TOO MUCH: Hallettsville's Brooks scores 7 TDs; 61-26 playoff loss ends Academy's breakthrough season
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
SENIOR'S FINAL SCORE: Academy senior receiver Kollin Mraz crosses the goal line on his 13-yard touchdown reception during the fourth quarter of the Bumblebees' 61-26 loss to Hallettsville in Saturday afternoon's Class 3A Division I bi-district playoff game at Bastrop Memorial Stadium in Cedar Creek. Academy finished its first season with head coach Chris Lancaster with a 7-4 record. Mraz caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from fellow senior Jerry Cephus in the second quarter and made seven TD receptions in the Bees' final two games after he recorded two TD grabs in their first nine games. (Photo by Dean Kibler/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
CEDAR CREEK – After grabbing a must-have win in its district finale to earn a trip to the Class 3A Division I state playoffs, Academy always knew that its bi-district game against powerful, seasoned Hallettsville would be a difficult challenge.
Complicating matters for the Bumblebees on a warm, windy Saturday afternoon at Bastrop Memorial Stadium was that even when when they did something good, Jonathon Brooks – the Brahmas' do-it-all, Texas-committed senior star – did something better to spark his team to a 61-26 victory.
For example, examine one play late in the second quarter and another midway through the third.
With Hallettsville already leading 21-0 with 2½ minutes until halftime, several Academy defenders converged on Brahmas quarterback Trace Patek and appeared to have him trapped for a sack. However, Patek somehow shed that pressure to toss a short pass to his left that was caught by fast, shifty running back Brooks, who sprinted through the Bees' defense for a stunning 63-yard touchdown.
Hallettsville led 41-6 halfway through the third period when Academy senior Kollin Mraz – who made two touchdown receptions – kicked a spiraling, 50-yard punt well over the head of return man Brooks. But Brooks quickly retreated, picked the ball up at his 22-yard line, dodged a few Bees would-be tacklers and dashed along the left sideline for a 78-yard score.
Those two explosive plays typified the day as Brooks rushed for 246 yards and scored seven touchdowns, and Academy simply couldn't keep up with the Brahmas as they charged to a thorough 35-point victory to end the Bees' breakthrough first season with head coach Chris Lancaster at 7-4.
“There's no words to explain how I feel right now. They played a good ballgame, and we didn't come out swinging like we usually do,” said Academy senior quarterback Jerry Cephus, who passed for 233 yards and three touchdowns – two to Mraz and one to sophomore Scout Brazeal – and rushed for 111 yards in the three-year starter's final high school game. “It felt like we had to score (every possession). We've been in an uphill climb all season, so we got used to it. But it's just a hard loss, hard to believe.”
Academy allowed two long touchdown returns on special teams, though both came in the second half after Hallettsville (9-2) led comfortably at 34-6. The chief culprits for Academy were its slow-starting offense that produced only six points in the first three quarters and a defense that struggled to contain not only Brooks' relentless rushing but also Patek's crisp passing (211 yards, two TDs).
“We were a little lethargic early on. We tried to expect that and work through things. Early on it was close, but we just couldn't get anything going (on offense). We had some crucial dropped balls where we couldn't sustain drives,” said Lancaster, who guided Academy to its first winning season since a 7-5 record in 2014. “And then (Hallettsville) figured out they can give it to No. 25 (Brooks), and he did wonders on offense and special teams.
“They're a good ball club. I saw our kids really playing hard. We were battling. (Hallettsville's offensive linemen) were good, but by the same token I think some of their formations get you where you're not in the right fit secondary-wise. I saw where on some of their big runs, we had a guy not in that gap.”
Academy trailed Hallettsville only 7-0 3 minutes into the second quarter, and the Bumblebees demonstrated their competitive spirit by 20 scoring points in the fourth, getting a 1-yard touchdown run from junior Darion Franklin and Cephus' scoring throws of 70 yards to Brazeal and 13 to Mraz.
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Academy sophomore wide receiver Scout Brazeal (5) beats Hallettsville defender Deven Wood to catch a long pass from senior quarterback Jerry Cephus en route to a 70-yard touchdown during the fourth quarter of the Bumblebees' 61-26 loss to the Brahmas in Saturday's Class 3A Division I bi-district playoff game at Bastrop Memorial Stadium. Brazeal made four receptions for a team-leading 106 yards. (Photo by Dean Kibler/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
But even with that late flurry, Academy couldn't prevent Hallettsville from scoring 20 points of its own in the final period, including Brooks' 34-yard jaunt with 11 minutes left for his seventh and final TD.
