 6-66, Arellano 4-22, Jeremiah Gums 1-3; Academy: Mraz 9-26, Brayden Bartlett 5-3, Zane Clark 6-2.
Passing – Diboll: Arellano 10-13-0-146; Johnson 1-1-0-33, Watts 0-1-1-0, team 0-1-0-0; Academy: Mraz 37-43-1-366.
Receiving – Diboll: Watts 6-110, Kolby Stewart 1-37, Zach Phipps 2-27, Malik Armstead 2-5; Academy: Brazeal 9-124, Franklin 11-112, Luke Tomasek 7-62, Clark 4-36, Lawton 5-30, Bartlett 1-2.
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