• Breckenridge High School junior receiver Kevin Franco tears away from a Merkel defender during last Friday’s playoff game in Brownwood. Franco led the Buckaroos in receiving with six receptions for 64 yards.

Buckaroos’ historic season ends with 21-14 playoff loss to Merkel

BROWNWOOD— Football season in Breckenridge came to an end after the Buckaroos suffered a 21-14 loss to Merkel in the opening round of the UIL playoffs.

Following last week’s upset victory over the top-ranked Brock Eagle, the Bucks lofty goal of a state championship seemed a reality until the Merkel Badgers brought them back to Earth last Friday by dropping Breckenridge 21-14.

“It’s very disappointing for our kids,” Breckenridge coach Casey Hubble said. “By no means did we underestimate those kids. We knew we were going to have to make some plays and hats off to them. They made more plays than us.”

The Buckaroos seemed in control after jumping out to a 7-0 following their first possession. Sophomore quarterback Owen Woodard set the pace early, hitting junior receivers Kyler Knight and Kevin Franco for 23 yards before Zach Willis, who averaged 6 yards per carry for 126 yards and a touchdown, busted loose for a 32-yard TD after the Bucks’ line provided him plenty space on an off-tackle run.

Although known for their misdirection, power running, the Badgers hit pay dirt through the air after junior quarterback Cole Wilkerson found senior receiver Zach Owens for a 63-yard touchdown.

A blocked extra point kept the Bucks ahead and, after the Bucks’ next two possession fizzled, punter/kicker Jose Escobedo pinned the Badgers inside their own 10-yard line. Breckenridge forced another three-and-out and a shanked punt gave Breckenridge the ball back just inside Merkel’s 40-yard line. Woodward again found Franco twice with the second reception setting up a 2-yard TD after Breckenridge opted to senior fullback/linebacker Warren Hardy in a jumbo package. Considering Escobedo’s 35-yard kick sealed the Bucks’ first out-right district title since 1999, it was only fitting his extra point marked the Buckaroos final score of the season.

“It was a great year. I’m glad I got to play with the team I got to play with,” Willis said. “I love my brothers. They mean everything to me. I hope we set the bar high for the kids coming up to fill our spots next year. I hope they do great things … I’m happy with the year. I’m not happy with how it ended, but I’m happy with how we played and fought back to win district.”

After going into halftime down 14-6, Merkel returned in the second half to score 15 unanswered points. Wilkerson tied the game after finding junior speedster receiver Jonah White for a 53-yard touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion. White struck again a few possessions later a game-winning, 46-yard touchdown run. A sack on fourth-and-7 stymied Breckenridge’s next possession, but the Bucks’ defense returned the favor with a fourth-and-1 stop to give them the ball back with just only minutes on the clock and no timeouts.

With the ball on their own 38, the Bucks’ first play seemed promising with Woodward finding sophomore receiver Aaryn Medina for a 5-yard gain. Breckenridge’s next three pass attempts did not find their mark, ending the Bucks’ possession and season on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-5.

The Buckaroos end the season with an overall record of 5-6, with an undefeated 3A Region 1 District 4 record of 5-0. Instead of going back to the drawing board to start planning for 2018, Hubble said he would take the next few weeks evaluating this season and proceed from there. Sophomore offensive tackle Tanner Cantrell said he has other plans and will continue hitting the weight room to be bigger, stronger and faster in 2018. 

“Next year, I feel like we’re going to be pretty good,” Cantrell said. “Our quarterback is coming back, most of our offensive line and some decent running backs and receivers. Going undefeated in district set a really good tone, especially for our JV.”

Despite ending the season as the best team this century, sophomore Cantrell said the memory from last Friday’s loss will be a bigger motivator in the weight room than repeating as district champions.

“I plan on getting ready for next year,” Cantrell said. “I don’t plan on doing anything else but get ready. It’s this loss right here, it really stings to loss after becoming district champs.”

Breck    7   7   0  9  -  30 

MHS     6   7   0  6  28

First Quarter

9:12: Willis 32-yard run, Escobedo extra point good. 7:37: Owens 63-yard reception from Wilkerson, kick blocked.

Second Quarter

9:45: Hardy 2-yard run, XP good.

Third Quarter

10:15: White 53-yard pass from Wilkerson, 2-point good.

Fourth Quarter 

White 46-yard run, XP good.

11:34: Willis 24-yard run, XP no good. 9:46: Hendrix 6-yard run, XP no good. 0:06: Escobedo 35-yard kick.

 

Individual Stats

PASSING — Woodward, 8 of 18, 170 yards.

 

RUSHING — Willis 20-186, two TD, Woodward 10-68, 1 TD. Roberson 3-7. Ruiz 1-50. Kyler Knight 1-10. 

 

RECEIVING — Escalon 2-23, Knight 2-22, Franco 1-13. Aaryn Medina 1-18.

The Breckenridge American

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