“I think we held up decently. Our whole team's full of fighters. They're going to fight, and we fought to the very end. That's all our coaches ask us to do, and that's what we did,” said Brazeal, a two-way starter who made four catches for a team-high 106 yards and tried all afternoon from his safety position to help limit Brooks' production, without much success for the Academy defense.
“He's extremely athletic. He definitely can move the field and is super-fast and he's hard to stop,” Brazeal added about the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Brooks, who scored his 100th career touchdown Saturday. “Our defense did a pretty good job at first. It helped him that his line is very good.”
District 12-3A Division I champion Hallettsville pushed its winning streak to six games and advanced to an area-round duel against Diboll (6-4), which blasted Buna 59-22 on Friday. The Brahmas will battle the Lumberjacks at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Cub Stadium in Brenham.
Veteran head coach Tommy Psencik praised his defense for how it performed while limiting Academy – the fourth-place qualifier from rugged District 11-3A D-I – to six points through three quarters.
“We knew they had a very dangerous passing game from the start. We had to do a lot of mixing it up with coverages and try to put to put some wrinkles on pressure situations, but (Cephus) still handled it. They do a great job handling pressure,” said Psencik, who guided the Brahmas to last year's 3A-I Region IV final. “We were running out of gas (in the fourth quarter) and that's a credit to (Academy's) kids, too. They kept playing hard and played a classy game and showed a lot of character.
“We just ended up outlasting them, basically. Jonathon made some great plays and Damani Hartwell made some great plays, and it just worked out in our favor today. A lot of good things happened.”
Hartwell, a speedy junior, scored the Brahmas' final two touchdowns – a 63-yard reception from Patek with 8:51 remaining in the fourth and an 83-yard kickoff return with 4:42 left.
Academy's offense had 67 snaps compared to Hallettsville's 43, but the Brahmas produced 448 yards – averaging a staggering 10.4 per play – to the Bees' 376 (5.6 per play). Neither team threw an interception, Hallettsville never fumbled and Academy's offense recovered the ball after both of its fumbles.
The squads began the postseason opener by trading defensive stops, then the Brahmas drew first blood on their second possession. A key offside penalty on a fourth-and-3 situation gave Hallettsville a first down at Academy's 35, then Patek passed to Deven Wood for 15 yards before Brooks followed strong blocking from the right side of his line for a 16-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Brahmas lead with 4:34 left in the first quarter.
Academy responded on its ensuing possession as Cephus rushed for 12 and 17 yards to reach Hallettsville's 33, but then he faced a stiff pass rush and lost the ball as he attempted to throw, with Bees senior tackle Tyler Lambert falling on the loose ball for a 13-yard loss that doomed the drive.
“They brought a lot of pressure, which made me leave the pocket, and when you leave the pocket it's hard to find open receivers,” said Cephus, who threw seven touchdown passes – six to Mraz – in his final two games.
Although Academy's defense then forced a three-and-out series, its offense still couldn't get any production going. Luke Bludau's 31-yard reception and a 15-yard penalty on Academy helped the Brahmas advance to the Bees 31, then Brooks powered for 3 yards on fourth-and-1 before slicing through the middle for a 13-yard touchdown and a 14-0 advantage 3½ minutes into the second period.
That was followed by another three-and-out from Academy's offense, then the game began to get away from the Bees. Brooks' 56-yard TD on the ensuing punt return was negated by a penalty for a blindside block, but he still got 31 yards of credit on the play and the Brahmas took over at Academy's 40. Brooks' decisive running – 11 yards, then 10, then 6 – behind an effective, mobile group of linemen pushed Hallettsville to the 4 before he stretched the ball across the goal line for his third touchdown and a 21-0 game 3:15 before halftime.
Cephus, who also plays outside linebacker, likened Brooks to Rockdale senior running back Cam'ron Valdez, the Texas Tech commitment Academy played against two weeks ago.
“No. 25 is a good back and it's hard to stop him. He ran like a good back all day. It happens,” Cephus said of Brooks, who's now rushed for 1,828 yards and 34 touchdowns this season after accumulating 2,144 rushing yards with 39 TDs last year. “He looked close to Valdez. I would compare those two. They ran similar.”
Another fruitless Academy possession set Hallettsville up at midfield 2:52 before halftime. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Brahmas back to their 37, several Bees defenders swarmed Patek and threatened to sack him for a big loss. But the nimble junior QB stayed upright, turned left and threw to the nearby Brooks, who carved through the remaining defenders for a 63-yard touchdown – a back-breaking turn of events from Academy's perspective – and a 28-0 advantage with 2:19 left.
“This is pretty much normal for him overall,” Psencik said of Brooks' tour de force performance against the Bees. “He's had these kinds of games several times. He's humble about and gives the line credit where it's due. He's playing both ways and we're trying to get as many miles out of him as we can, because we need him on defense, too.”
FAREWELL PERFORMANCE: In his final game as Academy's quarterback, three-year starter Jerry Cephus rushed for 111 yards in Saturday's bi-district playoff matchup against Hallettsville and was 17-of-34 passing for 233 yards and three touchdowns: 16 and 13 yards to senior Kollin Mraz and 70 yards to sophomore Scout Brazeal. Cephus and Mraz connected for six touchdowns in the Bumblebees' final two games, including four first-half TDs in their playoff-clinching 42-21 home win over Troy in the District 11-3A Division I finale. Overall this season for the 7-4 Bumblebees, Cephus passed for 1,877 yards and 23 touchdowns despite missing two district games with a foot injury. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Academy finally broke its scoring drought right before halftime with a sharp 75-yard touchdown drive. Cephus lost his helmet on his 6-yard run and had to leave for one play, then Mraz passed to Cole Stewart for 13 yards before Cephus returned and hit Mraz for 6 yards to the Hallettsville 31.
A 15-yard late-hit penalty pushed the Bees to the 16 with 10 seconds left, then Mraz beat cornerback Brooks to deftly catch Cephus' pass on the left sideline of the end zone for the touchdown, Mraz's sixth first-half TD reception in two weeks after he made five scoring grabs before halftime to highlight Academy's season-extending 42-21 home win over rival Troy last Friday. The Bees' 2-point pass was intercepted, leaving their halftime deficit at 28-6.
Academy got the second half's first possession and attempted to get back into contention, driving from its 19 to Hallettsville's 42. But on fourth-and-6, Mraz was ruled to be out of bounds as he caught Cephus' pass on the left sideline.
Like a shark smelling blood in the water, Brooks attacked on the Brahmas' next play. He ran off right tackle and raced untouched for a 58-yard touchdown and a 34-6 lead. Less than 2 minutes later, the Longhorn-to-be essentially sealed the outcome. The best of Mraz's six punts was a 50-yarder that knifed through the steady wind and sailed over Brooks' head, but Brooks calmly scooped it up at his 22, eluded the Bees' coverage unit and sprinted down the left sideline for the 78-yard touchdown to make it 41-6.
Brazeal's 30-yard reception from Cephus on fourth-and-18 closed the third quarter, then Franklin's 1-yard touchdown rush to begin the fourth made it 41-13 and was the first of three Academy TDs in the final period.
However, Brooks answered by delivering one more big play, as excellent blocking sprung him for a 34-yard scoring run – his seventh touchdown of the day and 40th all-purpose TD this season – and a 48-13 game.
SOMETHING TO BUILD ON: Academy sophomore Scout Brazeal made four receptions for 106 yards with a 70-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Jerry Cephus in the Bumblebees' 61-26 loss to Hallettsville in a Class 3A Division I bi-district playoff game Saturday at Bastrop Memorial Stadium in Cedar Creek. It was the first touchdown of the year for Brazeal, a two-way starter who made three interceptions at safety this season and was one of Academy's leaders in tackles. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Academy displayed admirable grit in the fourth, as Brazeal caught Cephus' long post pass and sprinted inside the left pylon for a 70-yard touchdown – his first TD this season – with 10:48 remaining. After Patek threw to Hartwell for a 63-yard score, Cephus ran for 27 yards and threw to Franklin for 13 before his throwback pass to Mraz produced a 13-yard touchdown to complete the Bees' scoring.
“We preach, 'Don't stop fighting until the last whistle. Keep playing all the way through. You don't want to be a loser. You've got to keep fighting,'” said Cephus, who passed for 1,877 yards and 23 TDs this season despite missing two district games with a foot injury.
Academy used a bevy of two-way starters this season – seniors Cephus, Mraz, Lambert, Wyatt Gardner and Tanner Rambeau, junior Franklin and sophomore Brazeal – and Cephus said he thought Hallettsville's players were able to stay fresher on a broiling mid-November afternoon when the heat index hovered around 90 degrees.
The Bees played their second straight game without standout senior receiver/cornerback Jaylin McWilliams, who was suspended for disciplinary reasons. McWilliams made 11 touchdown receptions in Academy's first nine games and returned three interceptions for TDs.
Lancaster said Mraz played through a lower back injury. The versatile senior switched from his usual No. 1 jersey to wear No. 25 in honor of former teammate Bryce Tamez, the 2020 Academy graduate who was critically injured in an automobile accident early Friday morning.
Along with emphasizing weight training and developing the strength to contend against physically mature opponents such as Hallettsville, Lancaster said he wants to build Academy's program to the point where it has enough depth to limit its need for so many two-way starters, along with fielding two sub-varsity teams instead of only one.
But after the final game of his first year at Academy, Lancaster mostly wished to thank his seniors for buying into his vision and giving the resurgent Bees a season they'll fondly remember.
“I want to thank our seniors. What they did was they set a standard, and best is our standard,” said Lancaster, the former Bruceville-Eddy head coach who came to Academy after serving as Troy's offensive coordinator the previous six seasons. “For them to go from 2-8 last year to what they accomplished this year, my hat's off to them and they'll be a part of my life for the rest of my life.
“We had great moments here on the sideline and we didn't drop our heads. We cherished this day and we know we're blessed to be able to run around and do this. It's just an awesome feeling. They are the catalyst. Where we're going to go with this program is only up we hope, and they laid the foundation and poured the first slab.”
For an outgoing senior such as Cephus and an emerging sophomore such as Brazeal, their experience with Academy this season was rewarding and something that can catapult the Bees toward future success.
“It was very fun to be in the program and leave something behind for the (younger) ones,” Cephus said. “That says a lot for this group and I think we can just build on it.”
Added Brazeal: “We know we have long way to go with these younger classes. We set the standard high this year, for sure, and I think we're going to keep on progressing and getting better and better.”
HALLETTSVILLE 61, ACADEMY 26
Academy 0 6 0 20 – 26
Hallettsville 7 21 13 20 – 61
Hallettsville – Jonathon Brooks 16 run (Chase Janak kick), 4:34.
Hallettsville – Brooks 13 run (Janak kick), 8:33.
Hallettsville – Brooks 4 run (Janak kick), 3:15.
Hallettsville – Brooks 63 pass from Trace Patek (Janak kick), 2:19.
Academy – Kollin Mraz 16 pass from Jerry Cephus (pass failed), 0:05.
Hallettsville – Brooks 58 run (kick failed), 7:28.
Hallettsville – Brooks 78 punt return (Janak kick), 6:02.
Academy – Darion Franklin 1 run (Dylan Egger kick), 11:56.
Hallettsville – Brooks 34 run (Janak kick), 11:18.
Academy – Scout Brazeal 70 pass from Cephus (kick failed), 10:48.
Hallettsville – Damani Hartwell 63 pass from Patek (kick failed), 8:51.
Academy – Mraz 13 pass from Cephus (Egger kick), 4:58.
Hallettsville – Hartwell 83 kickoff return (Janak kick), 4:42.
First downs: Academy 20; Hallettsville 16.
Rushes-yards: Academy 32-130; Hallettsville 27-237.
Passing yards: Academy 246; Hallettsville 211.
Completions-attempts-interceptions: Academy 18-35-0; Hallettsville 9-16-0.
Offensive plays-total yards: Academy 67-376; Hallettsville 43-448.
Punts-average: Academy 6-34.8; Hallettsville 1-43.
Fumbles-lost: Academy 2-0; Hallettsville 0.
Penalties-yards: Academy 7-53; Hallettsville 6-70.
Rushing – Academy: Cephus 19-111, Franklin 10-19, Zane Clark 3-0; Hallettsville: Brooks 19-246, Patek 4-15, team 4-(-24).
Passing – Academy: Cephus 17-34-0-233, Mraz 1-1-0-13; Hallettsville: Patek 9-16-0-211.
Receiving – Academy: Brazeal 4-106, Franklin 6-68, Mraz 6-57, Cole Stewart 1-13, Tyler Burnett 1-2; Hallettsville: Brooks 2-70, Hartwell 1-63, Luke Bludau 2-35, Ty Gerke 1-21, Deven Wood 2-17, Janak 1-5.